Today, more than ever, we need leaders and organizations to commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring.
Commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring.
Triple Crown Leadership
When we wrote our book, Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, we committed ourselves as a father and son to writing a book that would have lasting value, basing it on the best leadership practices we could find.
To develop the ideas in the book, we drew upon many sources, including:
- our own leadership experiences over decades across many industries
- longitudinal research on the most admired, ethical, and sustainable organizations
- interviews with leaders in 61 outstanding organizations in 11 countries
- top leadership experts and institutes
That work in synthesizing the research led us to identify five advanced leadership practices for how to build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring (the “triple crown” of leadership).
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The Challenges We Face
These days it often seems like our world is coming apart. We face big challenges—some epic—in politics, business, society, economy, and climate.
What can we do about all these challenges? Many people feel helpless.
But we’re not powerless. Collectively, we have immense power, especially if we align our work efforts, reinforcing each other with a common cause.
One such cause is the aim of triple crown leadership: building organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring. Why not strive for that in our families, workplaces, schools, and communities?
We need better leadership practices if we’re to solve today’s challenges.
We know people can achieve incredible feats when they commit their hearts and work together toward a common purpose.
We can model a better way, starting in our own homes and workplaces.
Today, people want organizations that are purpose-driven, values-based, and responsible about their practices and impacts. Leaders and brands they can trust. Sustainable practices and positive societal impact.
People crave challenge, growth, connection, accomplishment, advancement, and recognition at work. They want their lives to have meaning. They want to contribute to something greater than themselves.
Is that too much to ask? No. Why not aim high with our lives? What should leaders do in the face of these desires and aspirations?
Leaders should begin by committing themselves and their organizations to the “three Es”: excellent, ethical, and enduring.
The Three Es of Triple Crown Leadership: Excellent, Ethical, Enduring
Make building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization the overarching aim. Recognize that the three Es are interrelated and mutually reinforcing over time.
Achieving exceptional results that have significant, positive impacts on stakeholders.
“Average people produced extraordinary results.” -Nancy Tuor, former CEO at Rocky Flats (CH2M Hill)
Doing the right thing, even when it’s costly or hard.
“I will go to the board and tell them we had no sales this month rather than have one sale that is not right.” -Harvey Wagner, former CEO, Quovadx
Standing the test of time and operating sustainably.
“The short-term focus has blown up.” -Bill George, best-selling author and former CEO, Medtronic
Triple crown leadership:
- Isn’t about a charismatic hero
- Recruits, develops, and rewards people with both head and heart
- Flexes between the hard and soft edges of leadership—between “steel and velvet”—depending on the situation and the people
- Taps into the hearts and potential of everyone in the organization by unleashing them with an automatic license to lead—and a call to be stewards of the organization’s values and culture
- Aligns the organization for peak performance
- Rejects the easy way out and keeps searching for a better way
How does it feel to work in such organizations? Here’s what some of our interviewees said:
“It was so exciting, so energizing, so inspiring.” -Steven Rothstein, former CEO, Perkins School for the Blind
“They regularly walk up to me now and say, ‘I’m proud to be a part of this company because of the values.’” -Bob Hatcher, chair and former CEO, MidCountry Financial Corp.
“I can’t tell you the amount of personal satisfaction that came out of it. Every day was so much fun. They were proud. They were happy. This thing had new life. It was glowing…. It was certainly the job of a lifetime.” -Nancy Tuor, former CEO, Rocky Flats (CH2M Hill)
If many of our current leaders fall short of getting excellent results with positive impact, let’s lead by example and show them that we can. And how.
If they cut ethical corners, let’s model how to do it the right way. If they’re caught in short-term performance cycles that degrade our climate, let’s lead the way with enduring, sustainable leadership practices.
Let’s stop attacking each other and seek the common ground we have before we lose it. Let’s radiate a new way to lead from the bottom up in our families, communities, and workplaces. The work is daunting but necessary. We owe it to our children and to future generations.
Call to Action
Commit to a bold leadership quest. Let’s rebuild our families, neighborhoods, schools, organizations, and beyond by building excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations. Commit to enduring ethical excellence.
- Do you want to sit on the sidelines and complain or be part of the solution to our challenges?
- Have you committed to building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization—or some other bold leadership quest that captures your heart?
- What will you do about it now?
Personal Values Exercise
Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.
Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are leadership practitioners, teachers, trainers, and award-winning authors. They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards. Check out their Leadership Derailers Assessment, complete their Personal Values Exercise, or sign up for their newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!