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The Standard of Perfection

Raising the bar in your organization

"But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."

- Matthew 5:46

 

Leaders lower the bar in their organizations by defining perfection as maturity. It’s time to raise the bar. It’s time for a higher standard.

When is a banana ripe? My grandmother considered a banana good and ripe when it was covered in brown spots. As for me, at the moment when a banana is no longer green, then it is ripe. Ripe is subjective. Ripe is not a standard.

To mature essentially means to ripen. The word "mature" is not in the original text of the Bible and, according to Merriam-Webster, it became part of the English language around 1400 AD. Like ripeness, the concept of maturity is a good one. However, in the way one man's ripe is another man's not yet ripe, one man's maturity is another man's immaturity. Maturity is a subjective rather than an objective measure, which means it cannot be used as a standard.

Standards are consistent, clear, measurable, and fixed. Standards provide a "North Star" for us to keep in view and set our direction. Standards are necessary for sustainability and continual improvement. Standards help us commit to a process of growth and increased excellence. What is the one standard that if pursued and measured against would make any organization advance and thrive?

Perfection.

God does not call us to maturity, He calls us to perfection. He not only defines perfection; He is perfection. He is the standard and He calls us to His level. "Be ye perfect, for I am perfect,” He says. Anything that is less than the character of God is also less than what we have the capacity to become and achieve. Anything else, lowers the bar. God has defined the perfection standard as Himself.

Leaders must define the standard of perfection in their groups. They must not accept a lower standard, which is often presented by people who are "satisfied with the status quo." Leaders must raise the bar. This requires clarity of vision, the discipline of focus, courage to say no, deliberate action, and consistent communication of high-level, reachable goals. What do these attributes look like in your group? What is your standard of perfection?

In 1938, roughly a year before the official start of World War II, then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiated a compromise with Adolf Hitler, a policy of appeasement that set an unclear standard: “peace for our time.” Historians debate whether the compromise was what Chamberlain had to do, given the apparent military strength of Hitler. What they agree on, however, is that Chamberlain’s strategy did not work. About one year later, Hitler changed human history in the worst way. It is my opinion that Chamberlain did not define a clear standard that raised the bar high enough to defeat Hitler.

Enter, Winston Churchill, the prime minister who ultimately led Great Britain through World War II.

Churchill communicated a standard to those under his leadership that was clear. There was no wiggle room for interpretation. His aim was perfection, which in times of war is one word—victory. Consider the clear outcome he defined in his "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" speech delivered May 13, 1940, at the House of Commons:

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory.

Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory,

however long and hard the road may be,

for without victory there is no survival.

Churchill raised the bar, and he raised the nation's vision to match his view of the perfect outcome despite circumstances that said otherwise. History proves that that strategy worked.

As a leader, set the character of God as your personal standard. By remaining consistent with that standard, using it to set your direction and as encouragement toward continual improvement, you will always grow and you will never settle for achieving less than what exceeds what you think. After raising your personal bar, ask: what is the perfect outcome for my organization?

Invite others on the journey to perfection, and then expect the good fruit that comes from raising the bar.

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