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Norm R. Augustine

A former president of the Boy Scouts of America and chair of the American Red Cross, Norm Augustine is the retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation.
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Mind your reputation

Question: You've been asked to give a commencement speech to this year's college graduates about their role as future leaders. Give us the two or three key paragraphs from your address.

First, I would observe that as important as is your new degree, and as important as is your health, there is something far more important—and that is your reputation. Now, I say that not because graduation speakers are expected to say that…rather, I say that because I have had more highly accomplished friends than I care to admit slip-up in the reputational sphere. One can recover from virtually any error in life except an ethical error.

Second, it has been my observation that in most undertakings motivation will beat ability nearly every time. I would hasten to emphasize that the combination of motivation and ability is virtually unbeatable. But in my service on the boards of four Fortune 100 companies, I have been struck by how many of the people who moved into the very top ranks did not have four-digit IQs but rather were highly dedicated to what they were doing and worked very hard and very selflessly doing it.

Third, I believe that when pursuing a career it is important to focus selflessly upon present responsibilities and not worry about “getting ahead.” The great irony seems to be that the best way to “get ahead” is not to try too hard to “get ahead.” Carryout your present responsibilities well and the future seems to take care of itself.

This is post is adapted from a commencement address Norm Augustine recently gave at Penn State.

View all panel responses to our discussion about the best words of wisdom to give this year’s graduates. Here are some of them:

Alan Webber: Do everything on purpose

Marie Wilson: Help a country hungry for its heart

Angel Cabrera: Do good!

Juana Bordas: Transform your community

John Baldoni: Believe in what you can achieve

George Reed: Care enough to lead

Amy Fraher: Commit to ethical thinking

Carol Goman: Rewire your brain

Norm R. Augustine  | May 12, 2011 11:11 AM

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