In research-driven “Good to Great,” Jim Collins surprised us by demonstrating that humility – not a massive ego – tends to define the greatest leaders. In “Great By Choice,” Collins, with co-author Morten Hansen, again challenges conventional thinking about leadership.
The authors and their researchers studied the question of why some organizations thrive in uncertain times, even chaos. Their findings debunk leadership myths and offer guidance to anybody who wants to keep going when the going gets tough.
They conclude that, even in a turbulent world, successful leaders are NOT more bold, more able to take risks, more innovative or more able to see the future than their peers. Rather, the best leaders are more disciplined, more empirical and more vigilant in managing risks.
While the book is not primarily about business, the authors studied publicly traded companies because of the available performance data. They identified companies that became spectacular performers in the midst of unstable environments. Because these companies all beat the stock market indices for their industries by at least ten times, they called them “10Xers.”
The authors describe four elements that distinguish 10X leaders from their peers:
- Fanatic discipline. 10Xers understand that they face uncertainty but they don’t let that control them. Instead, they accept responsibility for their own fate and commit to certain consistent actions, standards and methods. Even if it means rejecting traditional norms, they define and live within self-defined constraints. They understand that success requires not a sprint, but a “20-mile march,” with an unwavering commitment to keep going no matter what conditions they may face. The approach can build confidence and create a sense of achievement, even when the big picture is less than perfect.
- Empirical creativity. In times of uncertainty most people look to authority figures and others for cues about how to proceed. But 10Xers ignore conventional wisdom and look primarily to empirical evidence. They experiment, test various approaches and observe what works. And then they take decisive action. Empirical validation allows them to make bold moves and at the same time limit their risks.
- Productive paranoia. 10Xers differ from their less successful peers in how they maintain hyper-vigilance in good times as well as bad. They monitor the environment and constantly consider how things might go wrong. They build cash reserves and prepare for worst-case scenarios. And even when there’s a need for speed, they don’t abandon disciplined thought and action.
- Level 5 ambition. At first glance, the nonconformist 10X leaders don’t look much like the “Level 5” leaders described in “Good to Great.” The 10Xers sometimes attracted attention with eccentric behavior, while the typical Level 5 leader deflected attention from himself, maintained a low profile and led with standards rather than inspiring personality. But the 10Xers and Level 5ers share a key trait: it’s not about them. Sure they are ambitious, but their ambition is for the group, the company, the work, the cause, and NOT for themselves.
The authors say that modern culture is infected by the view that greatness owes more to circumstance, even luck, than to action and discipline. But, they say, the evidence stands against this view. The message of their research is this: “Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
Want to explore more issues like this? Contact Bev about workshops or seminars for your group. Meanwhile, visit Bev’s website at www.ClearWaysConsulting.com. Check out brief book reviews, ezine archives and Bev’s Blog. If you have questions or suggestions, email to Bev directly.
Sign up for this ezine! We welcome new subscribers.