An Essential Characteristic of Leaders: Drive

It was 1987 and I was northbound on a crisp late-fall afternoon in Michigan.

My mission that day was clear – to gain acceptance to Central Michigan University to pursue a degree in education.  I had already been rejected once and I still didn’t have the grades, but that wasn’t going to stop me again from getting in.

Knowing that I’d be rejected again if I tried the traditional admission process – submitting an application, writing an essay and sending in my high-school transcripts – I bypassed that route. Instead, I scheduled a meeting with an admissions counselor to try to convince her to let me attend CMU the following year.

I didn’t make excuses for my grades and I didn’t beg for an exemption.  I told her about my desire for education and development and I explained why their program was a great fit for me. She listened and laid out a plan for me: If I received adequate grades the next year at community college, she would admit me to CMU the following fall.

Before I had left her office, I made the decision to meet my end of the bargain.  In fact, I was so confident that I signed an apartment lease fully expecting that I would be back in one year.

I worked hard, earned the grades I had agreed to.  The following spring, rather than reapplying and waiting for the grades to be sent, I scheduled another meeting with the admissions counselor.  I presented my grades and reminded her of our agreement- I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.  True to her word, she granted my admission to CMU.

Today, most colleges and businesses begin the recruitment process using computerized formulas and algorithms to assign value to individuals based on a metric.  Many applicants are quickly filtered out of the process.

In contrast, Harvard Business School estimates that 65-85% of jobs are filled as a result of networking, not online applications.  For job seekers, networking seems to be one effective action they can take to circumvent the standard process.

As I’ve progressed as a leader, I’ve learned one sure thing that differentiates those who are destined to be leaders from the rest of the pack: leaders don’t rely on the resources given to them, they rely on their resourcefulness.

Leaders identify when resources will limit their ability to succeed.  Mediocrity and failure are not options for them.  They are natural architects- always looking to build better processes.  Leaders know their strengths and leverage them to maximize their effectiveness. Finally, leaders move.  When they’ve decided on a course of action they fully execute.

Others use only the resources given to them and wait to be told when something isn’t working.  There is always an excuse- they don’t get paid enough, they don’t have the job title, or the resources are outdated.

As a leader in a successful and growing company, one of the primary indicators I use to determine if someone is the right fit for our company is whether they wait to be told what to do or do they just get it done.  You don’t need a title to be a leader, you just need opportunity – and leaders create opportunity.