Session 2B – Jim Collins


Jim Collins – Great By Choice

Why do some leaders/organizations prevail in unpredictable, chaotic circumstances while others fail?
The difference in leadership behaviors led to success vs. failure. The X factor of what separates a truly exceptional leader is not personality, but rather humility combined with will.
Three distinctive leadership behaviors
Fanatic discipline
Eg: 20-mile march – imagine you are taking a cross-country march. You stick to a prescribed program no matter what the conditions.
It’s not just about pushing, but also not overextending yourself and leaving yourself vulnerable to the changing conditions. This is also a kind of stewardship. Consecutive, consistent performance. 
Eg: The expansion plan of Southwest.
What is your 20 mile march?  
  • Personal goals: quiet times, prayer, books you will read, marriage goals
  • Corporate goals: leaders developed

What do I need to TODAY to hit the mark with consistency? The signature is mediocrity is not unwillingness to change, but chronic inconsistency.

Empirical creativity
Cf. “Culture Making” by Andy Crouch – creativity based on a understanding of the data of culture. You don’t just become creative. You cultivate creativity by understanding what has happened. Cultivate, then create.

Blend creativity with discipline. Creativity is natural. Discipline is not. Takes savvy to combine discipline so that it doesn’t suffocate creativity.


Productive paranoia

Planning for the unforeseen and unpredictable. Taking the paranoia and translating that into buffers and contingencies when times get tough. How will you manage in times of plenty in case times of difficulty.
Eg: Joseph and Egypt
How much does this get distorted into a lack of faith? What about making room for  divine intervention? Stepping out in faith?

SMaC = simple, methodical, and consistent. Once you figure it out, you follow it. You have the discipline to follow it, the paranoia to consistently examine it (in case it isn’t working), then the data to go out and innovate it. Preserve the core and stimulate progress by changing behaviors and practices.

The Twist:
Think of an event that you didn’t cause, had a potentially significant consequence, and some unpredictability. 
How did you perform when facing that event?
What is the role of luck? In quantifying and defining luck, they defined luck as a specific event that meets the above criteria. Applies to the defn of a miracle. 
Are leaders who succeed the recipients of better luck? No, they were not luckier. Rather, they had the ability to respond to those events and make something of them. 
The bad events are defining moments. How you respond is absolutely determinative for your return on investment. 
On the one hand, they are extremely disciplined, and when unexpected events happen, they zoom out and ask how do we make the most of it rather than squandering it?
As leaders today, are we responsible for our performance or what happens to us? Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance, but rather a matter of conscious choice and discipline. 
Three tests of greatness:
  • Superior performance relative to mission. 
  • Makes a distinctive impact. Who would miss us if we were gone and why?
  • Achieves lasting endurance beyond any one leader. An organization cannot be truly great if it cannot be great without you. It can weather the chaos.

A great life is a meaningful life, and a meaningful life comes from meaningful work done with people you love. 


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