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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Hitting the High Notes

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

When I was singing with a local chorus many years ago, I took voice lessons. My teacher had me start by singing scales while she listened. After my voice cracked, I explained that I had trouble “hitting the high notes.” I explained that I was an Alto, not a Soprano and the high notes seemed way out of my reach.

Our Thoughts Drive What We Do

Listening to me try to hit those high notes, she encouraged me to stretch to reach them. But over a period of weeks of practice, my ability to reach them didn’t get much better. Then I learned a valuable lesson about how what we think determines what we do. I had a breakthrough when I realized that the piano keyboard visually has no high or low on it. It goes left to right. I started to think about my voice that way, as singing the notes from left to right instead of up and down.

Upgrading Our Mindset

That change in my thinking greatly expanded my singing range and I was no longer struggling to reach the high notes. I have learned through the years that changing our experience can be as simple as changing the way we perceive it. When our mindset changes, our actions follow.

Upgrading Our Leadership

This lesson also applies to how well we adapt our leadership as the world changes. Are we using the mindset of an ethical leader? Are we modeling full inclusion, or do we treat some types of people better than others? Are we placing a priority on our own development, or have we settled into a comfortable zone where we no longer challenge ourselves to learn and grow? 

We should never settle for a limited range and give up on adapting to change

Identify an area in your leadership where you might not be hitting the high notes, and where changing your mindset could make all the difference. 

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