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Lead with Integrity: What We Get to Do 

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Ethics Matters

Q4 2023

A few weeks ago, I was waiting to speak to a group of college student leaders at a workshop. This was the first session of a year-long program, and I was impressed, amazed and disappointed at the same time. I was impressed at the quality of the program, amazed at the talented students the staff had selected, and disappointed at how the stage was set. Note: this organization and its leadership are outstanding, so I am not at all disappointed in them. However, I was struck by how the program was presented to the students.  

Here is what happened. The administrator of the program was going through the initial orientation. All I kept hearing was a recital of the rules and regulations. The message was something like this:  “You have to… You must… You are required to.” As I was waiting to give my presentation on leadership following the orientation, I could see the morale in the room significantly decrease. In fact, the energy completely left the room. At that moment, I accepted the task of regenerating the faded excitement the students had for the program. 

It dawned on me that I had been through this before. Early in my career as a manager at the Quaker Oats company, I inherited a team that was down in performance and morale. We were able to turn that team around by changing their perspective. Instead of what we HAD TO do, I challenged the team to focus on what we GET TO do. Within weeks, we were the highest performing department in the entire facility. In short, perspective matters. 

When it was my turn to speak, I told the students to look at the opportunity they have through this program. The reality was they GET TO do things their peers and others wished they could do. Yes, they were required to attend sessions on Saturdays, but they GET TO hear from executives and entrepreneurs on those days. Yes, they have assignments to complete, but they GET TO receive feedback from business coaches that professionals pay to receive feedback from. There are numerous other benefits the students are receiving from the program because they were selected and GET TO participate. 

In the end, the students understood the opportunity and appreciated the perspective I brought to the conversation. It is amazing what we all can accomplish when we focus on what we GET TO do. I challenge you to step back and think about what you GET TO do that others would appreciate. 

Be aware of what you GET TO do, and greatness will chase you! 


Lead with Integrity, 

Alfonzo Alexander