Despite the thousands of books and articles devoted to the subject of excellence, the word itself remains somewhat abstract. Its meaning and use are sometimes difficult to pin down, let alone put it into practice.

The Severn Leadership Group (SLG) believes that a clear understanding of the term excellence is essential to understanding the relationships necessary to develop people, the interconnectedness of leadership and followership, and the development of organizations that make a real and sustained difference in the world. Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, refers to them not as simply good organizations, but great organizations.

It is important to understand that excellence is not a synonym for perfection or for success. Rather excellence is:

An innate and unrelenting passion within a person or an organization to constantly…

  • Seek continual improvement, always building upon yesterday’s achievements
  • Build personal relationships and organizational mastery
  • Seek better practices and processes
  • Develop integrated and cohesive teamwork and support
  • Never to be satisfied with today’s performance or results
  • Learn from both success and failure
  • Not about self or looking good, but about the sustained pursuit of a worthy goal, a mission, a purpose
  • A life long journey of learning and growing

The journey of excellence leads to sustained, high levels of performance.

The evidence is quite clear. Organizations with a sustained pursuit of excellence have an engaged and highly motivated workforce, high levels of trust, well integrated teams, better outcomes, and a better bottom line – economically, socially, and environmentally.

The journey of excellence is never complete.

There are always new opportunities, new standards, new technology, new thinking, and new mountains to climb. That is because excellence does not operate in a vacuum. It is always linked with a purpose, a goal, a cause that is about something outside ourselves. Jim Collins would describe it as a “big, hairy, audacious goal” (BHAG). It pulls us into the future.

If the purpose is big and audacious, then it must be something we cannot do alone. Others are needed – needed for their expertise, wisdom, encouragement, and willingness to roll up their sleeves and work. When one stumbles, another can pick him/her up. When there is success, all can celebrate. When there is failure, all can learn and grow. The group, the team, the unit is in it for the long haul – come what may.

People, excellence, and an audacious goal are inextricably linked.

Together excellence and purpose (goal) provide the path that encourages, teaches, shapes, and emboldens people to do great things. They are the difference-makers who make our world a better place to live.