How Do You Define Excellence?

We’re all pursuing excellence, but do we really know what we’re aiming for?

The word “excellence” is tossed around a lot in leadership and creative circles these days, but the truth is, few people really understand what it actually means. Everyone wants to be excellent, and most people associate it with quality, however, real excellence is so much more. Here are a few attributes of excellence that you should consider:


To be excellent means to be relevant. Relevant isn’t about appealing to a young audience or being trendy. Relevance is about selecting the right tool for the job. That simply means that when you’re being excellent, you are using the right strategy to fix the problem. Good decisions are a key component of excellence.


There are many ways to solve a problem, behave, be creative, or lead, but the right way in the right circumstance is the excellent choice. As the #MeToo movement continues to grow, we’re seeing more and more situations where leaders made bad choices—and while those leaders may have been influential at the time, their choices were in no way excellent.


No matter how great the quality of your product, project or action, unless it’s relational, its excellence will be in question. Great leaders understand that they work through people, so it’s never just about making a project or product.


I always include resilience in any conversation about excellence, because the ability to come back after a failure or setback is critical to an excellent outcome. Be tough. Have grit. Stop taking “no” for an answer.

Quality isn’t always the best definition of excellence. Being extraordinary at what you do is only the beginning of the road to excellence. Quality matters, but next time you desire to be excellent, think of the bigger picture, because that’s how people are looking at you.

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Phil Cooke is an internationally known writer and speaker. Through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California, he’s helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use media to tell their story. This article was originally published on Cooke’s blog at