Step Up to Your Summit

Many years ago, while still working at a job I knew was taking me nowhere, I was listening to “Sinatra, Live at The Sands.” I’m a huge fan of Frank Sinatra. I’ve been listening to his music for years. I love the songs. I love the voice. Most of all I love the attitude. While filming the original “Ocean’s 11” in Las Vegas, Frank and company (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford) would film during the day and then perform in the evening. Sometimes, the sign in front of the Sands Hotel simply said, “The Summit.” They never called themselves “The Rat Pack,” that was a name given to them by Lauren Bacall. They called themselves “The Summit” and their times together their “summit meetings.”

As I reflect on those performances I see two important characteristics that we should remember in order to live and lead by design. First, their level of performance was high. Doing a good job and delivering an excellent performance were the only options they considered. Second, they got extraordinary fulfillment from what they were doing. The experience was important to them—“Let’s have a good time along the way.” I think the audience was just lucky to be in the room, but they weren’t very necessary to the proceedings.

When these two things intersect—high performance and high fulfillment – watch what happens! Some people call it the zone or working with flow. I prefer to think of it as being at “the summit.” As leaders we need to find our own “summit.” What are we especially good at? What brings us fulfillment? Where and how do these overlap? That’s where we should be working and leading from all the time. Anything less is a waste of resources.

I watched two leaders in a meeting this past week. It was clear that both were operating in a place of high performance during the meeting. Their thinking, their ability to engage, their effectiveness at communicating with the others in the room as we explored some serious challenges and opportunities at the front end of a major transformation were extremely impressive. Yet, a conversation with both of them afterward yielded a surprise. Only one is experiencing high fulfillment in the current situation. One is clearly at his “summit.” He is doing what he loves and is very good at it as well. The other is exceptional in her current role and knows that lacking a sense of fulfillment means she can only do this job for a short time before moving to a role that is more fulfilling. Luckily, her manager understands this and a move is in the works.

We all have a “summit,” a place where our high performance intersects with extraordinary fulfillment. If we don’t consciously strive to find that place and work and lead from there, we’ve only ourselves to blame. All those years ago, I committed to finding my “summit” and living, working, and leading from there. Someone once told me, “You can dream your life away or live the life of your dreams. Either way, it’s your choice.” What about you? Where is your “summit?” Step up to your “summit” and help those around you find and step up to theirs.

Categories: Leadership.