It is very hard for leaders to come to grips with the notion of Excellence, particularly that in the 21st century we are often referring to a moving target. Excellence in a modern context is the attainment of a relative state of achievement and performance. The relative state of performance is however appropriate and applicable to any organisation, operating in any sector of the economy and being at any state of competitiveness. Excellence could mean on the one hand being able to fulfil the requirements of customers and stakeholders that are current, clearly defined and predictable since they are representing an ability to replenish, to do more of the same and to be reliable and consistent in dependability.
Excellence on the other hand could mean the ability to stretch, close performance gaps and become ‘better’ at doing current things with new ideas, solutions and methods. In this context it could also be the ability to fulfil undefined and therefore unfulfilled needs with innovation and new thinking. Finally excellence could truly mean shooting ahead of the duck and not missing a moving target. In this sense, it is about stimulating new thinking, surprising customers and stakeholders with delightful products and services and building a brand reputation through innovation and uniqueness. This state of excellence is dependent on innovation driving the value chain and breaking the mould, using out of the box thinking and not clinching onto a safety net by depending heavily on the past and the present.
Steve Ballmer said: “We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we’re in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality. There’s no substitute for innovation, of course, but innovation is no substitute for being in touch, either.”
Steve Forbes on the other hand argues that: “The real source of wealth and capital in this new era is not material things.. It is the human mind, the human spirit, the human imagination, and our faith in the future.”
Innovation will remain the true predictor of the future, whilst Excellence will be the foundation on which to build a future state. It is therefore imperative for leaders of the 21st century to build sustainable excellence based on the following principles which are depicted below:
- The Constancy of Purpose, a sense of purposefulness will define what contribution, impact and legacy leaders can leave behind. Excellence n the 21st century is not about ‘getting there’ but more importantly is about ‘continuity’ and the assurance that the journey will continue after they have gone;
- Excellence is of course subject to the old maxim ‘horses for courses’. It has to be defined to give true meaning to the entity that ‘owns’ the challenge, the dream and aspiration. Furthermore, Excellence is to be driven, guided, nurtured and grow
- Excellence is about tangible impact and outcomes
- Excellence as stated previously is about developing the momentum for continuity, the potential for growth, the predictability of performance, the dependability on capability, the confidence in the next journeys and what they bring
- Excellence is similar to a living cell and its nucleus where the DNA gets determine is represented by the culture and work environment that is shaped and created