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The Top Performer’s Field Guide: The Big Picture


“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” -Napoleon Hill

by Jeff Standridge

Marine Corps General Joséph Dunford knows how to achieve mission goals. From the Persian Gulf War to the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dunford has led thousands of Marines into battle. Currently, General Dunford is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff* and responsible for two million members of the military. Considering the average number of employees in a Fortune 500 company is 52,810, Dunford’s leadership reach is staggering. How does he manage to scale his leadership to these levels and still achieve mission goals?

Clarity of intent is the starting point for General Dunford’s leadership style. While speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, Dunford stressed the importance of everyone within an organization, not just those in a leadership capacity, having a firm grasp of the mission at hand. From privates to generals, Dunford believes everyone must be able to answer the following questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • How does this fit into the broader picture?
  • How do my individual responsibilities on a day-to-day basis contribute to that broader vision?

Team members’ ability to place themselves within this context is key. Explaining how individual responsibilities contribute to the mission of the organization rests on continually clear communications from top leaders.

The transformative effects of a mission-driven team mean the difference in having problem solvers and problem identifiers. Anyone can walk into any business and, within a few days, identify problems. When we understand the operation and have a personal stake in the venture’s success, problems get solved. Imagine every member of your team with that sense of mission. What couldn’t be achieved?

The Big Picture: Accelerators

  • What’s the mission of your team? Of your organization?
  • How can you state that mission in a clear, succinct way that is both understandable and actionable?
  • What steps can you take now to ensure your teams identify with the broader mission?

*Dunford served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Oct. 1, 2015 to September, 30, 2019.

READ MORE: The Top Performer’s Field Guide: So, You Want to Be a Top Performer, Huh?

Jeff Standridge

Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author ofThe Innovator’s Field GuideandThe Top Performer’s Field Guide.”  He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas.  Jeff spends the vast majority of his time helping organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at

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