Leadership: Let Excellence be Your Minimum Standard

Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. – Booker T. Washington. 

Servant leadership is service with excellence, and excellence should be your minimum standard. Excellence is an attitude of doing your best for people and making it a habit of your best. 

Excellence creates a distinction between a good leader and a great leader. The leader’s excellence will then take their ministry, business, company, or organization from good to great. 

Excellence is a crucial part of servant leadership. Horst Schulze, the co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, stated his life motto as, “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Refocusing on excellence as serving people and not perishable things brings success to a leader. It should be at the heart of a servant leader.

When approaching a leadership crossroad, excellence exudes with questions. Communication, sharing vision, answering all items before asked, and holding hands through challenging terrain are aspects of excellence. Doing these things will breed confidence for the leader from those who follow. 

Because excellence is about serving people, thoughts should be about expressing it with a leader’s employees and followers. Does a leader’s employee have current equipment, or are they spending the double amount of time completing projects working on outdated ones? Are there comfortable and creative surroundings that inspire productivity and confidence in their work? If teaching or preaching, are leaders using the most effective and innovative ways to teach and inspire? Are the organization’s mission, vision, and purpose being continually and creatively shared?

Excellence should be shared and taught with others, and Schulze shares four ways to instill it into employees and volunteers. First is the initial selection of quality people to serve. Second is inspiring orientation and not allowing them the float endlessly in a position. The next is teaching specific job functions. Lastly, it is sustaining or providing continued support. It is an intelligent system, and if followed, will develop employees and volunteers serving with excellence. 

Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, placed the ‘A’ in Chick-fil-A to display his business’ plan to provide A-plus quality service to every customer. Their quality is not only in the food they serve but their service to each customer. It is exemplified by their packed restaurants and long drive-thru lines. Cathy is quoted to say, “Success comes and goes, but excellence endures.” Excellence has made Chick-fil-A a top quality company for almost 80 years.

Excellence is not cheap nor easy. It is a laborious, long road. Yet, in the end, it is worth it. We have a value in our ministry, which has carried over from my high school days – “Excellence is Our Minimum Standard.” It used to be at the bottom of every letterhead and every report card. As high schoolers, we could not even define excellence. As leaders, we shouldn’t live without it.

Excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. It shows a notable feature or quality of our ministry, my family, and our finances. It is not cheap, yet the dividends reap great rewards. Excellence is hard to define or explain, but when you see it, experience it, and it is part of your platform, people can’t resist it.

The Disney Company bleeds excellence. Walt Disney himself worked tirelessly to have excellence with everything which represented his name and work. 

Disney used a phrase for his work called ‘plus it.’ When he desired to take a piece of work to another level, he would ask his Imagineers, those employed to create, to plus it. He would then sometimes tell them to plus it again to take already existing great work to another level. He desired everything to be the best it could be. He wanted it excellently exceptional!

For excellence in his parks, Disney’s rule was to place trash cans around Disneyland spaced out in the amount of time it would take to eat an ice cream cone. It was essential for Disney to keep the parks clean and user friendly yet remain excellent. Thinking of every detail is crucial to building a culture of excellence.

Excellence can be expensive – really expensive. Disney desired to have a Christmas parade at his new park with a whopping price tag of $350,000. Today’s value would be in the millions. He was insistent on having it. It would surprise the guest. In his mind, it would take the guest experience from ordinary to extraordinary. 

Yet, his bookkeepers and Imagineers were against it. It would cost so much. It would be more work to pull off, and their argument was no one would be expecting it, so why have it. Disney response: “We should do the parade precisely because no one’s expecting it!” And yes, he did knock it out of the park with a Christmas parade still being held every Christmas.

Yet, excellence is not always financially expensive. It can be financially free, yet it may take a costly change on your part. I believe there are things you can do regularly to begin to increase your excellent factor. 

One simple thing to do is to be on time. Tardiness appears to others as being uninvolved, undisciplined, and the matter at hand unimportant. Contrary, being punctual makes you look involved, focused, and the event or day important.

Look at your work or your performance. What can you do to take your career to another level? What attitudes or actions could be developed to create excellence in your responsibilities? What changes should you make to your product or service that would make it irresistible if you and your team to plus it?

Begin today. Walt Disney had an excellent spirit, but always remember it all started with a mouse!

A healthy view of excellence is providing exceptional service to people. Furthermore, as one serves, services rendered should be done heartily as unto the Lord rather than men (Colossians 3:23). Serving people is serving God himself. It is going the extra mile with the people one serves. By taking Shulze’s motto of ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen, then excellence should be a servant leader’s minimum standard. 

Five Ways to Bring Excellence to Your Leadership:

  1. Remember, excellence is service to others. Serve well, your fellow man. 
  2. Be the best steward over your personal life and body. Serve and treat yourself wholly and healthily.
  3. Be a great steward regarding your organization’s structure and finances. 
  4. Achieve confidence in yourself and your leadership to others. Confidence is the result of outstanding excellence. 
  5.  Perform well. Work hard and never, ever give up. 

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