What it really takes to be great

By | November 5, 2006

In the October 30, 2006 issue of FORTUNE, Geoffrey Colvin cited Boeing CEO James McNerney as one of the 13 peak performers in the cover story on “Secrets of Greatness“. Somewhere in the interview, McNerney responded to the question of whether great performers in any field tended to receive a lot of early encouragement from their parents by saying that he’s unafraid to expect a fair amount from people.

He also added that, “It probably made me, as my wife tells me, a little overfocused, a little insensitive, a little too goal-oriented, but that’s part of the package.” [emphasis mine]

Sorry, James, but that’s not part of the package. The myopic definition of greatness that McNerney, or for that matter FORTUNE, seemed to implicitly advocate is what reduced life to an endless chase of goals and objectives that had diametrically opposite effects on people for whom such greatness should really matter.

Executives like McNerney may be great performers in business, but they are not so great as human beings.

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4 thoughts on “What it really takes to be great

  1. Anonymous

    perhaps before you characterize a guy as a “bad human being” you should meet him on a personal level and not just read about him. i am sure your critical commentary simply comes from jealousy of his success (and your lack thereof) but you don’t need to reduce yourself even further to personal attacks.

  2. Anonymous

    perhaps before you accuse the author of making personal attacks, you should read his post again. he said “not so great as human beings”, not “bad human being”. the point being, if i may speculate, that some of the executives who are very driven in work may not be good family man or good parent. i am sure your defensive comment comes from jealousy of his comprehension (and your lack thereof), but you should let go of your personal insecurity and see things as they are.

  3. Anonymous

    my point was that i know from personal experience that he is a very good family man and a good parent

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