Leadership Thought of the Day: What Will Make You Successful?

Jake Wilder
3 min readJan 14, 2022

If you don’t know, how will you get there?

What would make you successful in your job? Can you describe what you’d need to do over the next year to be a top performer in your company?

I’m not talking about the job description. That’s the price of entry. Checking every one of those boxes may keep you from getting fired, but it won’t differentiate you from everyone else. The best employees deliver value far beyond these expectations.

What do you need to do to be a top performer? What would your boss want to see over the next several months to give you the highest possible performance rating?

Most people can’t answer these questions. They may have a general idea of what they need to do. But if you press them for details, they’ll struggle.

It’s not their fault. It’s their boss’s job to communicate these details. It’s a core function of management to set expectations and communicate standards. And if bosses aren’t doing this, they’re failing at their jobs.

But they, ultimately, don’t pay the price for that failure. You do. Without knowing the criteria for a top performer, it’s going to limit your success. Which means it’s your responsibility to get these answers. Not your fault, but your responsibility.

I’m convinced that one of the key reasons workplace engagement is so low is that we’ve done a poor job equating performance and achievement. People don’t understand how their daily activities translates into professional growth and success. Without this link, there’s little incentive for them to bring their best self to work. The key to motivation is motive, and if people can’t see the benefit of engaging at work, it’s not surprising that so many people are leaving their jobs.

When people don’t have a clear picture of which actions will deliver key results, the urgency of the day becomes the dominant paradigm. They fall into interrupt-driven roles. They wait for assignments. They attend meetings. They respond to requests. Yet they rarely initiate something new. They don’t create things that drive the future. And as such, their value will always be limited.

Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.