The Power of Commitment

Sam Silverstein Blog

I recently gave a speech in Long Beach, California. I arrived early the day before, which meant I had time to enjoy the nice weather, beautiful views, and great food of that fair city. A friend of mine happened to mention that I should visit the Queen Mary cruise ship, a beautiful reminder of an elegant way to travel the world, now retired in Long Beach and used as a hotel. Hearing the ship’s name brought on a strange wave of emotions. Before my friend had finished speaking, I knew I had to go.

A quick online search confirmed that daily tours were available. I walked to the pier.

The tour guide shared various historical tidbits about this famous ship. One was that the Queen Mary, along with the Queen Elizabeth, is credited with shaving between one and one and a half years off of World War II because of the number of soldiers they were able to transport speedily to Europe from Canada, Australia and the United States. Another nugget of information the tour guide passed along was that the last Atlantic crossing before the Queen Mary was converted to a military transport begin on August 30, 1939 in Southhampton, England.

What the tour guide didn’t know was that my grandfather and his family had a role in that final transatlantic sailing.

This was well after the infamous Kristallnacht in Germany, the night windows were shattered, buildings were burned and destroyed, and people were killed. My Grandfather took Kristallnacht as his cue to protect his loved ones. He smuggled his family into Switzerland. Initially was only able to get his wife and two children out of Germany — not himself. After three tries, and using a passport that he had personally forged, he eventually made his way to join them in Switzerland. Then, after significant bargaining, he was able to transport his family across France to Cherbourg where in the summer of 1939, they boarded the Queen Mary and, after a long ocean voyage, came to safety in the United States on the final Atlantic civilian crossing before the vessel was converted to military use.

That’s the ship I was visiting that day in Long Beach. The ship that saved my family’s life.

Whenever I think of accountability, I think about my grandfather.

I look back on what he accomplished nearly eighty years ago and I think, “That’s what real commitment looks like.” He was totally committed to doing whatever he had to do to ensure the safety of his family. He was absolutely locked in on that outcome. There was simply no other alternative to success … which in this case meant getting his family to America. He was committed to leading them to safety, and then to positioning them to achieve their fullest potential and live their lives successfully.

Do you know what else comes to mind when I think of that ship my grandfather made his way onto nearly eight decades ago? Some big questions about business and the power of Commitment. For instance:

  • What would it be like if you felt that your boss, your leader, felt that same level of commitment to you as an employee that my grandfather felt for his family?
  • What would happen if the leader of your organization was just as committed to you as an individual as my grandfather was to his family?
  • What if the leader of your organization was just as locked in to protecting and caring for people as my grandfather was?
  • What if that leader was willing to be 100% committed to your safety, to your growth as a person, and to your success as an employee?
  • Why does that level of commitment have to be limited to the family?
  • Why can’t it be that way in a business?
  • What if the leader of your organization decided there were simply no alternative to giving you what you needed to succeed?
  • What would be possible for you, for your team, for your company, if the leader was 100% committed to each and every one of its employees, at the level my grandfather was committed?
  • What would you commit to accomplish for such a leader?

It is only the commitment from the leader to their people that creates accountability in the leader. That’s what creates the desire to be accountable in the people they lead: 100% commitment from the top. That’s what inspires people to thrive, grow to be their best, and, in the process, help the organization to grow to be its best. Commitment is what makes the greatest journeys possible.