“I’ve been traveling a bunch, buddy. I was in the Caymans for a week and then over in Ireland for two weeks,” said Dale Sanders, former CIO of the Cayman Islands National Health Services Authority, during one of our informal quarterly catch-up calls.
“What was the Ireland trip about?” I asked, “Business or pleasure?”
“Pure vacation,” he said. “We actually got bikes and did a tour of the countryside.”
What a great way to see a beautiful, bucolic country such as Ireland, I thought. What a wonderful way to not just enjoy the stops, but every moment of the journey.
Later in our conversation, I asked Sanders about his priorities for the upcoming years.
“Well, I want to spend as much time with my Mom as possible. She’s 88,” he said. “I also want to make sure I’m living in a way that makes the greatest positive impact for the greatest number of folks.”
After our call, it was the phrase, “living in a way” that stuck with me. In my personal life, I’m a big fan of reading the biographies of influential historical figures and, in my professional life, I’m lucky enough to interview very smart folks every week. My natural tendency is to look for common themes of behavior and conduct so I can both highlight (in these columns) and emulate them. Most noteworthy people, I’ve found, very deliberately focus their energies on living in a certain way, rather than achieving specific objectives. The ends, for them, do not justify the means. Rather, the means are ends in and of themselves, to be pursued independent of results.
This is not to say that individuals who focus on conduct, as opposed to results, don’t care about those results. In fact, it is a focus on conduct that ensures the best results over the longest amount of time in the greatest number of cases. And best of all, proper conduct (on the level I intend) doesn’t need customized versions for home, workplace, and amongst friends — it transcends each, it is a universal app that works on every device.
And what are the common themes to such proper conduct? On a high level, it’s Boy/Girl Scout stuff:
- Generosity (sharing, mentoring, giving)
- Accessibility (to customers, co-workers, family and friends)
Ed Marx, CIO at Texas Health Resources, beautifully echoed these sentiments in his Memorial Day blog. It’s a focus on creating a positive impact on the people we encounter, on making sure that, as many times as possible, phrases like the following are spoken about us, not because these inflate our ego, but because it means we are having the desired impact:
- He’s a great guy.
- He was so generous with his time.
- I didn’t think he’d call me back, but he did.
- I sure blew that assignment and felt terrible, but he didn’t beat me up over it.
- He taught me the right way to do this job.
- He showed me the right way to live without even trying.
The successful and impactful focus on the means, the journey, on adhering to a code of conduct that isn’t situational. In his incomparable work, “The Second World War,” (featuring an equally incomparable reading by Christian Rodska) Winston Churchill, reflecting upon how his popularity in the House of Commons hit such highs and lows during his long political career, said: “What a proof is here offered that the only wise and safe course is to act from day today in accordance with what one’s own conscience seems to decree.”
Leadership is the practice of adhering to a code of conduct others can admire, for it is in such admiration that loyalty is born. In turn, it is only by calling upon those bonds of loyalty in pursuit of a great cause that organizational greatness can be achieved. There is no shortcut. Of course, when you’re focused on enjoying the journey, you don’t particularly want one.