One of the most often overlooked aspects of leadership is the need for pursuit. Great leaders are never satisfied with traditional practice, static thinking, conventional wisdom, or common performance. In fact, the best leaders are simply uncomfortable with anything that embraces the status quo. Leadership is pursuit – pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of truth, of what’s next, of what if, of change, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than themselves. In the text that follows I’ll examine the value of being a pursuer… Here’s the thing – pursuit leads to attainment. What you pursue will determine the paths you travel, the people you associate with, the character you develop, and ultimately, what you do or don’t achieve. Having a mindset focused on pursuit is so critical to leadership that lacking this one quality can sentence you to mediocrity or even obsolescence. The manner, method, and motivation behind any pursuit is what sets truly great leaders apart from the masses. If you want to become a great leader, become a great pursuer.
A failure to embrace pursuit is to cede opportunity to others. A
leader’s failure to pursue clarity leaves them amidst the fog. Their
failure to pursue creativity relegates them to the routine and mundane.
Their failure to pursue talent sentences them to a world of isolation.
Their failure to pursue change approves apathy. Their failure to pursue
wisdom and discernment subjects them to distraction and folly. Their
failure to pursue character leaves a question mark on their integrity.
Let me put this as simply as I can – you cannot attain what you do not
I also want to caution you against trivial pursuits – don’t confuse
pursuit with simple goal setting. Outcomes are clearly important, but as
a leader, it’s what happens after the outcome that you need to be in
pursuit of. Pursue discovery, seek dissenting opinions, develop your
ability unlearn by embracing how much you don’t know, and find the kind
of vision that truly does see around corners. Don’t use your pursuits to
shift paradigms, pursue breaking them. Knowing what not to pursue is
just as important as knowing what to pursue.
It’s important to keep in mind that nothing tells the world more
about a leader than what or who they pursue – that which you pursue is
that which you value. If you message to your organization you value
talent, but don’t treat people well and don’t spend time developing the
talent around you, then I would suggest you value rhetoric more than
talent. Put simply, you can wax eloquent all you like, but your actions
will ultimately reveal what you truly value.
Lastly, the best leaders pursue being better leaders. They know to
fail in this pursuit is nothing short of a guarantee they’ll be replaced
by those who don’t. All leaders would be well served to go back to
school on what I refer to as the science of pursuitology.