Many leaders cannot survive success. Prosperity drains both their urgency and their drive, causing them to become complacent and turn into know-it-alls. As a result, hordes of successful leaders never come close to reaching their full potential. They dismiss a process like master the art of execution (MAX) because they are of the mind-set that says, “Look how well we've done without it; let's not rock the boat.” They fail to understand that they have done well despite the fact they don't execute optimally, not because they don't execute optimally.
The Red Belt Mind-Set
I learned about the red belt mind-set early in my study of the martial arts. My seven-time world champion instructor, Johnny Gyro, pointed to a wall with 12 belts displayed in order from white to black—the sequence of ranks I'd need to progress to become a black belt in the Tang Soo Do style of karate. He told me that red belts, the belt just before black, were the most dangerous fighters in the dojo. He explained that a common tendency of new first-degree black belts after passing their test was to put on weight because they would stop training as hard. Even though there are many degrees of black beyond the first, they would often turn into know-it-alls and spend more time giving advice than training to improve. The red belts, on the other hand, were still hungry. They were humble, were teachable, and had something to prove. He told me that over the years he had ...