Is your church in need a boost? Does your organization seem to run on routine? If so, leadership may be lacking a little thing called ambition. Though often overlooked, ambition is a quality that can get an organization off of its feet and bring it to a new level. Need more convincing? Read on.
Ambition is one of those words that is often preceded by a negative adjective. We may talk about “bad ambition” like the greed of a CEO or a power-obsessed politician or a celebrity starving for greater fame. We may also speak of “blind ambition,” like when Darb only sees the goal and not the people around him. For some the characteristic has become a dirty word—synonymous with being self-serving, dog-eat-dog, ladder-climbing, or self-promoting. But it doesn’t have to be disastrous or destructive.
Never satisfied, but always content is the posture of a properly ambitious leader. Your posture of ambition should be one of the hungry second, not the arrogant first. Act as though you don’t belong, but work as though you do. No one enjoys being around someone who thinks she deserves way more credit than she really does. Stay hungry and motivated, not arrogant and entitled.
I think of ambition as I do money or technology—morally neutral but susceptible to manipulation. Gang leaders have ambition, sure. But so did Mother Teresa. Ambition isn’t inherently evil, but leaders must learn to channel it.
Some people are born with an extra helping of it, and they run the risk of developing Darb-like horns. Others have to really work to nurture ambition in their lives and fight the temptation to become too comfortable wherever they find themselves. No matter which end of the spectrum you find yourself on, the characteristic is buried deep within you. Once it is unearthed, you must bridle it to keep it in healthy balance.
In its purest form ambition is a knowledge of and appetite for what’s next.
I’ve always had quite a heavy dose of ambition. Always wanted to be the best. Always felt the pull to get better and challenge myself. To go after what’s next. Whether it was the free throw shoot-out contest in elementary school or the spelling bee, I wanted to win first place. Whether it was being the fastest kid in elementary school (which I was, and held a record in the 100-yard dash), or racing good friend and radio host Ken Coleman on Thanksgiving Day a couple of years ago. Which didn’t end well, as my aging legs both gave out and I violently popped both hamstrings about twenty-five yards into the race. I quickly realized my has-been status! My appetite for what’s next had caught up with me. But a habit of ambition is much more than this.
The word appetite is critical and intentional. An appetite comes naturally, but it has to be fed correctly in order to yield health. Look at your own life and ask, “How am I feeding my ambition appetite?” and “Is it producing health in my life?”
When your ambition appetite is properly fed, it will yield a desire to achieve, to grow, to perform, and to do one’s best. It will also yield a healthy job environment, healthy relationships, and a healthy work-life balance. If you don’t feed your ambition appetite at all, you’ll yield laziness, stagnancy, and ineptitude. If you feed it wrongly, you’ll end up with broken relationships, high turnover, and a poor reputation.
A healthy appetite of ambition steered correctly can actually fuel other healthy habits, especially in times of transition. Ultimately, many habits emerge and end up sticking during times of change. This has been true in my own life. I’ve visited London multiple times in the last five years. My hotel of choice is in South Kensington, adjacent to Hyde Park, a historic and well known Central Park equivalent piece of property in central London. Now I’ve stayed close to Hyde Park in the past, but never felt inclined to run through the park. However, this year, in the midst of a change in lifestyle and losing over forty pounds, I was incredibly motivated to run through Hyde Park. The same is true with our leadership and particularly with our appetite of ambition. We can have the same routine, same schedule, meetings, staff, and goals, but until we change our perspective and our intentionality with what is put in front of us, we won’t see change and impact occur.
-by Brad Lomenick, excerpt from H3 Leadership
How to Use This Book
H3 Leadership uncovers the 20 key habits necessary for effective leadership. Leaders from every type of organization can incorporate these habits into their leadership and build up a successful and effective organization.
Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle.