The Gold Standard

May 15, 2019
James Whittaker

Check out this episode on the Win the Day Podcast

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”

Ray Kroc

The last two weeks have been interesting! On Wednesday, 1 May at 11:42 am, I became a father for the first time, as my wife gave birth to our beautiful girl, Sophie Geraldine Whittaker.

While it still feels surreal, it got me thinking—as I’m sure it does for all new parents—about what type of world our little girl will grow up in, and what we (as parents, leaders, and carers) can do to raise a child with love, respect, compassion, and willpower; someone comfortable in their own skin, who inspires others through their actions; a leader, never afraid to take the reins and do what is right.

One of the tenets of success is that every great leader was once a great follower. Through carefully modelling the habits of high performers—none more important than consistent self-discipline—in their own way, ordinary people are elevated to the elite of every profession, from athletes and entrepreneurs, to soldiers and entertainers. These one-percenters set high standards for their team, but reserve the highest standards for themselves, clearly evident in their commitment to winning the day, every day.

In Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, British financial adviser Derek Mills noted that the biggest turning point in his life occurred after he started setting simple daily standards for himself and abiding by them at all costs. Incredibly, this small shift in accountability and action had a dramatic impact on his life, increasing his income tenfold, all while working in the same office, and allowing him to spend more time with his young family.

That’s the power of daily standards.

We’re ALL leaders in some capacity—a product of influence and action. Being a father has made me more aware than ever of how my actions, good or bad, will impact another. After all, not every leader is a positive one: leading someone astray is still leadership. Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” It’s easy to dictate how others should act—especially when we’re in a position of power, such as parents-to-children, coaches-to-players, or bosses-to-employees, but living it ourselves—whether it’s family, friendship, or business—is the most important way to inspire change.

One of my coaching clients once vented to me that her boss was constantly late to meetings, used vape cigarettes in the boardrooms, and built an enormously lavish office for himself while penny-pinching resources for his team. What a horrible standard to set for the culture, and unsurprisingly it was a revolving door of both staff and clients. My advice to her was to start looking for a new job immediately. Within three months, she had a new job that paid her 40% more, at a company with strong leadership, a clear vision, and high standards for its entire staff but most demonstrable by the management team.

In June last year, I was in Sydney as a guest on Kerwin Rae’s show, Unstoppable. On a tour of the K-Man’s office, I saw a huge mural on the wall outlining the company’s vision (below), a custom-made gym that offered free functional fitness classes throughout the week, and a leader who set the standard—day in, day out. I could feel the energy coming from the team, and they continue to crush it in all aspects. What a difference from the aforementioned example.

Think about the most chaotic parts of your own life. Are you:

  • Hanging around negative people?
  • Accepting clients who are never happy no matter what you do?
  • Letting your health/fitness slide?
  • Spending less time with your family?
  • Watching too much television or procrastinating on your phone?

If so, set standards to get back on track.

Read through the list of attributes that separates good vs bad leaders in the following table. Reflect on those attributes while perusing your Success Plan. That will give you a clear idea of what standards you need to set for yourself to achieve everything you most desire.

Good Leaders Bad Leaders
Confidently define the mission and courageously execute it. Uncertain of mission and avoid purposeful action.
Prioritize what is most important. Fall victim to destructive vices, procrastination, and distraction.
Go the extra mile with everything they do. Only do the minimum of what is required.
Passion for lifelong learning. Focus on ego and think they already know it all.
Positive mental attitude. Negative mental attitude.
Strong empathy for other people. Make fun of others and refuse to learn more about them.
Supreme accountability for all areas of their life. Blame other people for everything wrong in their life.
Ability to coordinate and empower other high performers. Constantly in conflict with other people. Bring others down to their level.
Lead by example, building a high performing team but reserving the highest standards for themselves. Strong opinions on what others should do but does not live to those same standards.

Then, write out those daily or weekly standards—as vividly and with as much color as possible—and place them somewhere you will see them frequently. Follow Derek Mills’ lead and hand a copy to your spouse, children, and boss so they know how committed you are to your own success and growth.

The final step? Live by those standards, every day.

You have an obligation to all those in your life—whether your children, parents, siblings, teammates, colleagues, or friends—to lead by example. Don’t wait until you’re in a position of authority to become a great leader.

Inspire change through your actions. Be proud to live by the highest of standards each day, regardless of the noise and negativity around you. Your example will be a perpetual gift of inspiration to the most important people in your life, leading to unprecedented happiness, freedom, and success.

As Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good person should be. Be one.” Whether it’s the battlefield or the boardroom, the best leaders demand excellence from those around them, but hold themselves to the highest standard.

After all, how you do anything is how you do everything.

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

In case you missed it:
Failure: The Essential Ingredient

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