Becoming the Best: World-Class Leaders Speak


For the past five weeks, my weekly blog posts have focused on each of the “five bests” — best self, best team, best partner, best investment, and best citizen — I discuss in-depth in my next book, Becoming the Best.  I hope you found the blog posts of some interest and that at the very least they raised some good questions.  With the book officially having been released this past week, I’d like to conclude my posts about Becoming the Best by sharing some thoughts from a few outstanding leaders I had the privilege of interviewing for the book.  I greatly admire these individuals, not only for their accomplishments, but more importantly, for their dedication to values-based leadership, and I am honored to count them amongst my friends.

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Your Best Self – Actualizing who you are meant to become

As a values-based leader, becoming your best self deepens your self-awareness and understanding that in order to positively influence and lead people, you first need to relate to them. The foundation of best self is self-reflection to identify, embrace, and stay mindful of your values—what means most to you. As Mark R. Neaman, president and CEO of NorthShore University HealthSystems shared:

“When you’re a leader, people look to you, trying to anticipate what you’ll do or say. Through self-reflection, you increase your awareness of how you are communicating with others. Do you show passion and compassion? Are you hard driving and thinking big thoughts, but never losing your humility because you know you can’t accomplish those big dreams all by yourself?”

Best Team – Coming together to fulfill the goals and objectives of the values-based organization
When a group of individuals who are committed to becoming their best selves come together in service of an overarching mission or vision, the result is a best team that does not focus on “being right” but rather on “doing right”. In the words of Doug Conant, who during his tenure as CEO of Campbell Soup Company from 2001 to 2011 led a dramatic turnaround of the iconic company:

“To me, it’s all about the people, and how they are representing you and the enterprise when you are not in the room, which is 99 percent of the time. With this realization, you need to have highly competent, high-character people—the right people on the bus, in the right seat, and with the right motivation.”

Best Partner – Forging a partnership with suppliers and customers to enhance the experience across the value chain for the ultimate benefit of the end user

A best partnership is a holistic relationship, in which all parties come together around common values and unifying goals. Each party must have a deep understanding of the others — their values and priorities. As Mark Thierer, chairman and CEO of Catamaran Corp., a pharmacy benefit manager, observed:

“You need to be an expert in the client’s or trading partner’s business, with an intimate understanding of its P&L [profit and loss] statement. That means becoming totally invested in those client relationships.”

Best Investment – Focusing on generating a return for owners/stakeholders through positive and meaningful actions that support the mission, vision, and values of the organization

As a best investment, an organization becomes a steward of all its resources, especially talent, in order to generate a return (even an above-market return known as “alpha”) for owners and other stakeholders. Tim Sullivan, a managing director at Madison Dearborn Partners, where he heads the MDP Health Care practice, commented:

“An alpha-performing company will attract the investment capital it needs to grow the business. The only way to do that is by attracting the talent to create best teams, having a culture that values best partnerships, and then outperforming as a best investment.”

Best Citizen – Focusing not only on success, but also significance, through social responsibility and making a difference in the world

From a holistic perspective, there is an inter-relationship among all five bests in a values-based organization: resonating with best selves, motivating best teams, encouraging best partners, and supporting best investment. Said Laysha Ward, president of Community Relations for Target Corporation:

“An organization can do well financially and generate the kind of shareholder return that it should, while still doing good in the world. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.”

Through the five bests, the journey continues — committing every day to becoming the best you and your organization can be.

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