Competition is healthy for most. Rivalry and war often bring forth innovation, ideas and lessons-learned through unmitigated success and abstract failure. American business leaders since the turn of the century have embraced competition as a necessity for progress and profits.
Some of these leaders, like McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, have likened business acumen to a battlefield experience.
According to Kroc, “If I saw a competitor drowning, I’d put a live fire hose in his mouth.”
The threat of death via a live fire hose aside, Mr. Kroc’s remarks are symbolic of the modern-day business and personal landscape facing multiple generations of Americans.
A recent issue of The New York Times Magazine asked the question “do millennials stand a chance in the real world?” When compared to other current workforce occupants–baby boomers and generation X–millennials are viewed as audacious, lacking politeness and untrusting of those in charge. As expected, response to the article stimulated much discussion and commentary. Over a third of the article readers stated that millennials feel entitled and have a victim mentality. Another third stated that millennials do have it hard when compared to other generations and less than a third stated that no generation has had it easy. Interestingly enough, one-half of those who responded to the article were themselves members of the millennial generation.
The take-away? A dissection of millennial commentary is a great look into the true nature and future of dynamic and time-tested leadership. If taken for face value, millennials value competition, have an air of entitlement and are not afraid to demand things. In addition, commentary lends that millennials are not afraid to lead but are viewed as trusting few.
True application of leadership requires confidence, a clear vision and expectation of performance standards, as well as the ability to hire, motivate and mentor people who are not just good enough for a particular job, but will raise the collective excellence and output of the entire organization. With very few exceptions, trust is earned, and the competitive nature of a technologically driven 21st century business environment demands an equally relevant appreciation for balanced, ego-driven confidence–a demand for competition.
Competition is universally applicable. Competition brings people together for a common cause and shapes individual personalities. Leaders build, charge and massage competition to get the best possible contributions from their team. Competition can indeed bring out the best and worst in people without regard for age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. And for this, the world is indeed a better place.