The famous race car driver Mario Andretti said, “Desire is the key to motivation, but it is determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” Andretti’s statement inspires me. I also understand that in order to win, you need to have the right pit crew in place. It’s essential for all successful leaders to have more than just the internal engine, but also a top-notch pit crew who expect to succeed.
Most CEOs and top leaders I meet were not destined for greatness from the start. What’s different about them is that they were nurtured along the way by the right leaders who expected them to win and pushed them to do so. As they came up the ranks, they performed with a level of consistency and quality that built trust in not only their potential but their results. They were challenged to channel their drive and take advantage of all opportunities. They took appropriate risks, shouldered tough responsibilities, and provided vision and perspective to others. Through it all they developed a posture of excellence and emerged ready to lead and to win.
Developing a posture of excellence begins with establishing expectations. It’s nearly impossible to thrive in an environment that does not expect anything of you. For the vast majority of poor people, we underestimate their potential and set the bar way too low. We don’t expect them to win, and the lack of coordination among programs and people can help accelerate their dead-end destination. Low expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. We have to believe in people’s ability to win and help them develop a posture of excellence to make it happen.