There is a maxim that you have likely heard time and again in these Leading Thoughts. It is at the heart of all I have to say to you and, in fact, it is at the core of my life. Here it is: You have a destiny, but your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others.
I was consulting with a large charity recently and we were discussing their fundraising. We talked about their philosophy of fundraising, how they tended their donor list, and the events they held to raise both vision and funds. They had met with some success, but something was wrong.
I kept pressing. I asked how clear they were about their long-term vision and about the character of their events. Then I asked about the outside speakers and artists they scheduled for these events. When they listed some of them, I saw one of their problems. They weren’t hiring talent equal to their events, equal to the quality of their organization.
I drilled down into this and that’s when the central problem surfaced. You see they have a CEO who is apparently the kind of man who doesn’t want anyone to outshine him. No speaker, no artists, no eminent person would be invited to grace their fundraising events if they had greater heft or appeal than this CEO.
They didn’t have to tell me more. A man with such core insecurities and competitiveness will not only set a limit on the celebrities involved in fundraising events, he will also set a limit on the talent hired for the firm, the design of programs, the conduct of meetings, and perhaps the entire trajectory of the organization.
In short, this man is running his firm in exactly the opposite manner a good leader should. He is making his own ego, his own emotional comfort zone, the measure of all that happens. Instead, he should be investing in others so they can exceed him.
A good leader is like a good father or mother. You want to see those you lead or parent rise. You want to see them surpass you. In fact, your investment in them is designed for just this purpose: to launch them to their best. This is how families thrive. This is how organizations achieve.
Years ago I picked up the phrase “Launch Site.” I may have gotten it from NASA or from my military friends. It has stuck with me because it is exactly what all of our firms ought to be. We want to be launching people to their best. We want very successful people to be saying in forty years, “Man, it was when I was working for the Jones firm that I was really empowered to be my best. That led me to where I am today. I’m deeply grateful.”
That law firm? It should be a launch site. The factory you run? Why not a launch site? The school? What better legacy than that skilled educators, coaches, and administrators who rose to their best on your watch now dot the globe.
What makes this possible is that you adjust your vision. Don’t force people to stay beneath your level. Don’t let your emotional needs and insecurities reign. Launch people. Invest in people. See it as one of the great purposes of your firm to help people fulfill their God-given purpose. Your firm will thrive if you do.
This takes humility. It takes an investing mentality. It requires that we think like parents, not like competitors, and that we launch, not restrain. This is what great leadership does.
Hear me on this: you have this ability in you. You can fulfill your destiny by investing in the destinies of others.