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Leadership Lessons—Taking it to the Next Level

Leadership means taking things to the next level. Sometimes it is in industry. Other times in business. Still other times in sports. This week I’ve had a chance to experience this at all three levels. In each situation leadership had to be involved to ‘take it up.’

On Saturday, my wife Mary Kay and I trekked to Dallas and the DFW airport. We saw the coolest invention!

Someone took the challenge of finding a spot in a parking garage to a new level. Above every parking spot is a small light that hangs over the parking spot on a 6-foot pole. If there is a car in the spot the light turns red. No car—green. At the end of each aisle, on the lane between the aisles, is a sign that shows how many parking spots are available in that row. As you drive through the garage you can easily see if there is a green light down the aisle indicating an open spot.

Genius.

In 1970, a gentleman coming back from vacation was lugging two huge suitcases and knew there had to be an easier way. That year he applied for a patent for a suitcase with wheels. It took several years for this to take hold, though, because men were too macho to buy something like this.

I’m glad he took the ease of travel of the next level.

Now let’s shift to one of my favorite subjects—sports.

As a diehard Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls fan in “the day,” I was convinced that the Bulls 2005-2006 record of 72 wins and only 10 losses wouldn’t be broken. Steve Kerr was a member of that team. Last week the team that Kerr now coaches, the Golden State Warriors, broke that record with 73 wins and only 9 losses. I would have bet that record would go down in NBA history as untouchable.

One of the players on this year’s team, Steph Curry, took shooting three-pointers to the next level. Curry broke Ray Allen’s 2005-2006 record of 269 three-pointers with 272 in 2012-13. Last year he raised that record to 286. Was 300 reachable? Steph not only made it to 300 this year—he ended up with 402 three-pointers this year. He has taken this record to new heights as well as the win/loss record.

There are some records that are timeless and seem untouchable.

Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games in 1941. That same year Ted Williams ended the year with a .405 batting average—the last time any major leaguer hit over .400. A decade ago, Cal Ripken broke the consecutive games record of 2,638. Ripken was 35 when he broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 straight games. The ballplayer today closest to Ripken has played less than 200 games in a row. Considering that a season is 162 games, it will be a long while until that record is broken and someone takes this to a new level. For DiMaggio or Williams? I hope I see it in my lifetime—even though it has been 75 years for both.

In 1947, we see one of the finest examples of leadership ever displayed. Branch Rickey signed ballplayer Jackie Robinson. Last Friday, every baseball player on every Major League Team wore the number 42, Jackie’s number, to honor the day both men broke the color barrier.

Football? The Miami Dolphins were the last undefeated team at 14-0. It was their 1972 season—the year I graduated high school. (If you care, the Packers were 10–4 that year.) The New England Patriots almost took that record to new heights in 2007. They were 16-0 heading into the Super Bowl and heavy favorites to beat the Giants. Maybe you, like me, remember where you were watching that game when they lost 17–14.

My point this week?

Things can always be taken to new levels. It happens every day in business. Records are made to be broken.

I’m not suggesting that you invent the latest and greatest of anything. I am suggesting, though, there are personal or business records that you can set in your own life. I hope this gives you some inspiration to start working on one. It will make you a better leader!

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