This is my thirty-sixth weekly Blog regarding the status of leadership in America. The history of humankind is one of intense competition between individuals, groups, and countries, with war being the most extreme form of competition. We compete in everything we do and we are each born with a unique set of physical and mental attributes and innate talents that individualize and separate us as we compete with others, for example, for control of a particular toy with a sibling, for superiority in a wrestling match, for the attention of an attractive person, for jobs, for recognition and promotions at work, for being a member of the US Olympics Team, for winning the World Series or the Super Bowl, for wealth, for power, for military superiority. The list is endless. While some forms of competition can be divisive and violent, good leaders recognize that many other forms of competition can help people discover their own unique set of innate talents. We can learn through our successes and failures about who we are and what we are really good at. And most importantly, we can learn how to deal with defeat because we most certainly will experience more defeat than success in our lives. Competition encourages us to constantly push ourselves and raise the bar for our own performance. Good leaders know that the more they can match their employees to the jobs and careers that they are talented in, the more likely they will be outstanding employees because they would be doing what they were meant to do, actually born to do. Cooperation is equally important because it acts as a force multiplier. Good leaders know that when we act together, we are truly greater than the sum of our parts. We are capable of great accomplishments especially if we take advantage of the various talents that each person brings to a team. Plus, the knowledge that each person possesses can be shared so that the entire team can grow and become more multi-skilled and valued members of an organization. Often cooperation and competition overlap, for instance, in sports where the cooperative need to pull together to support the best interests of the team override the individual competitiveness of each individual to be the best at a particular position. In sports the game itself and the team are more important than anyone’s individual accomplishments. There are some people who say, “No one helped me, so why should I help anyone else.” If we are honest with ourselves, we have all been helped and supported at some time and it is vital that we reach out in a cooperative spirit and give back where ever we can. We must leave this nation better off then we inherited it. Democracy and America are more important than anyone’s individual accomplishments. There are also those who want to make everyone a winner and give them all a trophy. Competition is a reality and giving everyone a trophy when they didn’t earn it will not insulate anyone from the cold hard realities of competition. We must embrace competition and strive for greater cooperation.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, the Army, and Defense in numerous leadership positions, including being a US Army officer, and a human resources director. Mr. Okum has written ”Leadership DNA,” a provocative and useful guide book allowing readers to broaden their understanding about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. This guide book shows you the various aspects of leadership, including examining good leaders’ behavior patterns as well as learning how to achieve your objectives and deal with poor managers that can potentially cripple you and your organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and Leadership DNA, visit