On Greatness: The Power of Principles and Standards



You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you have to go out every day and live up to that.

~ Michael Jordan

“A new hospital administrator, holding his first staff meeting, thought that a rather difficult matter had been settled to everyone’s satisfaction, when one participant suddenly asked, “Would this have satisfied Nurse Bryan?” At once the argument started all over and did not subside until a new and much more ambitious solution to the problem had been hammered out.

Nurse Bryan, the administrator learned, had been a long-serving nurse at the hospital. She was not particularly distinguished, had not in fact ever been a supervisor. But whenever a decision on patient care came up on her floor, Nurse Bryan would ask, “Are we doing the best we can do to help this patient?” Patients on Nurse Bryan’s floor did better and recovered faster. Gradually, over the years, the whole hospital had learned to adopt what became known as “Nurse Bryan’s Rule.”  They had learned to ask: “Are we really making the best contribution to the purpose of this hospital?”

Though Nurse Bryan herself had retired almost ten years earlier, the standards she had set still made demands on people who, in terms or training and position, were her superiors.

Commitment to contribution is commitment to responsible effectiveness.  Without it, a man shortchanges himself, deprives his organization, and cheats the people with whom he works.”

That is a story shared by Peter Drucker.  What are a few of the principles we learn?  Here are some to consider:

  1. The power of principles and standards to guide decisions and create great organizations.  Once the principles and standards are established and believed in, they can be used to align hearts and minds toward great results.
  2. The focus on the customer experience as the key measurement for success. “Are we doing the best we can do to help this patient?
  3. A clear understanding of purpose as the lens by which to gauge decisions.   “Are we really making the best contribution to the purpose of this hospital?”
  4. The power of a person to demonstrate lasting leadership regardless of position or title.  She was not even a supervisor, however, Nurse Bryan believed in the deeper purpose of the hospital, cared about the people she served, and consistently taught and exemplified what she stood for.

Nurse Bryan is an axiom leader.

Anyone can be an axiom leader.  Axiom leaders operate from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as they go along.  Axiom leaders teach and exemplify those principles and truths so clearly that they inspire alignment of hearts and minds.

Choose to be an axiom leader.  Choose to inspire greatness.



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