Inspired by The Top 2%
An article appeared in the Chicago Tribune in which there was an executive success test. Let me give you the test and see how well you score. R. J. Whitmore, President of the Michael & Whitmore International Executive Recruiting firm in Chicago, lists seven characteristics common to leading executives. And here they are:
The single most important characteristic is the drive to accomplish, the need to accomplish. How do you score in this department?
Two, continuous action.
This is the ability to keep moving toward objectives, despite obstacles. It’s perseverance. It’s the willingness to put in months and years of effort in order to achieve that —or avoid that, as the case may be — which motivates you.
Number three, taking counsel.
Obtaining the best available intelligence but making a solitary and individual judgment. The person with a characteristic of a good executive will listen to the opinions of others. This person will also be quick to adopt their plans if he or she thinks they’re good — and also quick to give full credit for an idea. Since this person does not suffer from feelings of inferiority, it is not important to this person that he or she must come up with all the good ideas or take all the credit. Just the contrary is true. This person will take counsel.
The ability to develop alternate courses of action. In every description of maturity I’ve ever read, the word flexibility
is high on the list. Yet in the world of business, you quite often find the ineffective executive whose ideas are set in concrete. This is the executive misfit who will say, “We’ve always done things a certain way around here, and that’s the way we’re going to continue to do them.” This person has no place in a growing business and is a serious detriment to growth. He or she should be given an unimportant job or fired. If you can get your competitor to hire this person, so much the better.
Now, this is that marvelous and rare talent to reduce the seemingly complex into simple terms and ideas. To be able to see right through all the maze of confusion to the basic goals and the basic reason for being in business. As the president of a great airline once said to me, “We have to constantly keep in mind that the entire aim of our business is to move people and things from one place to another as efficiently as possible.”
That’s the skill and imagination in expressing beliefs. Now usually with the really good executive, this dramatization comes perfectly naturally. It’s born of enthusiasm and interest in what’s being done and in plans for the future.
And number seven, being the boss.
That is to say, maintaining enough detachment so that there’s never any question as to who’s in charge. This is difficult to define. It’s never a matter of egoism; it’s a matter of stature. It’s something that’s been earned and is deserved.
For the Sake of Other Men
Sometimes a youngster will ask you, usually when he or she is in his or her teens, what’s the purpose of it all? What’s it all about? It’s a problem that bothers millions, and there’s an answer, a good answer. It’s a good answer for you and me too when we get confused, and it goes like this: Man is here for the sake of others only. So instead of asking What is it all about?, ask, How can I best serve other human beings during my stay here? That’s why it’s so important to find what it is we can do best.
It doesn’t mean necessarily that we become world-renowned and make great breakthroughs in science or education or politics, although it might well be something like that. It may be that we can serve, well, smaller numbers, but just as well for all that. If we serve cheerfully and well during the work we’ve chosen to the best of our ability, that’s enough. The tendency is to think of ourselves: What will I get out of it? Well, the answer still holds because our rewards will always be in exact proportion to our service. We are interdependent. Each of us is served by tens of thousands of other human beings every day of our lives. The home we live in and the groceries we bring from the store, running water, the means by which we cook our food and light our homes, the clothes we wear, the books we read, radio and television, our means of transportation. Each time we buy a tank of gas, there are thousands, tens of thousands, making their ways in the world by serving us and millions like us.
Now what is our contribution to be? There is a way we can be of maximum service to others. And it’s up to each of us to find it. That’s the voyage of discovery that can make living interesting and fulfilling and infinitely rewarding. We need take no thought whatever of what we will get out of it. We will get out of it exactly what we manage to put into it, and it’s the putting in that’s our job and responsibility; the rest will take care of itself.
Do you know who it was who said, “Man is here for the sake of other men only”? It was Dr. Albert Einstein. And he said the same thing that every great and gifted teacher who ever lived said. After learning that great truth over and over again from the greatest teachers whoever lived, one might think you’d have to be some kind of a nitwit not to understand it. But the fact and sad matter is that millions do not understand it. Millions have not been told by their parents that that is the purpose of it all and that that’s why we’re here and that there’s no other good reason you can think of.
To assess our value as persons, we need only ask ourselves, How am I serving those whom I have chosen of my own free will to serve? Am I serving them to the very best of my ability? Cheerfully, without stint, without question? It’s fair that each of us tells his own fortune, because all of us know how much of ourselves we’re putting in. We can then assess it simply by taking stock of our rewards. That’s the important question to millions. What’s it all about? Why am I here? Man is here for the sake of others only. And their rewards, tangible and intangible, will be in exact ratio to their service and contribution.