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Tuesday, August 2, 2011


To keep an organization on top over the long haul, its leaders must excel at what I call mountaintop management. What does that mean? Well, for one thing, it means keeping a business or team focused, committed, and competitive every day. It also means working to slay that little devil known as complacency, which sits outside everyone’s door.

Here are a few of the principles that I think can help enterprises stay on top of the heap, in the short and long term. The first is: Stick with your standards.

1. I came across a quote from Aristotle that was in our Thought of the Day collection. The philosopher supposedly said: “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those [qualities] because we’ve acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an art but a habit.” The emphasis is mine.

2. I still upset people sometimes, because I insist that we keep getting better. I still push my staff to excel on the recruiting front, because I recognize how crucial talent is to success in this game. I still expect my players to go to class—every day—and to behave responsibly on and off the basketball court. Success hasn’t changed our standards.

Standards are most effective when everybody in an organization believes in them.

One of the coaches who influenced me was Dean Smith at North Carolina. Dean, who’s a friend of mine, was an innovator. He also cultivated what’s called the “The Carolina Way” —which is nothing more than UNC’s organizational culture.

Like those programs, my assistants and I have built a tradition of excellence at UConn. We’ve established our own unique basketball culture—a “Connecticut way”—which I’m confident will succeed me after I retire. On the court, boiled down, it means playing hard-nosed, tenacious basketball for forty minutes. We emphasize rebounding, tough man-for-man defense, and an up-tempo offensive style, which kids like to play. Off the court, the “Connecticut way” means that we have a close-knit, family-style atmosphere, where everybody cares about one another.

From a "Passion To Lead" by Jim Calhoun