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Why My Level of Success is Your Definition of Success


Success in life could be measured as continued expansion of peace of mind and the striving to realize our self-made vision of fulfillment.

That’s my personal understanding of the concept of “success”. And it breathes life into my theory on what leaders are inherently responsible for – the amplification of success of the individual people in my organization. Collectively these individuals must align with the system of standards, values, and vision that is promulgated by the me, the leader, to achieve a desired outcome.

“We live in an age of disruption,” says former navy SEAL turned serial entrepreneur Brent Gleeson. And in that age of disruption, the individual has never been more in control. People want to work with passion on their passion. Fulfillment is reachable by the person who works in concert with the drive that makes them feel alive.

A leader's journey begin with knowing themselves and the impact they will have on others. A high degree of emotional intelligence is one critical characteristic of a mindful leader. This leadershipemotional intelligence is comprised of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Self-awareness, in particular, has been shown to correlate with leadership effectiveness (Tekleab, Sims, Yun, Tesluk, & Cox, 2008).

Leaders acting as a center of influence have a deep understanding of the impact that their personality, experience, culture, emotional expression, and character have on others. Their capacity to form meaningful and satisfying relationships relies on their ability to understand how their followers design their own success.

In essence, the light bulb illuminates over a leader’s head when they allow people to define their own success. Former Navy SEAL Jeff Boss stated, "We all have our own definition of requires soft skills that are anything but soft that help us win on the battlefield."

Taking it deeper, this thought stream flows across the balance of collaborative value of the process to the final impact. The collaborative deals in the “throughput” described as behaviors, relationships, and incentives during the journey. Final impact deals in the output, the “product” of leadership. There is value in both the output as well as in the experience of the process.

The tangible outcome – impact – helps validate the experience and rewards of working together – collaboration – and vice versa which makes the results mutually reinforcing. In other words, the leader needs the follower for success as the follower needs the leader for success.

So, let’s how can leaders allow their followers to define their level of success?

Shawn Achor, author of the The Happiness Advantage, states happiness is “the joy we feel striving after our potential…[it] is not just a mood—it’s a work ethic.”

The similarities between my definition of success and his definition of happiness give us insight into how leaders set the tone for their team or organization.

Back to Achor, “If you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy is a broken formula.”

The act of striving is the brain’s fundamental understanding of success. And yet, working hard doesn’t lead to happiness. Rather, striving is happiness. Striving is success.


As leaders, we cannot expect people to work hard for us because it’s not us who they are working for. People, first and foremost, strive to satisfy themselves. Identity is drawn out of striving for their deeply personal level of success. It is in this fact that we realize we must know who our people are striving to become.

A leader without this definition will turn around one day and find that there is nobody following.

Your definition of success belongs to no one but you. My measurement of success will be how much I understood your definition.


Listen to former Navy SEAL Jeff Boss discuss leveraging chaos for success here!

Listen to former Navy SEAL Brent Gleeson talk personal definition of success here!

Tekleab, A.G., Sims, Jr., H.P., Yun, S., Teluk, P.E., Cox, J., Are we on the same page? Effects of self-awareness of empowering and transformational leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. February, 14(3), p. 185-202.

About the author, Tim

US Navy Surface Warfare Officer.
Lacrosse Player.

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