The tagline for my consulting practice is Practicing and Promoting Greatness. It took a while to come to this tagline and when we got to it it came out of looking closely at Ghandi’s famous quotation, “you must become the change you want to see in the world.” This was our aspiration: to not just help our clients become the people they want to be and achieve the results that they want, and build organizations worthy of people’s lives, but to achieve this ourselves. In other words, we wanted to be great while helping others to achieve greatness. So, what do we mean by greatness?

The other day I received this piece in an e-newsletter.

At the center of the leadership mind is greatness, statesmanship. Greatness may not be a sufficient condition for effective leadership, but it surely is a necessary one. In effect, you lead people by modeling greatness. … By giving up techniques, and by risking — you, yourself — a personal, lifelong commitment to greatness. Can this pursuit of greatness be taught? It can be challenged into existence.”

-From Peter Koestenbaum


Of course greatness must involve risk. Otherwise we’d just call it ordinariness. But, it would be easy to skip over the importance of understanding the relationship between risk and being great. The way you know that you are practicing and promoting greatness is that you have something important at risk. It may be a simple as comfort. It may be as profound as your definition of yourself. The kind of risk we are talking about here is not the same as statistical odds. It is not measurable in that sense. It is felt.

The first act of greatness is to feel the sensation of risk and not turn away from it. The second is to choose a course of action that requires moving through it. The third is to act. Finally, you turn around and reflect on the results of the action, not forgetting to check to see who you have become in the process.

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