The Missing Priority the Distinguishes Success from Significance

As coach to entrepreneurs, executives, and business owners, I find a striking trait about my more successful clients. Now, all of my clients are already successful. They are simply seeking more success on their journey to significance. This trait is in their attitude when it comes to service to other people in their community, the dreaded “giving back”. Regardless of other demands on their time, being in service to others in some form is a priority.

Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment. ~ John C. Maxwell

Here’s what I know from my years as a banker. As we sought to develop people internally for leadership roles, we wanted to see what their real potential as a leader was so we encouraged them to join Rotary or become involved in leadership roles in the community and lead volunteers. Little did they know that we were actually evaluating their leadership skills, capacity, and ability.

There is no greater and more challenging leadership than in the leading of volunteers. It is as a leader of volunteers that you learn how to influence others. As a leader of volunteers, especially as a Rotary Club President, one learns, sometimes the hard way, that leadership is truly influence and that people buy in to you as the leader first then your vision, goals and plans. You also learn that people do not necessarily follow you just because of your title. This is a powerful lesson for people seeking promotion in the corporate world.

Moving a big water project in Africa forward in the volunteer world makes mergers and acquisition work simple. Successfully dealing with sometimes loud and vociferous differences of opinion and dealing with people from totally different countries and cultures in the volunteer world is the ultimate in leadership development and project management.

As a leader of volunteers in Rotary you hold nothing over the people that follow you - no paycheck, nothing, only your own ability to influence others. Now build a team of paid professionals and watch your business and your results go quantum.

So why do I say this is a missing priority? Because people do not understand the value of leading volunteers and what it can do for their business and their career. Avoiding learning successfully through human interaction with beliefs such as “I don’t have time for this” or “It’s not worth it” is prelude to failure in business.

I for one wanted to develop my leadership skills and was looking for ways to meet influential members of my community. Once I was exposed to Rotary, I realized that the best way to develop relationships with successful people was to work alongside them in the service of others.

Rotary offers so much to people who have the desire to help others, make connections, and learn servant leadership in a world that desperately could use more servant leaders. This is the ultimate in networking.

Way back in Rotary Year 1915-1916, 100 years ago, then President of Rotary International, Allen D. Albert put forth the vision of Rotary as “the development of the individual Rotarian to his (or her) best self in service to others.” I think that vision holds true today for the people that want it to be. Rotary has been for me and can be for others, the best leadership development training ground anywhere. I grow as a leader in service to others. This is my “why” of Rotary. I also believe that no matter where a person is in his or her leadership journey, be it a CEO or an associate, he will learn something about leadership when he serves as the president of a Rotary Club.

I am also a student of Napoleon Hill, the author of the classic personal growth book, Think And Grow Rich, published in 1935. In 1962 Hill also published Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude and a companion classroom study guide called PMA – The Science Of Success. In this guide Hill sets forth 17 success principles. Lesson 1 is “Definiteness of Purpose.” In this lesson, Hill cites many examples of success from people throughout history who accomplished something great by displaying definiteness of purpose. Sandwiched between stories of Edison’s invention of the motion picture projector and Columbus’ discovery of America is Paul Harris and the Rotary Club Concept. Here is what Hill wrote:

“The Rotary Club Concept – The Rotary Club Movement began as an idea, conceived in the mind of Paul Harris, a lawyer who was seeking a way of extending his personal acquaintanceship for the purpose of building up his law practice without violating the ethics of the legal profession. It was a simple idea, born in a humble heart. But it was backed with definiteness of purpose. The idea grew until today it circles the earth and brings men of nearly every nationality together in a spirit of friendly fellowship.”

More often than not, when I hear from a client or anybody for that matter that they don’t have time, that is often simply their excuse for their own lack of anything resembling definiteness of purpose and therefore misuse of the most precious asset any of us has and that is our time. My family being first is a core value, as it should be for everyone. However, I’ve learned to budget and block my time through proper prior planning and setting as priorities the things that matter most to me which includes my own personal growth. This allows me to be in service to others to hone and further define my leadership and serves to help me and my clients grow our businesses which is a priority.

About the author:

David Norris is a leadership development and personal growth coach for entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, and men and women who seek to up-level themselves, their businesses, their lives, and the lives of the people around them. David has dedicated his life to empowering and teaching people to be better leaders and better human beings. David is co-author of the international best-selling book The Change 7- Insights Into Self-Empowerment. and he can be contacted by email at, or through his website at

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