The quote “fair is for children” by Winston Churchill has always inspired me as an entrepreneur — from when I began my first company in my basement at age 26 to buying and growing acquisitions and, most recently, launching a startup in the middle of a pandemic.
The quote reminds me that it’s not about what’s fair, but about what you earn, how you compete and how you lead. It is about tenacity, casting a vision, staying focused in the face of adversity, looking ahead not behind and executing your race, your plan and not responding to your competitors on all sides. These qualities are never more important than when things are difficult.
Leaders who succeed in times of crisis — like in the face of COVID-19 and unprecedented racial and social unrest — are the ones who go beyond success and set the mark at legendary.
So how do you deliver on this lofty pursuit? I believed for many years that the best leaders led by example, outworking and outhustling and running into the fire first. Yet, through experience and the wisdom of others, I’ve found the most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to set the vision or goal and inspire their team to achieve beyond what may seem intuitively impossible — to make decisions and take actions that will be evaluated through the lens of greatness and not the challenges or limitations facing them.
Greatness looks different to each person, and if a leader can bring out the passion that drives people to perform at their individual best, beyond what seemed possible in the face of adversity, they are breeding legend makers.
After goals and visions have been defined and shared, leaders must keep their commitments. I strive to keep 100% of the commitments I make 100% of the time — to my team, clients, family and to the standards I set for myself.
For me, this is the backbone of good leadership, but to achieve it, one must rebalance priorities, only make commitments you will absolutely keep and protect your time as if it were the limited edition that it is. Imagine if you and everyone in your organizations focused on simply doing what you said you were going to do. Every time.
This level of discipline takes effort and growth as a person and leader, but the crises of 2020 offered all the motivation in the world to get laser-focused on execution and to convert the intensity aimed at surviving to a higher calling of thriving.
If you can look at the choices you or your colleagues made in 2020 and think “that was brave,” then you are striving for greatness. For example, starting a new business in the early stages of COVID-19, many voices were saying “no” or telling my team and I to wait until a better time. This was especially true when half of our committed startup capital went into “quarantine.”
Yet, we knew this startup was necessary to connect public companies and individual investors in a new way, no matter what else was going on in the world, so we met our commitments, found a way and are inventing a new demographic — consumer shareholders — that can now be rewarded for owning shares of stock in the brands and companies they love.
By suspending reality, chasing a vision and doing it with tenacity, we are being rewarded with success and have the adrenaline of a crisis fueling us.