Saturday, May 25, 2019

Leadership Lessons from a Graduation Ceremony

Graduation time is here. Caps, gowns, pomp, circumstance, and lots of celebration. The purpose for graduation is commencement, not completion. For graduates the journey is just beginning, not coming to an end.

As I listened to our salutatorian speech as our school’s commencement exercises, I reflected on how leaders can perceive the end of the year. After all, the completion of a school year is more or less a graduation ceremony in and of iteself. Celebration, appreciation, sending everyone off with a smile, and we’re done. 

The fact of the matter is that average leaders view the end of the year through the lens of completion rather than commencement. They look back and think about what to bring forward or better yet resurrect next year. Conversely, the best leaders lead through the lens of commencement. They improve their work for next year by producing data that identifies areas in need of change, actions steps for improvement, training needs to be sought, and decisions to be made to commence the work of making the entire organization leaner and ultimately more effective. But they also identify what worked well to bring back again. 

The best organizational improvement knows no end. It only knows the next beginning and the next steps that must be taken to inspire all to aspire for even better success. Sadly, many graduates reach the pinnacle of their life on graduation day, and as such many leaders will settle for this year’s work as being good enough for next year as well. The best leaders, however, never graduate. They simply move on by moving up and taking others with them. 

Have you graduated or are you commencing?  They answer to that question will not be answered today, but I can promise you that it will be revealed through the results of your organization’s work next year!  

Congratulations to all the graduates out there, and best of luck as you commence into the next chapter of your life. Be sure to make it a good one. 

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