Jim Collins is one of my favourite leadership writers. Books like Built to Last and Good to Great are leadership classics, and have certainly shaped the way I act and think. Jim was on great form at the recent GLS (Global Leadership Summit) discussing his latest book Great By Choice. He picked up on three characteristics of companies that remained great in difficult economic times. Those traits were:
- Fanatic Discipline – Don’t wait for the right conditions to put the miles in. Don’t over-stretch.The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.
- Empirical Creativity – making smart bets. Fire bullets not cannonballs. One cannonball may come off but if all your eggs are in that basket (to mix metaphors) it’s an incredibly risky strategy. Instead fire bullets – lots of them. Calibrate your line of sight. Find what works. Then fire a cannonball at it. Discipline needs to amplify creativity not destroy it.
- Productive paranoia – having safety nets in place for when times are tough. Cash reserves, contingencies etc. You still need to innovate and take some risks, but bet smart.
And here are three more great one liners from the man himself:
The greatest danger is not failure, but to be successful without understanding why?
Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance, but a matter of conscious choice and discipline.
Your organisation is not truly great unless it is great without you.
If you missed Collins at the GLS you can hear him talk about these same sorts of things on his most recent appearance on the Catalyst podcast (for FREE!!!)