In his recent book, The Measure of a Man, actor Sidney Poitier shares a lifetime of experiences with his readers; his family, career, joys and sorrows. Near the end of the book, he wraps up some life lessons with a story about pantomime and what a stretch that was for him to try in his mid-sixties. It was also a chance for him to grow and to hone his craft in a new way. While telling that story, he shares a thought that guided him through much of his career:
Don’t be as good as, be better than; raise the risk level.
Poitier goes on to reflect on times where he chose the safe path. Instead of raising the risk level, he actually lowered it, so that he could remain “as good as.” However, his real excellence came when he went forth with abandon, raising the risk level, striving to “be better than.”
How can we, as leaders, learn from him? If we reflect on the roles we have chosen, how often have we settled for safe, thinking that if we remain “as good as,” then we are being successful? How often do we abandon that thought process and push forward to “be better than?” Which choice is the better choice?