The best leader I worked with had high standards of herself.

She knew what was exceptional and what wouldn’t do. She questioned her methods. She asked for feedback. She was open to learning and she saw the detail others overlooked.She had high standards of others, too.

When she led someone with similar high standards, the relationship worked well. Both parties were on a quest for improvement. Both excelled. The relationship flourished and everyone won. This leader wasn’t concerned with being liked but it happened anyway.

If forced to decide between being liked or being exceptional, she knew which she’d choose.

Occasionally, this choice presented itself. When someone in her team was happy to say, “that’ll do.” When she faced resistance to her teaching. When someone didn’t follow her example or didn’t want to learn. When met with defensiveness or a refusal to budge.

Do you drop your standards for an easy life, or plough on with what’s right in a quest for excellence? One is only good for the short term, the other wins overall.