According to Professor Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizmann Institute of Science, “Excellence is not a destination, but an endless journey.” Prof Zajfman was speaking at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Greater Good Series Fireside Chat on “Defining your entrepreneurial edge: A journey in excellence, competitiveness and creativity.”
The Weizmann Institute in Israel is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research centres and a renowned platform for innovation. Prof Zajfman attributes its success to the Institute’s belief that discoveries are not made in laboratories but in the brains of the scientists. As such, the Institute supports its scientists, not science.
Citing the examples of the Singapore Airlines success story and the wins of Olympic athletes , Prof Zajfman explained that excellence springs from a combination of a continual drive to improve coupled with a strong sense of self-belief.
A combination of external drivers – those individuals around us such as teachers, parents, role models and money – and internal drivers – ego, frustration, curiosity and a sense of purpose – is at the root of excellence.
As far as achieving excellence in leadership is concerned, Prof Zajfman believes this can be distilled into six key qualities. Firstly, a good memory. If the leader can remember who is team is, they will feel recognised and will achieve more. Secondly, a genuine interest in people. If the leader shows he cares about his people and is interested in what they do, they will work well for him. Thirdly, integrity. If a leader makes a promise, he must deliver. Fourthly, the ability to communicate. The leader must be able to express his vision. Fifth, decisiveness. He must be given the freedom to make decisions. And finally, genuine enthusiasm. The organisation’s passion must begin with the leader.
Prof Zajfman also claims that, for highly-skilled workers, rewards do not produce excellence. Rewards work well for low-skilled workers, such as those undertaking mechanical work. However, for highly-skilled workers, reward-driven excellence leads to the worker focusing on short-term results rather than being driven by a vision of tomorrow.
For an individual to achieve excellence and to innovate, they must have autonomy as people will only create new ideas if they feel the idea comes from them. They must also be driven by a desire of mastery, wanting to be better than others at doing something. And, they must have a sense of purpose as this engenders personal satisfaction and happiness.
Prof Zajfman concluded that instilling a culture of excellence begins first and foremost with people. They must be provided with independence and the right environment for innovation. Only this will result in creativity, commitment and therefore excellence.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact Jeanne Ng on Jeanne.firstname.lastname@example.org.