It is the epitome of Western society that becoming and being #1 is thing to drive for.  It is good to be the best in your class no matter what.  But is it really good all the time?  Hardly.  Think of the following.  The German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) has recently announced that it strives to become the #1 automobile manufacturer in the world.  Stock holders may have loved this announcement.  It promises that their stocks may rise and they earn more money.  So far so good.  Actually there is nothing wrong with VW’s ambitions to become the #1 automobile seller.  After all, it is a free market economy.  However, VW’s announcement made me feel uneasy.  Why?  It reminded me too much of Toyota’s effort to become and then stay the #1 a couple of years ago.  Back then Toyota focused most of its efforts on this goal.  And, it was successful.  It took over the reign from GM.  Then the trouble began as more and more quality issues in Toyota’s cars became apparent.  One car after another was called-back for various technical or mechanical issues.  Customer satisfaction dropped significantly when Toyota’s apparently were no longer safe and several people were killed in the US driving Toyotas.  Eventually it was proven that those accidents were not caused by any technical problems but by human error.  It didn’t really matter for Toyota did not react to the public outcry in a way that would have restored confidence.  It blantly said that nothing was wrong with the cars.  It would have been smarter to recall one of Toyota’s past mantras, namely that customer satisfaction was the #1 goal. – In its strive toward becoming the #1 automobile manufacturer worldwide Toyota compromised its innermost values – delighting its customers, quality first.  The results were devastating – both to Toyota and to many customers.

The bottom line:  make sure that your objectives are in sync with your values and purpose.  A goal which does not coincide with your motivational foundation is flawed right from the beginning.
Leaders help build vision and they do so by first understanding the underlying purpose of the mission and they never forget it.

With respect to Volkswagen’s ambition to become the #1 automobile manufacturer it may even be a realistic goal.  However, I am afraid that Volkswagen will fall into the trap of compromising its original strengths, namely quality and customer satisfaction.  Time will tell.  And maybe this time I will be proven wrong.