In Search of (Personal) Excellence We’ve all heard of the alpha male and female. The dictionary defines them as the dominant person in a group, the one everybody emulates and follows. The term was originally coined to describe behavior in wolf and dog packs, but for most of the 20th Century, it also accurately depicted the way we interacted in our careers. One person was on top, and the rest of us brought up the rear.
While wolves and dogs are stuck with this leader-follower relationship, however, we humans have an option. We can pull ourselves out of the back of the pack—out of the pack altogether, in fact—and assume a new role. I call it the “alpha career athlete.” It recognizes our innate ability to act as individuals and to set our own unique course in the world of work.
More often than not, the alpha career athlete still finds their employment in an organization. Most aren’t free agents or independent contractors. They work in teams, on projects and for departments and they report to a boss. Their on-the-job experience is similar to that of every other person in the workplace. What changes is their view of who they are working for and why.
An alpha career athlete works on themselves for themselves. They are interested in learning just how good they can be in their profession, craft or trade. They accept a job because it challenges them to be better than they have been, and they devote all of their talent to passing the test. Moreover, that same commitment to self improvement also enhances the value of their contribution to their employer. In effect, they protect their employment and preserve their paycheck by persevering in their determination to excel.