Reflecting on the leaders and mentors who have influenced me, one thing is prominent: their memorable philosophies about life and career. They have inspired me to counsel and to develop others in a similarly memorable way. Some of the counsel I have provided, and I believe made a difference, goes like this:
The impossible is possible. When President Kennedy announced in the 1960s that we would put a man on the moon by that decade’s end, I’m virtually certain he heard all the reasons why this was impossible. Thankfully, a group of people saw that possibility and became, I believe, NASA’s next leaders. See what is possible—embrace it, inspire it, and make it happen.
Be outrageous. Well, be judiciously outrageous. Challenge the status quo. Move beyond past assumptions and beliefs. When you ask the uncomfortable questions, you push yourself and your team to bold new places. After all, the idea of putting a man on the moon was, at first, outrageous.
Be emotionally committed. Believing in the purpose of your work matters! And emotional commitment to a purpose is contagious. At Reliant Energy, we power hospitals, critical manufacturing facilities, and my children’s nightlights in a socially responsible way. I am proud and excited to be a part of that every day.
You can have it all (but perhaps not all at once). Having a career requires trade-offs. Doing your job with excellence requires trade-offs. Be honest with yourself about what those trade-offs are and weigh them carefully against what you hope to accomplish before you go for it. Great achievements often require putting yourself on the line and taking great risks. When the astronauts were preparing to go to the moon, they made enormous sacrifices, but they were able to come home and share how the earth looks from the heavens.