Great leadership is attainable. It isn’t reserved for a select few, sprinkled with some magic dust. It is within the grasp of each one of us. The resources are there. It just requires effort and commitment.
Let me illustrate with an unlikely but useful example: elevators (lifts, for our British readers).
Until recently, building a mile-high building has been technologically impossible. Now it’s possible. Why? The limiting factor was the elevator technology: no building could be built higher than its elevators could transport the people who lived or worked in it. But today, the technology to take elevators to new heights is now available.
The problem was not the weight of the box that carries the people. It was the weight of the steel cables that raise and lower the box itself—these cables account for as much as an impressive 75 percent of the combined weight of all the elevator components. The greater the number of floors, the stronger and longer the cables you need … and the greater their weight.
It’s not surprising, then, to witness the excitement around the ground-breaking (or ceiling-breaking) technology that replaces steel with the much lighter carbon-fiber, thereby reducing the weight of the cables for a 1,300-foot elevator to six percent of their steel equivalent. Recently unveiled by Kone (a Finnish manufacturer http://download.kone.com/ultrarope/index.htm), this technology has architects and developers salivating at the prospect of building mile-high buildings. Skyscrapers can now scrape the sky much more aggressively.
So what could inhibit their construction? It’s no longer the technology; it’s now the cost. It costs far more to use carbon fibers. There are, it is true, some long-term cost benefits—carbon fibers are more durable, require less maintenance, and thus create less disruptive downtime. But up front, the costs are higher.
And so it is with great leadership. Just as the technology is now available to build a mile-high skyscraper, the resources are available for greatness in leadership—a leadership that does indeed reach new heights. But the upfront cost is higher. It requires investing time and energy. It requires a willingness to reflect on your leadership and try new approaches. It requires getting out of your comfort zone. It requires an openness to reconsider that what worked for you in the past may not help you reach new heights now in your leadership.
The cost of great leadership development is deliberately, intentionally pursuing it, taking the time to become a student of great leadership. But that cost is worth it, and as you engage in the pursuit of great leadership, you will see how stimulating and rewarding it is. By becoming a student of great leadership, you will be installing the carbon fiber to take your leadership to new heights.