“If you think you are beaten, you are. … If you want to win, but think you can’t, it’s almost a cinch you won’t. … Success begins with a fellow’s will. … The man who wins is the man who thinks he can.” ~ Walter D. Wintle
When Ford CEO Alan Mulally was president at Boeing, it was widely expected that he would be made CEO after a decade of successes at the company, which included shepherding of the aircraft maker through a vibrant recovery following the heavy impact of 9/11.
Understandably, Mulally was devastated when Boeing passed him over for the top job. But he refused to harp on the negative because, as he said, “a bad attitude simply erases everyone else’s memory of the incredible progress achieved.” Why become “the bitter guy” and tarnish his great progress, he thought, when he could remain in everyone’s eyes as a proud, successful leader? He took the high road and was promptly recruited by Ford to re-ignite the automobile manufacturer.
This post is excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from “Discover Your True North, Expanded and Updated Edition” (August 2015) by Bill George. Copyright (c) 2015 by Bill George. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Bill George is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic.
When I graduated from college, I had the naive notion that the journey to leadership was a straight line to the top. I learned the hard way that leadership is not a singular destination but a marathon journey that progresses through many stages until you reach your peak. I was not alone. Of all the senior leaders we interviewed, none wound up where they thought they would.
Former Vanguard CEO Jack Brennan believes that the worst thing people can do is to manage their careers with a career map: “The dissatisfied people I have known and those who experienced ethical or legal failures all had a clear career plan.” Brennan recommended being flexible and venturesome in stepping up to unexpected opportunities. “If you’re only interested in advancing your career, you’ll wind up dissatisfied,” he said.
The idea of a career ladder places tremendous pressure on leaders to keep climbing ever higher. Instead, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook, favors the idea of a career “jungle gym” where you can move up, down, or across. Realistically, your development as a leader is a journey filled with many ups and downs as you progress to your peak leadership and continue leading through the final stage.