“Leadership is a skill, and like all skills, it takes time and effort to develop. The time-worn quotes that have been hanging in your locker rooms for years are not nearly enough. Now I understand: average leaders have quotes; good leaders have a plan; exceptional leaders have a system.”
That comes from the book Above the Line by Urban Meyer, the head football coach at Ohio State University. His book is a compelling read, and one of his key points is that exceptional leaders must have a system. He calls his system “Above the Line.”
Here’s what he has to say about being above the line:
“The performance of an individual or team rises and falls on behavior. Winning behavior is intentional, it’s on purpose, and it’s skillful. It is Above the Line. But it’s easier to be impulsive, on autopilot, and resistant. This is Below the Line. Below the Line is dangerous because it’s comfortable and it’s convenient. It is the path of least resistance. Above the Line behavior is conscious and thoughtful, a choice made in alignment with your larger vision of where you want to go. Below the Line behavior is directed by impulse with the gravitational pull of old habits. You just react without thinking. Below the Line is your default response.”
It makes a lot of sense, and it’s not hard at all to find people who are caught up in behavior that he would call Below the Line. Just look for people whose first instinct is to blame others, complain about circumstances, and defend themselves. Meyer calls this pattern “BCD:” Blame, Complain, and Defend.
Now, as Coach Meyer argues, we don’t control the events that occur in our life, and we don’t directly control the outcomes. But we always have control over how we choose to respond. He uses this equation:
Event + Response = Outcome
“Simply stated,” he says, “Bit E’s (Events) and Big O’s (Outcomes) require Big R’s (Responses).” To help make that happen, Meyer outlines 6 R Factor Disciplines that he teaches his players:
- Press Pause. It gives you time to think, get off autopilot, avoid doing something foolish or harmful, and focus on acting with purpose.
- Get Your Mind Right. What you focus on and how you talk to yourself matter. Do you have a positive or negative mindset? Do you have a survival mindset or a purpose mindset? Get your mindset Above the Line.
- Step Up. Understand the situation and what is required of you, and respond Above the Line.
- Adjust and Adapt. Consider the current path of your R Factor habits. Where are they taking you? Where do you want to go? Adjust accordingly.
- Make a Difference. Take complete ownership of the experience you give others and your contribution to your team’s culture.
- Build Skill. Elite performers build skill above their talents. Talent may be a gift, but greatness is a choice.
Meyer concludes, “Under pressure, we do not rise to the occasion. We rise or fall to the level of our training.” So as you’re out working on the day to day activities in your business, make sure to ask yourself: are you above the line, or below the line?