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Strategic Discipline Blog

The Leaders Role – Mercenary or Mission Driven?

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jun 29, 2020

Think Like Amazon - 50.5 Ideas to Become a Digital LeaderDuring challenging times you discover a lot about yourself and the people you work with.

John Rossman’s in, Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas to Become a Digital Leader asks, how do you create passion and develop a mission if the path is not innately clear?

The art of leadership is the ability to uncover the passions of each individual and find ways to align and build value from each person’s strengths to accomplish the mission of your organization.

Rossman’s second idea in his list of 50 – ½ is: You will stick through the hard times if you are passionate about the cause and the customer. Consistent messaging regarding the mission will take the “mildly interested” majority of employees in most organizations and make them fanatics for your business, for winning, and for the mission.

The quote he starts this chapter with embodies and emboldens this idea:

Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish. —Jean de La Fontaine

Be Strategic and Honest in Your Obsession, and Then Obsess to Win

In trying times it’s critical you wring out the last drop of capability every single day until you and your organization is great. Rossman recommends, “then wash, rinse, and repeat.”

As Rossman points out Wars are rarely won by mercenaries.

A mercenary as someone who was “coin operated.” The only thing mercenaries care about is making money. If you’re out to build a strong culture, you probably won’t be calling for a bunch of mercenaries.

Ultimately, financial returns and sales are output metrics. As a leader, you don’t have direct control over them. They are the result of many other things you do. What you can control are the inputs. To win, you must be deeply connected to your customers and users because that’s where the insights are.

How do you make sure your customers happy?Best Strategy - Sign Satisfied Customer suit

With a passionate and purposeful team of employees.


Rossman points out, “Wars are won by patriots, not mercenaries. We fight and care differently if we have a stake in the outcome of the war if the commitment is cemented by something personal. And while it is great if the cement is mixed with a deep passion for the customer, a cement mixed with other ingredients can be just as strong and beneficial to the cause.”

Yet most employees don’t start off as patriots. They’re grateful for the job, but they are only mildly interested in the mission. They are often unclear on your mission. If they aren’t inspired, they usually start focusing on doing a good enough job to continue collecting paychecks.

Your responsibility as a leader is to transform these people from self-centered mercenaries to committed patriots. John Doerr, author Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs, shares in this 3 minute video starting at :51 the difference between a mercenary and a missionary.

How do you convert mildly interested employees into passionate ambassadors you need for your company to be able to compete successfully in the digital era?

Clearly define your mission, inject it with a sense of legacy and importance. Then, figure out how to connect your mission to each one of your team.

You can’t insist everyone have an incredible passion for their job. As Rosman declares don’t allow “perfect be the enemy of good enough.”

When you hire motivated, excited, and talented people, you should feel you can harness them to your mission.

You need to develop a personal relationship with the employees as individuals. Learn their personal passions, strengths, and motivations. Find their individual unique connections to the mission and guide their passion to its legacy to key your success. This process never ends. It requires you continuously wave your mission banner to remind and inspire them what they’re doing is revolutionary, and world changing.

Rossman shares Jeff Bezos view. Bezos talks about the need for a committed, customer-obsessed team.


Mercanaries vs. Missionaries QuoteA good leader shares their mission frequently. Rossman believes missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it’s not just about the business. There must be a business, and the business must make sense, but that’s not why you do it. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you.

The business or team mission must align with every individual’s mission. If people can’t develop this mission, if they don’t have it when entering a business, then hiring or transitioning a team gets tricky.

Define the mission, figure out how it connects to passions, interests, and personal missions, and consistently integrate the mission in your team interactions and meetings. This gets your team more engaged. Your people are distracted by the volume of communication they are bombarded with today.

The time you get sick of repeating your message is the time your team is first starting to hear it.

Continue to build excitement and purpose for yourself and your team, and you will build a better product, a better experience, and a better business serving customers.

Rossman offers these questions to consider:

  1. What is the obsession for your business?
  2. Is this obsession defined and consistently communicated?
  3. Are there enough patriots in the organization?

If this sounds a lot like, Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, you’re correct.

To learn how to hire motivated, excited, and talented people, and to create your Mission/Purpose; contact Positioning Systems at

Growth demands Strategic Discipline.

Disciplined People Thought Action Chapter06-01-1To build an enduring great organization, requires disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action, to produce superior results, and make a distinctive impact in the world.

Discipline sustains momentum, over a long period of time, laying the foundations for lasting endurance.

A winning habit starts with 3 Strategic DisciplinesPriorityMetrics and Meeting Rhythms.   3 Disciplines of Execution (Strategic Discipline)-1Forecasting, accountability, individual, and team performance improve dramatically.

Meeting Rhythms achieve a disciplined focus on performance metrics to drive growth.

Let Positioning Systems help your business achieve these outcomes on the Four most Important Decisions your business faces:












Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $250M) business Scale-UP. We align your business to focus on Your One Thing! Contact to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.


Jim Collins in Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great recommends Good to Great to Gone: The 60-Year Rise and Fall of Circuit City. COVID19 is a catalyst to push many businesses into GONE! There are a lot of lessons to be learned for your business. I’ll share a number of these next blog.

Topics: People, People Decisions, leadership, Purpose, Effective Leadership, Leadership Decisions, Coronavirus, COVID19

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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