The Challenger

The Challenger is the leader who gives a meaningful challenge to an individual or a group of people that causes them to stretch beyond what they are used to doing.

After Jimmy Carter graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in the 1940s, he applied for a position at the Naval Nuclear Program with Admiral Hyman Rickover. Admiral Rickover asked Carter how he did at the Naval Academy.

Carter swelled with pride and said, “I graduated 59th out of a class of 820.”

Rickover asked, “Did you do your best?”

Carter wanted to say yes, but then he paused and thought about the question. He said, “No sir, I didn’t do my best.”

Rickover asked, “Why not the best?”

Jimmy Carter went on to say in his book, Why Not The Best? that this question, “Why not the best?” was the key challenge that spurred him on throughout his career. Eventually this challenge carried him to be the president of the United States and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Two Questions for The Challenger Approach to Leadership

1. What challenge can you provide to your team members individually or collectively that might cause them to stretch beyond where they are today?

2. How will you phrase that challenge in a memorable way so that it can spur these people on over the long term?


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