There is a lot of talk about success, achievement, fulfillment. But don't take my word for it; just take a virtual stroll on LinkedIn, and you will see millions of lives unfolding, milestone by milestone, one certification at a time, meaningful or meaningless, along with personal landmarks, family issues, employment welcomes, and goodbyes.
A whole virtual world mirrors our "real" one in all its twisted glory, especially when discussing personal achievement and corporate success. The lines between expectations vs. reality become even more blurred.
I don't doubt that we all have a notion of success. What I doubt is whether we each share the same one. Would the mark be a corner office? A perfect view? A stress-free retirement? A shiny glass corporate building? A fancy car? A well-dressed concierge? Fame? Money?
To what do we measure ourselves against? What do people expect of ourselves or what do we expect from ourselves?
Are we leaders, or are we followers? Do we inspire, or do we merely manage? And what is leadership? Does it come from rank? Authority? Power? Need? Dependency?
My military past affords me the luxury of knowing that nothing is black and white; it is all a shade of grey, complicated, messy, and troublesome.
But that is no excuse to shy away from responsibility, and that is the true marksmanship of leadership. Responsibility is the determining factor.
Are you willing to assume the responsibility of every single aspect of your organization? Can you carry the burden of all the wrong choices, the negative consequences, the failed plans, the missteps, the failures even -and mainly - when they are not your own?
Are you confident enough to share the triumph with your team but shoulder the loss alone? And most importantly, can you keep going when everything seems lost? Can you make way for others to follow? Can you inspire in determination, dedication, commitment?
Only then can you consider yourself a leader, and even then, your work is not done; you still have to choose the battles to be fought, the goals, the dreams, the contributions you want to make, the changes you wish to bring about.
It would be naive and hypocritical to claim that my path in business was paved with rose petals (and tacky as hell as well). I had more than my share of setbacks, troubles, losses, betrayals, wrong decisions, death, poor circumstances, and all the twists and turns of the risk management industry.
There were challenges I didn't rise to as I had hoped, but also triumphs I never even saw coming. The common denominator? A team of people willing to stand by me and follow my vision, unwavering, determined, ready, and eager to learn from me and teach me too.
I chose them, and they chose me. I lead not only by example but also by shouldering the responsibility for each and every one of them.
So no matter what your measure of success is, you will fail miserably if you try to apply it to my life's work. Because I chose to go beyond the budget lines, and into the lives of people that are touched, impacted, and safeguarded by what we offer.
We choose our business ventures with a set of guidelines that don't fit neatly in an excel sheet and are definitely not suited for an elevator pitch. We choose them to make a difference in the world, in the communities we work to support people in their quest for a better future, a better life, a better society.
And I support them not only through my words but through my presence, my active involvement, and an organization-wide realization that what we do matters, what we do is important, what we do makes a difference.
So as the saying goes, "those who talk the talk should walk the walk," and I assure you I have been walking for four decades now, and I am not stopping any time soon, and neither is my group of companies.