Greater Than Yourself: The Ultmate Lesson of True Leadership

Greater Than Yourself: The Ultmate Lesson of True Leadership

Greater Than Yourself: The Ultmate Lesson of True Leadership

Greater Than Yourself: The Ultmate Lesson of True Leadership


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Too many people assume the timeless principles of true leadership—of helping others achieve their full potential—don’t apply Monday through Friday during work hours or in any circumstance where a paycheck is involved.

In GREATER THAN YOURSELF, Steve Farber proves them wrong: in this powerful and inspiring story, Farber shows that the goal of a genuine leader is to help others—teammates, employees, and colleagues—become more capable, confident, and accomplished than they are themselves. Through the actions of a forward-thinking and extraordinarily successful CEO, Farber reveals the three keys to achieving this: Expand Yourself, Give Yourself, and Replicate Yourself.

This new edition includes a special afterword by UCSD’s Dr Alan Daly and Neville Billimoria featuring the social science behind the concept of Greater Than Yourself.

Filled with actionable principles and innovative ideas, GREATER THAN YOURSELF is perhaps the most powerful message today’s business leaders can learn.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385522618
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/03/2009
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

STEVE FARBER, the president of Extreme Leadership, is a leadership consultant and speaker, and the author of the national bestseller The Radical Leap, and The Radical Edge. He lives in San Diego, California.

Read an Excerpt

I'm not really sure what to call it when things line themselves up without my slightest knowledge or influence. It's as if someone is executing a preconceived plan to make all the random pieces of my life fit together. What is it? Karma? Kismet? Synchronicity? I don't know, but it happens to me a lot, and more often than not it works out well. I just seem to meet the right teachers at the right time.

I've been blessed (maybe that's the word) with the opportunity to work with some of the world's preeminent thinkers in business leadership--like Tom Peters and Jim Kouzes, to name a couple. And in recent years, under extremely odd and seemingly fortuitous circumstances, I've learned directly from some of the masters of what I've come to know as Extreme Leadership--like William Maritime and Agnes Golden and Ted Garrison, names that'll be familiar to readers of my previous books. All of them, in their own ways, taught me that real leadership is not about calling yourself "leader"; rather, it's about taking up the cause to change some piece of the world for the better. Real leadership, in other words, is an extreme act rooted in love and motivated by a desire to create a better world--whether it's the world of your company, team, neighborhood, or family. Simply put, real leadership is Extreme Leadership.

I've done a pretty good job of conveying the Extreme Leadership lessons I've learned along the way, and I think that's why I've made a bit of a name for myself in certain circles. Some have even used the words Steve Farber and leadership guru in the same sentence, which, although gratifying to my ego, makes me squirm like I have a load of wet worms in my socks.

Right teachers. Right time. Odd circumstances.

I was thinking I should print that on my business card, because it seemed to happen over and over again.

I was back in my apartment on the bay side of the Mission Beach area of San Diego. The ocean and its frenetic boardwalk were a couple of blocks to the west, but calm, tranquil Mission Bay lay just a few short yards to the east of my building, affording a view through my living room window worthy of a tourist's postcard.

I had returned from Carlsbad a couple of hours earlier, cleared my agenda by taking care of a few time-bound tasks, and was now--finally!--ready to spend some quality time getting intimate with my new companion.

I gingerly placed the tattered, half-a-century-old, mottled brown guitar case on the dining room table. I flipped open the latches, lifted the top, and let my gaze linger over the sunburst-colored curves of my new six-string babe.

Sitting on a bar stool with the guitar propped in my lap, I twisted the tuning knobs until the sound was just right, and fired off a couple of quick blues licks in the key of E. I'd plug it in later; for now I was enjoying the smooth feel of the Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and the muted, rich sound resonating off its unamplified, maple body. I was just about to settle in for a couple of hours of serious playing (which sounds like an oxymoron--but it's not) when something in the case caught my eye. I set the guitar in a stand and got up to take a closer look.

The pink, plush lining on the inside bottom of the case was pulled slightly back at the seam. A small, yellowed piece of paper stuck out from under the fabric. I pinched the corner and pulled on it gently. It slid easily from under the velvet and revealed itself to be a handwritten note.

I felt a voyeuristic jolt similar to what an archaeologist must feel when finding a relic offering a glimpse into another's life, in another time.

"Dear Jessica," the note began. "This guitar is my gift to you. It was made in 1959, thirty-one years before I taught you your first lesson. What a player you've become in just five short years. Now that you're old enough to vote and on your way to school and the distractions of adult life, you'll need this guitar to remind you of your wonderful musical gift. May it help you to become a better player than I could ever hope to be. I have no doubt you will.

"You have brought this old teacher of yours more joy than you could possibly know. I want you to know that I'm very, very proud of you.

"Your friend and teacher, GZ."

"You've been around, haven't you?" I said to the guitar in the stand.

I read the note one more time and tried to imagine the teacher, the student, and the strong bond that had obviously existed between them. It was an unusual thing, that kind of connection. I'd been lucky enough to experience that student-teacher bond in my professional life, and I knew how rare and priceless a thing it could be, so, naturally, I found myself wondering where these people were today and what, if anything, had happened with Jessica's life as a guitarist--or if she even continued playing at all.

The way I figured it, this note was written somewhere around 1995, and if Jessica had just been entering college, that would put her in her early thirties today.

Had GZ's pride been well placed? Had Jessica grown into the kind of adult he'd hoped she would? And why, if their relationship had been as special as the teacher's note implied, had Jessica gone on to sell this wonderful and sentimental gift? You'd think if she'd returned even a little of her teacher's affection, she'd at least have kept the note.

Given my sudden and intense curiosity about all this, I found myself faced with two possible paths: I could either make up imaginary answers to these questions, or I could snoop around to see if I couldn't uncover the real story of Jessica and GZ.

And I bet you can guess which road I traveled by.


Obviously, the name, Jessica, and the initials, GZ, weren't a whole lot to go on, so I did the only thing I could think of at the moment. Vintage guitars get bought, sold, and traded more often than the uninitiated might think. So it was unlikely, to say the least, that Jessica had just walked into the guitar shop and sold it to the proprietor. Nevertheless, I had to give it a shot. I called, asked for the owner of the store, and asked him if he could tell me the name of the guitar's previous owner.

"Sorry," he said. "I really can't help you with that."

"I understand," I said, disappointed. "You have to protect the confidentiality of your customers."

He laughed. "Yeah, I guess I do, but that's not what I mean. I bought it at a local guitar show from another dealer. There's no telling how many times that guitar's changed hands. As for tracking down who owned it last? Well, all I could tell you is good luck with that."

I thanked him and was just about to hang up when he asked me to hold on for a second.

"I don't know if this'll help you," he said. "But there was a guy in here the other day asking about that same guitar. Said he had a friend that used to have one just like it, and that he may be interested. But he hasn't come back yet."

My heart did a little zippity-zip. I wondered if that ever happened to the Law and Order guys when they got a lead. "You wouldn't happen to know his name, would you?"

"Dude," he said. "What kind of a salesperson do you think I am? Of course I took his name. Hold on . . ."

He left me hanging for a minute while I listened to him rustle through some papers.

"Here it is: Charles Roland."

"That's great," I said, and spelled the name back to him.

"And I bet you want his number, too, don't you?"

"I love you," I said.


I left a message on Charles Roland's voice mail. I told him briefly about the guitar and the note, and requested that if, by chance, he might know anything about any of this, that he please give me a call or drop me an e-mail. I left all my contact info and, not expecting any kind of response, figured that would be the end of the line for my fleeting life as a private investigator.

So, with my fantasy tucked neatly away with my guitar and the note folded in my shirt pocket, I decided to take a scenic drive up the coast and enjoy the impending sunset. I got in my car, headed up through La Jolla, and soon found myself entering the posh and charming little town of Del Mar. It had been a while since I'd stopped to fully take in the spectacle of the sun disappearing over the western horizon, so I decided to treat myself to a late-afternoon appetizer at Il Fornaio and watch Mother Nature's show from atop the Del Mar Plaza.

I parked the car in the lot and took the elevator to the open courtyard on the top floor, which offered a spectacular panoramic view of the blue water shining brilliantly in the light of the descending sun. I stepped up to the open-air bar at the restaurant, ordered calamari and a Diet Coke with lemon, and found an open table pushed up against the glass wind barrier.

I took a quick moment to scan the e-mail on my iPhone and saw that I had a recent message. My chest thumped when I read the subject line: "A response from Charles Roland." Polite and formal in his tone, Mr. Roland wrote that he was "surprised and delighted" to hear about that note and that, yes, he did know the people involved and would love to meet me so he could see it firsthand.

So, there it was. Easy as pie, I thought.

After a couple of terse, back-and-forth e-mails, we agreed to meet the next morning at a coffee shop in Pacific Beach, just a mile or so up Mission Boulevard from where I lived.

So, the following morning found me at Peet's Coffee, sitting at an outside table, and sipping a double shot mocha while I watched the early morning traffic. The ocean was just a block away and the salt smell was, thankfully, much stronger than that of the exhaust fumes. The marine layer fogged out the sunshine, and as the caffeine lifted the fog from my brain, I considered the meeting that was just about to take place. I was surprised at how excited I was to hear about Jessica and GZ. You'd almost think I didn't have any friends of my own.

"Good morning, Mr. Farber."

I looked up at, I assumed, Charles Roland.

"And you would be Charles Roland?" I said, rising politely from my chair.

"That I would," he said as we clasped hands.

Charles's appearance was unusual in that there wasn't anything unusual about his appearance. He was the kind of guy who'd easily blend in with the fortysomething suit-and-tie kind of crowd--not exactly the profile of the typical San Diego beach collection, but I figured that he was on his way to the office and was dressed for that world, not this.

He wore his dark brown hair in a conservative cut that gave the impression that he visited his barber every couple of weeks. His white shirt was starched and crisp and pressed in a way that, no matter what I did or had done to them, my shirts would never conform to. He wore a simple gold band on the ring finger of his left hand. With his gray suit and dark, patterned tie, I assumed Charles Roland must be some kind of a corporate stiff. An office drone in worsted wool.

Let me just say in my own defense that I am not a judgmental person by nature. I am, I would like to think, one of the more accepting people you'll ever meet, and I say that with utmost humility. In other words, my rush to judgment here was entirely out of character. Looking back on it now, I missed some of the more subtle signs of Charles Roland's demeanor, which, in retrospect, should have been as obvious as a tuba.

I offered to get him a coffee and he declined.

"So, Mr. Roland," I started in cautiously, "this is such a strange scenario. Kind of romantic in a way, isn't it?"

"I suppose so," he said, almost mechanically. "And please call me Charles. May I see the note?"

I handed it to him and watched him read. Except for a very slight rising of the eyebrows, his face was emotionless.

He handed the note back to me, saying nothing.

"So . . ." I just couldn't read this guy. "Jessica and GZ," I said into the awkward silence. "What can you tell me about them?"

"May I be blunt, Steve?" It must have been a rhetorical question, because he didn't wait for my answer. "I'm not so sure I am ready to do that."

That was the last thing I expected Charles Roland to say. "What do you mean?" I said, shocked. "I thought that's why you came to meet me."

"I said I'm not sure I'm ready yet. I didn't say no."

I waited for him to continue.

"I checked you out last night, Steve. Looked through your Web site, read some of your articles and an excerpt from one of your books. I think I have a pretty good sense of who you are--professionally, anyway."

"Okay. Good, I guess. But what's my work got to do with this?"

"You'll find it's got everything to do with it--that is, if you are who your materials claim you to be."

"Okay," I said, annoyed but still intrigued. "Why are you being so cryptic? Am I going to learn about these people or not?"

"My apologies, Mr. Farber, for being so vague. Here's the situation: For one thing, I'm very protective of the privacy of the individuals involved here--one of them, in particular, with whom I work. I'm sure you understand."

"Okay," I said.

"I don't want to waste their time with a . . . what . . . curiosity seeker. Any interaction with them needs to be . . . I guess I'd call it . . . meaningful for them."

"Meaningful," I repeated.

"Yes. But I believe there's a value in this for you, too, far beyond what you expected when you contacted me."

"Really," I said, more than a little skeptical now. "In what way?"

"I'm referring to a principle that made their relationship so special in the first place. Something was put in place between them that has developed into a philosophy of life that goes way beyond GZ, as you call him, and his young student. And given the kind of leadership work you do, it may be well worth your while to learn and understand the principle before you meet the people behind it. And, in fact, I've been authorized to say that neither one has any interest in sharing their story with you until and unless you grasp this principle first. Are you interested, Steve?" Again, he didn't wait for my answer. "Because if you are, I'm willing to teach you about it. And if you're not . . ."


Excerpted from "Greater Than Yourself"
by .
Copyright © 2009 Steve Farber.
Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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