Significance Over Success: A Leadership Principle

In my opinion, training others and leading others go hand in hand. If you are a great trainer in the training environment, you will inevitably be a great leader in the training environment. And if you consider the characteristics of an ideal leader, a good majority of those characteristics will also apply to a ideal trainer. For instance, good leaders have the best interest of their followers in mind when leading. That is also true for a trainer. A good trainer will have the best interest of their trainee(s) in mind when training. In this post, we will be delving into a leadership principle that can make a huge impact on the people you lead and train. The principle is simply "Significance over Success". I call it the SoS principle.

At first thought, the SoS principle doesn't appear to make any sense. I can already picture some of you reading this and raising your eyebrows trying to figure out the difference between significance and success when it comes to leadership and training. That is exactly what we will be discussing. However, you will need to enter this post with an open mind. If you decide to read on and apply this concept to your training regimen, I wholeheartedly believe you will be able to make a larger tangible impact on the people you lead. So, I am going to ask you to open your mind as we look at leadership through the lens of significance versus the lens of success.

Most of our lives revolve around being successful. Success at work, success in school, success in the eyes of others, success in marriage, etc. Most of us want to attach “success” to all of our life’s goals. However, "success" is a word that a lot of us struggle with while not actually realizing it.  It is a word that I constantly struggle with. That’s because it is a positive and ambitious word. It is a word that everyone relates to “happiness,” “contentment,” and “satisfaction” even though it doesn't relate to those things at all. Success is also associated with achieving pinnacles. The word automatically creates a picture in our mind of someone conquering high mountain tops and reaching a goal that only a select few can attain. However, what is not as obvious is that the word “success” is actually a self-centered and self-absorbed word.  It is a word that puts the focus of life’s objectives on one’s self. Me, myself, and I. 

Just think about it for a second.  If you wanted success for anything in your life, the outcome always had an immediate connection or result that benefited you, correct?  What was the last “successful" thing you did?  Did it have an immediate outcome or result that benefited you in some way? Of course. That’s because the word “success” is naturally tied to one’s self. There cannot be any deeply fulfilled “success” in your life if it doesn’t include you, right?

I am not saying that the word “success” is evil or that being successful is being selfish.  No, I am saying that when we really and truly want successful fulfillment of anything, the desired outcome will always include us standing front and center of that end game. I used to think that a satisfied life was equal to a successful life. So, my goals and objectives were inevitably connected to my personal success. But, that way of thinking changed for me when I finally understood the meaning of another word. The other word was “significance”.  Significance is a word that is not directly associated with one’s self. Rather, it is a word that is related to other words such as “importance,” and “substance,” which lend themselves to a mindset that does not revolve around my wants and desires.

Let me put it this way. Living a life of significance puts the focus on others, not on ourselves. John Maxwell said this, "Success is when I add value to myself and significance is when I add value to others." I couldn't have said it any better than that. So now, let's connect this leadership principle to training and performance.

First, I want to make sure you understand that living a life of significance does not mean you are shutting yourself out to lift others up. Nope. The opposite is actually happening. You are putting others first in order to gain what you are looking to obtain. It just happens on the back end in a greater degree and lasts much longer.

There is a quote from the famous Zig Ziglar that makes this strategy more clear. "You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want."

So how does that look while leading or training others? Let me try to explain it with true stories that have played out in our business time and time again. One of  our mission statements is this, "To make sure cops go home safely every night." One of the ways we fulfill that mission is to run a business that consistently trains law enforcement officers to increase their performance in gun-fighting. We do this by creating curriculum that includes a build up from the ground up and then adds "live fire scenarios" to test performance during class. These scenarios are based on real life events that our instructors have been involved in or we have tactically researched from hundreds of other officer involved shooting situations. To do this, we use a massive amount of range props and specific scenario structuring in every class that is offered. Basically, it can take two instructors up to 20 hours of prep time for every single 8 hour class. So why would we do that? It isn't actually financially prudent to do it this way. Especially if we were only focused on trading time for money. However, we have a different purpose. We are more concerned about helping other cops get what they increase in real life training and performance that will someday save their lives. In return, we actually get what we want. We have a business that consistently trains repeat students. We have been in business since 2010 and have trained over 10,000 officers. We also have a few students that have taken every one of our offered range courses. Not only that, but these same students also tell others about the training and we get more business from the newly referred students. It becomes a repeating cycle and we can consistently train cops to go home safely every night. See how working it that way fulfills our mission?

If our focus was on "success," then we would put less time into preparing an unforgettable training course (and we wouldn't be giving 100% effort in fulfilling our mission). It doesn't necessarily make sense or compliment the "bottom line" to spend more time and energy on things that will not benefit the company upfront. But since we are focused on training with significance, we do every thing in our power to tailor our curriculum, our training environment and our delivery to our students. We do this to ensure that all cops are receiving the necessary skills that will inevitably keep themselves, their families, and their partners alive.

So hopefully I was able to transfer knowledge about this out-of-the-box concept. Let me know if you have any questions or had any success applying this concept by commenting on this post. Nevertheless, I hope you can move forward to train and lead with a mindset of significance over success. Until next time, train hard and stay safe. 

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