Leadership Is About The Never Ending Quest For Better

by  Don Shapiro  |  Leadership Development

Leadership isn’t just about keeping everyone on the team or at work doing what they are supposed to be doing so things get done. That’s being a good supervisor or manager. Leadership aims for a much loftier goal. Too often we call people excellent leaders when they are really only excellent at supervising people.

A true leader guides people to become all they are and evolve into something even more than that. Leadership is not about maintaining the status quo even if the status quo produces good results.  It’s about leading people to a level of performance beyond anything they have achieved in the past. When that is done, a leader then inspires their people to go even further.

Leadership is about the never ending quest for better. There is no stopping point. No final touchdown that wins the game. Because this game has no final clock, no final result, no end.


Each of us is a bundle of untapped potential. No matter how successful we have been or what we have achieved, we still contain more unrealized potential than real world results. When we assemble a group of people together for a common purpose, that group creates an even greater bundle of potential.

If we simply supervise the group so they effectively use their existing abilities and knowledge together, we may achieve results but will fall far short of what could have been. We also fall short of helping each person to continue to grow and evolve.

Our goal in life is to leave as little unrealized potential as possible when we pass on. But we can’t do that alone. We need others to help us along our journey. They are called leaders. A true leader understands this calling and won’t let their people down by expecting less of them then they can be.

For organizations, this makes all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between a sales team meeting their quarterly revenue target versus exceeding it by 25%. It’s the difference between a manufacturing plant achieving a 99.2% defect free rate versus producing zero defects.

It’s the difference between customer service satisfying 98% of customers versus satisfying 99.9% of customers. It’s the difference between companies whose growth rate holds its own against competitors versus increasing its growth rate enough to increase its market share by 15%. It’s the difference between firms that turn over 25% of their employees annually versus those that turn over less than 5%.

Exceptional performance by a business, school, church, charity, sports team or any other organization starts when each person performs at an exceptional level every day. And that will only happen when those organizations or teams are led by true leaders who never stop raising the bar on their people’s performance expectations.

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What People Are Saying

Tristan Bishop  |  06 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Thank you, Don! You are so right: Leadership transcends administration.

The character-based leader sees how powerful others can become and then transfers this vision into their hearts and minds. The best leaders can look at an acorn and visualize an oak tree. They then plant, water and guard the growth process.


Daniel Buhr  |  06 Jan 2011  |  Reply

So well said. Thank you!
The manager works in a model of compensation that says, “Do the work your given and you will be compensated for it.” That is based on the premise that your work is merely a sacrifice. The leader works in a model of blessing that says, “In doing your work you will become more for it.” The quest for better is first and foremost a matter of “being more,” and from that then flows “doing more.” The leader then connects that back so that in the doing one becomes more, creating an upward spiral of personal growth. For after all the real richness in being better is not in being better than the next person, but in being better than I was yesterday.
You capture this well with, “A true leader guides people to become all they are and evolve into something even more than that.”

Shawn Murphy  |  06 Jan 2011  |  Reply

I’m so glad you shared this message. For sometime now I’ve seen how we collapse the meaning of leadership and management into the same meaning. Your post calls out quite succinctly the distinction of leadership. Mother Theresa said, and I paraphrase her words: leave people better after any interaction. This is the essence of your message. In this time we need people like you, Lead Change, to advocate that leadership is about people. Nice post.

Sara Kmiecik  |  07 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Great post! I just stumbled onto your blog and I love it!

Thomas Waterhouse  |  08 Jan 2011  |  Reply

I think the area of “Applied Human Growth & Potential™” is important for leaders as a subgroup of humanity, but it’s a worldview for all of humanity to cultivate! “Speaking life to potential” is one of the three prongs of Simple Encouragement® and folks can begin learning about the construct at http://www.SimpleEncouragement.com. The corporate pages for Simple E Creations, Inc will be going up soon, http://about.me/simpleencouragement. In the meanwhile, I wrote an article here titled “Simple Encouragement” that is relevant to the discussion (August 13, 2010). These are great thoughts for us all to consider, Don, and I love your line, “The never ending quest for better”. Thanks for your contribution!

Anne Preston  |  12 Jan 2011  |  Reply

I whole heartily agree that the pursuit for better leads to better personal leadership and to more realized pure potential. It’s also very fulfilling for the pursuit of mastery that is part of this search for “better” creates a wonderful platform to be of service in the world and also a self leadership lifestyle that is very rewarding.

Do you fell “most” people are looking to be lead into their pure potential?

Don Shapiro  |  20 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Great question Anne.

I believe most people want to realize their full potential…they want to be more than they are today. The research for the book I’m writing Life Is A Fork In The Road (http://www.facebook.com/lifeisaforkintheroad) confirms this. Not sure if they want to be led there. That’s where leadership talent can make such a difference. A great leader can help people to discover their potential and inspire them to move toward it without the people feeling their are being led. That’s the trick and the real difference between someone trying to be a leader and someone who is a leader.

You might say that leadership is the art of getting people to discover they really want to do something they were not aware they wanted to do. It’s finding a way to turn on people’s self motivation.

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