Mediocre Leadership Skills… The New Excellence?

By Tim Cummuta

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

When did mediocre leadership skills become the goal of personal and professional achievement?

In ‘In Search of Excellence,’ Thomas Peters relates a story where he worked with some executive clients to become excellent.

After talking about moving the organization more toward excellence, one executive spoke up. He said he was sick and tired of all this talk about excellence. After all, his company was no worse than anybody else’s

There’s a slogan for your company, “We’re no worse than our competition!”

What Do Excellent Leadership Skills Really Mean to a Leader?

Is excellence even relevant today? As I look around, whether it is industry, leaders, or just the lay worker, it appears that the desire for excellence may not be so relevant.

Somewhere along the path, we may have lost our way.

In the global marketplace we operate in now, what separates us from competition from anywhere else in the world? Price cannot be the only consideration.

As a consumer, I seldom ever buy the cheapest item because I know you often get what you pay for.

Excellence can be defined from many different perspectives.

It can be product or price, and it can also be process-oriented.

Take Johnson & Johnson, for example. The leadership in this company has decided only to produce environmentally friendly products. There are very few people on the planet that wouldn’t appreciate this corporate philosophy. That is excellence.

It is a characteristic a company, a leader, and the employee can be proud of. It’s a motivating achievement from corporate leadership.

Knowing that you are a market leader in any given area is highly motivating to the organization.

Why not Choose Excellence?

While it’s understandable that there are limits to what one leader can do, there is still room for excellence. If we take one thing and work on it until we’re satisfied it is now excellent, we’ve taken one step closer to overall excellence in our journey.

It doesn’t matter how much we choose to do in our lives, only how well we do it.

Why not choose excellence?

Excellence is not only relegated to our professional lives. Excellence in our private or family lives is probably even more important. This is foundational to our character.

  • How well do we relate to our family or people we know?
  • Can we say we treat people in an excellent manner no matter who they are?

As a pastor, mentor, and counselor, I have had to work with some very unruly individuals. I have found that one can change the social environment over time by utilizing compassion, kindness, and genuine interest.

Everyone is Potentially a Diamond in the Rough

Excellence in our profession should be a no-brainer.

Excellence should be the standard for every area in our work life. As leaders, we must continually assess and reassess ourselves to ensure our best is truly our best.

  • Is there something new I can learn?
  • Is there a better method I could use to relate to those that work with or for me?
  • What can I do to create an atmosphere of excellence around me?

These are questions that should be asked. Excellence doesn’t just happen. It must be sought after and worked for.

It’s the Little Things that Matter

Making that presentation just a little cleaner, editing the memo one more time, or telling that individual who works for you or with you that they’re doing a great job are small steps, but they are, in fact, steps toward excellence.

Don’t ever let “good enough” be good enough. If it’s not your best, do it over.

Henry Kissinger once asked one of his aides to prepare a report for him. After Kissinger received the report, he sent it back, saying, “Redo it.” The aide redid the report and sent it back to Mr. Kissinger.

Once again, he received it back with the words “Redo it” written on it. After the third time, he told Mr. Kissinger that he had completed the report as best as he could, and it could not be made better.

Mr. Kissinger replied, “In that case, I’ll read it now.”

I’m lucky. My father taught me that only my best was good enough in everything and anything I did. He would tell me to continue to work on something until it was right.

This meant extra work that potentially no one would ever notice in some cases. However, I knew it could be better, which made all the difference.

It’s much easier to take criticism when you know you’ve done your best.

There’s Always Room for Excellence

When the world strives for mediocrity, being the best will make one stand out.

Quality means a great deal to a great many people. Whenever we recruit individuals and train our team here in our company, we always stress that we’re looking for the best because we want to continue to be the best. You can see it in the individual’s eyes.

They want to be a part of something great, something important.

Most people want to be encouraged to be great.

It’s as easy to lapse into mediocrity as it is to float downriver. If we don’t fight the current of mediocrity, we will succumb to it.

America did not become great because we wanted to compete in the world markets and win. America became great because people pursued greatness and excellence! We did not get to the moon by being mediocre.

Revive the Drive

Whether our primary schools or businesses, we must revive the drive and desire for excellence.

If we do not, we will lose our place as leaders in the world marketplace. There’s nothing wrong with attempting to be the best by pursuing excellence.

Tom Peters ‘In Search of Excellence’ has as much significance today as it has ever had.

I should consider the alternative, though, and I may be wrong about this. After all, I guess we are no worse than any other country.

Why should or shouldn’t we pursue excellence?

How Do You Pursue Excellence?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Would you like to contribute a post?

Tim Cummuta
Tim Cummuta
Tim is a Business Consultant in Strategic Planning, Productivity, HR, Sales & Marketing, and Risk Management. He has a Master’s Degree in Financial Planning and is pursuing a Ph.D in Organization & Management at Capella University.
  • This says it all. I took a job last year to help build and grow revenue with a small firm that I now learned is quite content with where they are at . No real desire to grow the business as its OK. I’ve strived for excellence and top performance most of my personal and work life. That scares some people I’ve learned along the way especially those with low self esteem. That said, I’m leaving this environment for a better role in a firm that believes in Excellence. Thank you !

  • Hi Tim,
    This is one of those questions that we know the answer for, but don’t always know the why. Excellence and mediocrity are relative terms and in some minds mediocrity could be great because it would represent such a large advance! But I get what you mean, that striving is the key, versus settling. If we can hire a striver that’s great. What is important is being able to mantain, and build strivers through the culture that you as a leader create.

  • R. D. Choudhary says:

    Excellence and mediocrity are relative words and remain as words only and their depths going deeper and deeper as you advance towards them. Real excellence ends beyond any further scope when we realise that we are only an agent and striving for excellence in any walk of life is our committment,prayer, mediation in motion towards the cosmic and absolute excellence. This very attitude becomes the ultimate excellence and then every effort made in our personal and professional life is nothing but excellence only. Such excellence is permeative, pervasive and practical as well for the modern civilisation. All other definitions will always be steps below the real intended meaning.

  • James DeLong says:

    This reminds me of the saying my father use to share with me:
    Good, Better, Best
    Never let it rest
    Til your good is better
    And your better is your best!

    Why settle for mediocrity when excellence can make a difference for others and yourself?

  • James DeLong says:

    I too am finishing my PhD in Organization & Management at Capella University presently in the middle of the comps.
    I wish you continued success!
    Jim DeLong

  • F. E. Starks says:

    This is a must read! Thanks for sharing a simple yet effective message regarding the demonstration of excellence.

  • Tim Cummuta says:

    Too many responses before I could respond. I would love to respond to all of you individually. Excellence has been something I have strived for all of my life. While I am never satisfied entirely with my results, I am very happy with my effort and focus. I think my father if he were here would also be satisfied too. It’s clear that the writers of all of these responses agree that reaching for excellence is important. Let’s all impact others and help them to achieve excellence in all they desire. Thank you for your kind words.


  • Often missing in American life-both business and beyond- are standards. Excellence is a grand concept – but pre-defining what standard might connote excellence IS would be a giant leap forward. Further, one other element related to excellence is PRIDE – again, profoundly missing in so much of life – business and beyond.

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