Resourced Leaders

'Resourced Leaders' is a premier Australian based Leadership Performance organisation that specialises in working with senior executives, leaders and high performing individuals who aspire to greater levels of personal leadership and success.

The sound-bite of success

Posted by Phil Owens
Phil Owens
Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 10 May 2012 in Leadership

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. "

President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962, at Rice University, Houston, Texas

President John F. Kennedy looked into the future and set an ambitious goal. Apart from the fact that his space scientists managed to achieve this outcome in 1969, this quote is example of a great mission and vision statement, and here are seven reasons why:

1.  It sets a clear, measurable but ambitious target. It does not say ‘we will be number 1’. It does not say ‘We will be better than them’ (even though both of these could be implied by the achievement of this goal). It states something which is tangible.

2. It describes the WHAT and WHY, but not the HOW. Because we can never know the HOW until something has been achieved. Challenges require us to find solutions to unique and specific problems as we go along. As we solve those problems, more challenges emerge and are overcome until we reach our goal.

3. The power of choice. Describing a goal as a choice (rather than a forced imperative) creates responsibility and ownership. ‘We choose’ implies that there is no limitation on what could have been considered, but after that consideration, going to the moon was the the goal they wanted to pursue. So much more motivational than "The soviets may get there first".

4. ‘We’ – he creates inclusion and shared ownership, and implies that everyone he is communicating to has also made, or sanctioned, that choice. It is not ‘his’ vision, but everyone’s. What a great way to get alignment and buy in - use 'We' not 'I'.

5. The willingness to identify difficulties and obstacles, and the desire to move past these. The certainty with which he frames the WHAT and his acceptance that obstacles will be there provides both direction for people and permission to explore the possibilities.

6. A willingness to use the outcome as a ‘measure of our best energies and skills’ and setting a clear timeframe for the outcome. This creates a frame of accountability. Enhancing the certainty of the outcome creates a motivating challenge for the people involved to live up to (do you have the skills and energies, or not?).

7. Setting parameters for the goal – what will be accepted and what will not (postponement) is clearly articulated.  JFK also delivers a clear statement of intent (to win this and other challenges too.)

Overall JFK has, in one short soundbite, demonstrated incredible communication and visionary leadership frames. Done with calmness, certainty and clarity, everyone in the space agency could ask "How can I contribute to this goal?" This creates the environment for a culture of experimentation and success.

The proof, in this case, was in the outcome. One small step for Neil Armstrong, and a giant leap for mankind.

How can you model elements of this one simple sound-bite to change and lead the culture in your business?

Be resourceful


Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He honed his skills working with executives and leaders around the world, coaching and consulting in over 30 countries, from entrepreneurial start-ups to boards of multi-billion dollar businesses.


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Leave your comment

Guest Tuesday, 19 February 2019