In August of 1969, a brand new coach at the\n\nUniversity of Michigan took charge of his football team. Players\n\nassembled expecting a tune up prior to the season. What they got were\n\ngrueling workouts. Players quit in droves but the ones for whom\n\nfootball was a calling as well as a ticket to college remained. During\n\nthat hot summer, a sign was posted in the locker room: \u201cThose who stay\n\nwill be champions.\u201d \n\nThe 1969 team did win its championship by beating number one Ohio State\n\nin the last regular season game. Michigan\u2019s coach was Bo Schembechler\n\nand in his 20 seasons, his teams captured 12 Big Ten titles.\n\nSchembechler did more than win: He tapped into the collective energy of\n\nhis players. By doing so, he created expectations that could only have\n\nbeen fulfilled by aspirations to greatness, a total commitment to\n\nachieving a goal. This applies not to the gridiron, but to life itself.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n The Human Condition\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAspiration is inherent to the human condition. We want to aspire to\n\ndo something to make a positive difference. Leaders who tap into the\n\naspirations of their followers are leaders who have the opportunity to\n\nachieve greatness. \n\nSteve Jobs is an example of an aspirational leader. His canvas is the\n\nfusion of personal computing and entertainment. Under his leadership,\n\nApple has emerged not only as a force in personal computing but today\n\nis pioneering the distribution of music personalized through downloads\n\n(iTunes) and playback (iPod). Jobs has created such high expectations\n\nthat he has tapped into the collective aspirations of a legion of\n\nhardware and software engineers and end users.\n\nAspiration is a blend of hope tinged with optimism. "Aiming\n\nhigh" is the slogan of the Air Force and it is a mantra that leaders\n\ncan emulate when seeking to move their organizations and their people\n\nforward. Fundamental to aspiration is good communications. Here are\n\nsome ways to foster it.\n\n\n\n\n\nEnvision the outcome. In The 7 Habits of Successful People,\n\nStephen Covey advises us to use achievement as a foundation for vision.\n\nSuch forethought gives backbone to aspiration. For example, if you want\n\nto achieve market leadership in your field, you must think about what\n\nit will take to achieve that leadership and then consider what you must\n\ndo to make it happen. It is a form of reverse engineering from a future\n\nperspective. You consider what products you must offer, how you will\n\ndevelop and market them and, most importantly, whom you will hire to\n\nhelp you achieve it.\n\n\n\n\n\nListen to the soul. Visions come to fruition through hard work.\n\nBut before the work begins, you need to tap into the soul of the\n\norganization to find out if your vision is its vision. If not, give\n\nemployees the opportunity to make it their own. Leader\u2019s vision remains\n\na solo endeavor; shared visions become collective enterprises.\n\nEntrepreneurs possess an knack for tapping into collective\n\nconsciousnesses. They do this through the power of their message, even\n\ntheir personality, and by shining a light on what people want to do, be\n\nit run a franchise operation or build a better mousetrap.\n\nSteel the heart. The late David Hackworth used this phrase from Shakespeare\u2019s Henry V\n\nas the title of his book about the year he spent as a colonel in the\n\nMekong Delta turning a band of hopeless draftees into a Hardcore\n\nBattalion. What Hackworth did was tap into his men\u2019s desire to make it\n\nhome alive. By channeling that desire, he molded a fighting force that\n\nindeed went home and inflicted damage on the enemy. As the most\n\ndecorated soldier in U.S. Army history, Hackworth led by example. He\n\nwas tough and he expected his men to be tough. As a soldier\u2019s soldier,\n\nhe trained his men well and did what was necessary to prepare them for\n\ncombat and protect them from undue risk. Steeling the heart refers to\n\ntoughening your people to adversity. Hackworth, like Henry V, did this\n\nby sharing the hardships. Managers who emulate that example will\n\nstrengthen their team members\u2019 resolve and prepare them to overcome\n\nobstacles.\n\n\n\n\n\nBend but do not break. A flip side of aspirations that stand the\n\ntest of time is resilience. It is one thing to have a good idea of\n\nwhere you want to go, but it is quite another to be able to get there.\n\nNokia, the mobile phone company, is a model of resilience. Throughout\n\nits century and a half existence as timber and mining business, Nokia\n\nhas survived war, depression and country occupation by foreign powers.\n\nThe last two decades have seen Nokia emerge as a leader in mobile\n\nphones. And despite recent ups and downs, Nokia has persevered by\n\nproducing products that capture the imagination of consumers and tap\n\ninto their aspirations for what cellular communications can be.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n Aspire With Optimism\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAspiration without foundation is dangerous. Getting people to\n\naspire to things they cannot achieve becomes a kind of Ponzi scheme.\n\nLook at the e hucksters who flood our e-mail with get rich quick\n\nschemes. Similarly, aspirations shaped by shallow manipulators create\n\ncults that manifest themselves either in psuedo religions or criminal\n\nenterprises. As lofty as aspirations may be, they must have some roots\n\nin reality as well as a grounding in doing good for the whole rather\n\nthan enriching the greedy few.\n\nThose reservations aside, aspiration is a powerful and in many\n\ncases necessary outcome of leadership. Leaders who tap into the goals\n\nof where their people want to go or better channel the collective\n\nenergies of the group have a greater chance of achieving organizational\n\nexcellence. \n\nBut that is not the end of the story. Leaders need to consider\n\nsomething more: the better tomorrow. An essential aspect of aspiration\n\nis optimism, a belief in positive outcomes. Optimism for its own sake\n\nis fool\u2019s gold. But optimism coupled with attainable goals fuels\n\nprogress and makes aspirations attainable. In others words, to\n\nparaphrase the slogan that hangs in Michigan\u2019s locker room, those who\n\naspire will achieve.\n\n\n\n\n\nThe author would like to dedicate this column to the memory of Col.\n\nDavid Hackworth (U.S. Army ret.), who died in May 2005. A true\n\nsoldier\u2019s soldier, "Hack" lived his life according to the mantra of his\n\nspiritual mentor, Sun Tzu, \u201ctake care of your soldiers.\u201d It is indeed a\n\nnoble aspiration.