Minimum Standard Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I tell my students that if you go through life just reaching for the minimum standard, you end up with a minimum standard life. The good things in life, including success and happiness are more likely to happen when we reach higher than the baseline that is expected of us.

Growth

Growth happens beyond the baseline requirements. If we aim too low, we may be content with a job that doesn’t bring out our full potential. Stretching to grow into a more demanding role, we find out what we’re capable of, and we grow. We become capable of more, which opens up new opportunities.

Opportunity

People are often tapped for new projects and promotions based on their current performance and their willingness to learn new things and take on additional responsibility. Doing these things makes them deeply valuable assets to groups and organizations.

Leadership

Minimum standard leadership doesn’t inspire others to greatness and build great organizations. It just keeps the cogs turning.

Leadership opportunities require stretching beyond the minimum standard because leaders need to do their own work and support the work of others. That means that their most important supporting tasks are evolving, not finite and collective, not individual. Leaders must embrace growth and adapt to change, setting an example for the people they lead and support.

From Minimum Standard Performance to Potential

I have been stretched beyond my comfort zone almost continuously over the past decade. I remember times when I felt like “coasting” because I was so exhausted by change and wanted things to be easier.

Overcoming that tendency to want to keep things as they are is important for breaking out of self-imposed limits on our potential and achievement. Every new opportunity will likely pull us beyond our comfort zone, stretching and expanding what we are comfortable with.

When we break away from a desire to keep things as they are, we are much better prepared to take advantage of all the good that life has to offer. And we are much better prepared to be good leaders.

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