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  • Writer's pictureDave Westlake

Hey Leaders: It's Called "The Harder Right" For a Reason

Original Post: August 16, 2016

So, you're a business leader, eh?  Take a minute to internalize these words from the West Point Cadet Prayer: 

“Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.” 

While this stirs me today just as it did during my cadet years, it's also a timeless challenge to hold ourselves to a higher standard of character.  The personal application is an obvious call to live a clean, honest life.  The professional fulfillment, however, is a bit more nuanced and requires delineation.  In my opinion, it breaks down to 3 areas where business leaders need to be "right," despite tempting and significantly less daunting "wrong" alternatives:  

  • First: Don’t let others think for you.  This may be the most prevalent and damaging practice in business (and politics!) today.  Whether it’s a study done by an "independent" think tank (and paid for by an interest group), or output from a software tool developed by someone who doesn’t know your business, accepting information that you don’t personally know as fact will cost you both clients and credibility.  I’ve heard it said that “When all else fails, no one can take your name from you.”  True.  In business, I’d take it one step further—no one can take your brain either.  While it’s easier to rely on others to think for you, it’s never the right course of action.  Gather your data, asses your situation, and execute on the task you’re biologically wired to do: thinking for yourself.  (Side note: don't think this is important? Look up "Bespoke Tranche Opportunity." The Steve Eisman-described "dog s**t wrapped in cat s**t" that was at the center of the housing collapse in 2007 is rearing it's head again, largely because of a lack of people thinking for themselves.)

  • Second: Don’t let others do...or seek to do...the wrong thing.  When it gets right down to it, the people we do business with are no different than us.  Every day they face temptations, challenges, conflict, etc.  (They even—believe it or not—sometimes let others think for them!)  Do your best to keep them from making short-sighted, expensive mistakes that don’t take the entire situation into account.  That may mean your story has to be a little better and communicated a little clearer to paint a bigger picture.  Even after that, sometimes they won’t listen…but other times they will.  And when they do, you’ll have won respect from someone that will pay dividends long after you've forgotten about the extra work it took to do the right thing.

  • Finally: Lead, don’t manage.  While "leading" and "managing" share many similar-looking attributes, there is a remarkable difference between great leaders and great managers. As a gross generalization, managers leave at the end of the shift, leaders leave only after the work is done and their team has left; managers find work-arounds for problems, leaders remove the obstacles all together; managers point in the direction their team should go, leaders are out in front demonstrating how to get there.  Don’t get me wrong—great managers are important…but great leaders are essential.  Because the output of the two can look so similar, it’s all the more critical to ensure you resist the easier option of simply managing when a situation calls for leading.

Is this an all-inclusive list?  Probably not, but these are the primary tenets we had in mind when we built the service platform at Atlas.  Yes, that's right—we built an inherently non-human tool to facilitate optimal human behavior based on an excerpt from a prayer.  Here's how: Atlas delivers raw, immediately actionable information, presented in a manner that users trust, understand, and—most importantly—can verify.  Our deployments are organizationally holistic, meaning Atlas is designed so that your sales team will get as much out of the investment as the operations or support or admin or HR teams will—it's designed to enable anyone…and everyone...across an organization.  Finally, we don’t shy away from leading (from the front!).  When we see capabilities that need to be fixed in the tools people use to run their businesses, we build new features to go straight at it.  It’s our duty and's the harder right over the easier wrong.  And we do it for you.

I’d love to hear other ideas that exemplify “taking the harder right over the easier wrong” in the workplace.  In the meantime, if you want to see how we’ve built Atlas’ platform to help avoid these problems, drop by at, or email us at to ask questions or get started. 

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