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In studying some of the
produced by societies throughout
tory, one striking quality become^
The Pursuit of Excellence
By Midshipman First Class Brad Rex, U. S. Navy
parent—the rich diversity of such ers in background, physical ma e^_
and mental abilities. While this
versity strengthens the egalitarian^ ^
gument that ail have the potentia
■ cian ’
be leaders, it hinders the academic
study of the traits possessed by -
Yet, there is one quality, one1
which is possessed by those come society’s leaders—an all-c° ^ ing commitment to excellence• ^
link between leadership and exce
is not direct, i.e., one does not
essarily become a leader because
she is excellent or pursues exce ^
Rather, the qualities possesseu ^ who pursue excellence are those ities demanded by a society oflts ^ ers. Thus, in recognizing a PerS?^oflfl' seeks excellence, a society aC[0 edges one who has the capab1'
Those who pursue excellence
make three important decisions-
must be determined; the means^
taining the goal must be chosen-
a commitment to achieving must
be made. In resolving t^ieS^|eo(f
questions, the pursuer of e%c c j
exhibits four traits leader—decisiveness, rity, and courage. .^ef
By determining a goal, fhe [on
brings a focus to his life. The q
for the potential leader is n° "What should I do with my 1* e' „ fiie
rather "Are my actions
closer to excellence?” The trern,e„
energy previously consumed in
unproductive tangents can now
productively to gain an ultim*^^
“Through his personal decision to pursue excellence, the future leader has determined a destination and a path. Yet, the . . . final test must be passed—a test of perseverance and dedication. ”
• • j .. • . ■ l pvCC*1 •
jective. The area in whicn c ^ is is sought is unimportant. The ^eSt to choose an area and become js excelled h( be s°ugs
• i(\de^Ci in others, with concomitant
in influence, power, prestige, an ^ ership. Thus scholar-athletes w in two areas of endeavor are hig
in that field. When achieved in one area, it can
The pursuer of excellence has
shown his first attribute—^eClS1 in 1 The decision to pursue excellen
whC'uC Provides a scale upon
and*"- 0t^*er decisions can be weighed
tcsted. However, decisiveness
Paths are open to those who excellence
anrl u ak'-
y being changed, therefore, s overriding concern is to win play^?016 ancf achieve excellence, he socjpt-,.'^ established rules. From a
truste°dClety feels that his word can be a hardeyen when the truth implies
lead °ne t*1e cr‘ter*a by which a 's Judged. The potential leader his l, CXt ex'1'*->‘t honesty, attained in g0a|C °*ce °f the means to reach his
-an easy path of toad u- °r a rnore difficult
sub' IC^* ^emands that the means not hi JUkate the ends. The pursuer of the cejtf”1 excehence looks askance at de- J^e ^ methods for attaining his goal.
strict ^ r^*S n0t ^0r ^ear society’s
lengeUfeS ^Ut ratf'er because the chal- celletlcan^ sat*sfaction of pursuing ex- is no6 are diminished when fairness lenceC employed- The seeker of excel- w;nnUn<^erstands that there can be no < when the rules of the game are
the S overriding concern is to win §an-
exCen^ S Point of view, the seeker of acterCr*5e aPPears to be strong of char- The L,a °Ve temptation and reproach.
•j. Path with few shortcuts.
suefne potential leader and pur- excellence has now evidenced
two vital attributes for successful leadership—decisiveness and honesty.
Through his personal decision to pursue excellence, the future leader has determined a destination and a path. Yet, the third and final test must be passed—a test of perseverance and dedication. The pursuer of excellence must make a commitment to excellence. It is by this commitment that the seeker of excellence overcomes obstacles.
In making his commitment to excellence, the potential leader shows the final qualities—maturity and courage. Commitment implies discipline, a choice between what one wishes to do and what one must do. The pursuer of excellence seeks long-term accomplishment rather than short-term pleasure. The loss of short-term leisure is, in effect, the price of excellence. Few are willing to pay this price, yet those who do exhibit the foresightedness and maturity demanded of a leader. The leader must make hard choices, choices whose long-term implications are frequently not understood by his followers, but whose short-term denials are painfully felt. Because he has made such choices in his personal life, the pursuer of excellence can persuade others of the need to follow difficult paths for the good of the society.
While the seeker of excellence by his example and sacrifice will be able to convince most of his followers, a vocal minority will probably not accept his judgments. To deal with this group, the potential leader will require the final quality in his pursuit of excellence—courage.
Douglas MacArthur, in a public statement in New York on 26 January 1964, recognized the need for courage in the pursuit of excellence:
“Last, but by no means least, courage—moral courage, the courage of one’s convictions, the courage to see things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle—the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other.” (emphasis added)
The pursuer of excellence hears the roar of the crowd exclaiming the benefits of mediocrity and listing the adversities faced by those who attempt to excel. Yet, those who pursue excellence are undeterred by such exclamations and excited more by the prospects of the future than the sacrifices of the present. As a leader dealing with his society, the pursuer of excellence can thus focus on the needs of the majority, ignoring personal attacks from a vituperative few, and is thus awarded the responsibility and respect he richly deserves.
Comment and Discussion
(Continued from page 25)
ttej-j. J^’nS Offensively”
T-Q.'o’D Parker. pp. 26-31, April 1981; V^,rke’ P' 2 b Jane 1981
K^n(der Harlan K. Uliman, U. S. (°°'94?mandinZ °fficer’ USS DuPont cb'arly a '^~0>mmander Parker is COricerna^ *nte^*8ent> competent, and °n the6 naval officer with his finger alargepu*se of a major problem. But part of that problem is reflected by the “traditional” thought which adjudged this essay to be a prize winner and contributed, unwittingly perhaps, to the malaise which always seems to favor problem identification (with some bemoaning) over problem solution.
Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing inherently sinful about “thinking offensively,” provided one is also thinking clearly and properly at the same time. Perhaps neither Vince Lombardi nor Karl von Clausewitz would have agreed with the sentiment which
always favored the offense (neither did!), and perhaps if Admiral Halsey could have refought Leyte Gulf he might have done things differently. But, historical examples can demonstrate anything except accurately predicting the future, and certainly, "thinking offensively" is a catchy phrase which, no doubt, will be with us for a while.
The problem is defining exactly what that phrase should and does mean.
If, by thinking offensively, one
[»s / july 1981