Aspiring Leaders: Stay Focused on the Big Picture

Last Updated Mar 15, 2010 5:25 PM EDT

These days, I'm not sure how anybody knows who to trust or whose advice to follow. There's just so damn much of it everywhere you look. Well, here's one golden rule: if there's money in it for them, run the other way.

As for me, I just want to tell you a little story about someone near and dear to us all, someone who wanted nothing but to make it big, whatever that means.

You see, this guy grew up a tiny fish in a ginormous pond, New York City. His dad worked for the post office and his mom, a bank. We're not talking management here; we're talking hourly workers. Well, all this guy wanted was to be successful.

With a some brains, a little guidance, and some luck, he managed to become an engineer with a big company. And that's where he learned everything that mattered from some really talented managers. Here's what he learned:

  • Don't be small minded and petty.
  • Don't compare yourself to others.
  • Don't pay any attention to what other people make or what they're doing or not doing.
  • Stick your neck out on the highest profile projects you can.
  • Tell your bosses and customers that you're going to the ends of the earth to make them successful.
  • Then work your tail off and, come hell or high water, make it happen.
No kidding, it's really that simple. Simple in concept, damn hard to do. But it works.

Look, the less you get yourself all worked up about workplace politics and the more you focus on taking risks, meeting goals, making numbers, and pleasing customers, the faster you'll get into the big leagues and the bigger you'll make it once you get there.

I know, you've got friends who complain about salaries of coworker who aren't as talented as they are, and others who whine about how they're working long hours and getting no reward for it. Well, guess what? That's the way it works in the real world. First you pay your dues. Then you're rewarded for it.

Sure, sometimes you've got to take matters into your own hands, quit and go somewhere where they'll reward stellar performance. Sometimes you've got to do that. But you won't get there by whining and complaining and being petty and small minded. That's for sure.

Actually, our near and dear friend is nearer and dearer to me than he is to you. He's me. And it's all true, of course. I didn't become a top-level executive by being small-minded; I got there by thinking big, by staying focused on the big picture, not petty workplace BS.

Don't get me wrong. I got caught up in small-time political stuff from time to time. After all, I'm a human, and a pretty dysfunctional one at that. But I never lost sight of my goal. And now that I'm older and wiser, I can tell you that as long as you stay focused on getting there, work hard and sacrifice, you'll get there all right.

What about the small-minded folks? Honestly, who gives a crap?