Featuring case studies of organizations as diverse as Shoebuy.com, Fiat, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Marks & Spencer, Cricket Australia, Burnley Football Club, and the Vancouver Giants, as well as world-leading educational systems, Uplifting Leadership provides tools for leaders to incorporate these performance-driving strategies into their own. For leaders who want their people to try harder, transform what they do, reach for a higher purpose, and stay resolute and resilient when opposing forces threaten to defeat them, Uplifting Leadership provides a path to better performance across any organization.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.
How does a giant multinational company turn itself around after seventeen straight quarters in the red? What does it take to transform a tiny developing country into a global economic powerhouse within a single generation? How can you be a top sports team when you're choosing from the smallest pool of players and have fewer resources than all your competitors? How do you do a lot with a little, create something from almost nothing, and turn failure into success?
These are the kinds of challenges we uncovered and questions to which we found answers when we studied fifteen organizations and systems in business, sports, and public education between 2007 and 2012. We set out to discover how each of these groups dramatically improved their performance against unfavorable and even overwhelming odds. Eventually, after analyzing hundreds of interviews, and writing thousands of pages of case reports, the answer came down to one word: uplift .
In aerodynamics, uplift is the force created by airflow, momentum, and wing design that enables large birds or huge aircraft to take off against gravity. Among people and within organizations, uplift is the force that raises our performance, our spirits, and our communities to attain higher purposes and reach unexpected levels of achievement. This book is about uplift, its effect on performance, and the ways to achieve it. It's a little word that makes a big impact.
"Up" is one of the first words we respond to when we are babies. We hear it spoken with a raised pitch. We lift up our eyes and stretch out our arms. Two letters. One syllable. Up .
Up is a direction, the way to get to a place we want to be. It pulls and invites us towards our destination. It is as viscerally inviting as the very first times we heard it when our parents lifted us into their arms.
"Up" is more of a process than a state. If you feel "up" about something, you are being optimistic. If you are "picking up" after an illness, you are starting to improve. We use "up" when we want to express that we're making progress towards our desired state - even though we haven't quite arrived.
Being "up" isn't always positive, of course; you can be uprooted, experience upheaval, or feel upset. But in general, it's better to be up rather than down. If you're up, starting up, or moving up, you are usually headed in the right direction, and you're definitely further along than you used to be.
Uplift has three interlocking meanings that are concerned with emotional and spiritual engagement, social and moral justice, and improved performance in work and life. Let's look at each of these.
Emotional and Spiritual Uplift
Being up is one thing. Getting up is another. It takes effort. The force that moves or holds us up is "lift." Authors Ryan and Robert Quinn describe lift as the "force that pushes a solid body upwards through the air." 1 The inspiration for their book, Lift , is the pioneering contribution to early aviation of Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Quinns explain that before the Wright Brothers famously launched their first manpowered flight from Kitty Hawk in North Carolina in 1901, they built a wind tunnel out of a soapbox to measure the effects of wing design and wind-speed variation on the relative impact of the forces of lift and drag - two forces that their German predecessor Otto Lilienthal had first identified in his ultimately fatal experiments with gliding. The Wright brothers concluded that in order to achieve successful lift in