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What is personal excellence and is it the new measure for leadership effectiveness?

Humans are used to being the smartest tool in the shed, but this is looking less and less like something we can continue to take for granted. Smart computers, driverless cars and 3d printing combine with connectivity, machine learning and bio-engineering to create a surge of innovation in capacity, capability and intelligence that is already impacting on how and where we work, and perhaps, even whether we will work at all.

These changes aren’t a next-gen thing that those of us already in the workforce can ride out, hoping to reach superannuation age before the floor falls away. We are all, already challenged by cheaper, smarter and more easily replaceable alternatives that can do our work, or parts of it as well as we can.

In twelve months time, this article may well be written by an algorithm. And why not?

Alex Crossley,  CEO and co-founder of the Institute of Customer Excellence, doesn’t believe we’ve reached the end of the road just yet. The key to resilience, flexibility and relevance, he says, may lie in a new understanding of personal excellence.

Many of the participants in his two-year study of the behaviours and habits of leaders and aspiring leaders have a potential to improve their own excellence by between 35% and 40%, he says. Crucially, the qualities and habits the Personal Excellence Quotient measures, he says, are those that will make leaders fit for the new global dynamic of constant flux due to the ever increasing speed of innovation and technological advancement: resilience, innovation, and the capacity to be analytical and interpretive.

What is personal excellence?

Personal excellence is about excelling holistically in your personal endeavours and efforts.

Crossley defines achieving personal excellence as  “an ongoing process covering those mental, physical and spiritual practices, routines and habits that contribute to maximising and sustaining our highest potential whilst achieving vitality, intrinsic wealth and personal harmony.”

Top performers in the Personal Excellence Quotient are “highly intrinsically motivated but serene,” says Crossley. So, now we know what we are aiming for, the future looks less bleak.

What is the Personal Excellence Quotient?

The Personal Excellence Quotient is a comprehensive dataset based on in-depth interviews with 150 leaders and aspiring leaders in five countries, to date. Crossley has captured habits around nine separate dimensions: nutrition, hydration, sleep/rest, exercise and self-energising, personal work systems and processes, personal habits and routines, life enhancement strategies and techniques.

The decisions successful people make across these dimensions are indicators, he believes, of personal excellence and success.

His goal is to create a benchmark against which any aspiring leader can track, reflect, learn and improve upon their own performance, boosting their own levels of personal excellence.

There has been, says Crossley, “a lot of effort and education around strategy, process and product excellence, but relatively limited work on how an individual’s work and life habits influence their achievement of excellence.” And in our automated, artificial-intelligence-rich world, being the best whole person has suddenly become a career imperative, he believes.

He’s right. Harvard economists have identified a hollowing out of the labour market. Jobs that require routine tasks are decreasing. And the definition of ‘routine task’ is becoming ever more broad to include routine ‘cognitive’ skills like accounting, even law.

The World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab goes further with his argument that we are entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution in which cyber capabilities and physical technologies will propel change at a pace we have not previously known, “redefining what it means to be human by pushing back the current thresholds of life span, health, cognition, and capabilities, compelling us to redefine our moral and ethical boundaries.”

Such dramatic shifts are somewhat daunting, and feel very global. Taking it back to the level of your own personal excellence, will not change the future, but it can – argues Crossley – better prepare leaders and their teams to ride the waves of constant change, and even to harness them to create new opportunities.

Disrupt yourself (before something else does)

Fear of change in the world we live in can be paralysing, but it’s not uncommon. Crossley encourages personal disruption, the habit of making yourself regularly uncomfortable, which he says allows you to access your mind in different ways and contributes to resilience and innovation.

Does personal excellence make for better leadership?

Transforming oneself, leading transformation in others, and being agile and strong enough to absorb transformation from external sources are part of the personal excellence narrative.

“Excellent leadership starts with self-leadership. And is not self-leadership the centre of leadership?” asks Crossley. “You must master yourself to lead others. People follow what you do, not what you say. If I transform myself there’s a knock-on effect that can transform others. It allows me the energy and integrity to start influencing others.”

The Institute for Customer Excellence is keen to expand participation in the Personal Excellence data set. “The wider the range, the richer the database, the more interesting the comparisons, he says. If you’d like to know more about PEQ contact Alex Crossley at the Institute of Customer Excellence.

Alex Crossley (AIMM), CEO and co-founder, Institute of Customer Excellence.

TO HEAR THE FULL CONVERSATION WITH ALEX CROSSLEY, SUBSCRIBE TO INSIGHT EDGE ON ITUNES. THE AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT’S LEADERSHIP PODCAST, OR LISTEN TO IT VIA THE WEB.

 

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