Great Companies, Humble Leaders, One Pointed Business Determination
Focus in Business
It is interesting to be re-reading an article on Level 5 Leadership by Jim Collins, summarising the results of a five year project on companies that went from good to great and then sustained that greatness. He wrote a best selling book about this work — you have probably read it.
I have seen companies develop and mature, but it is that sustainability that is critical. Companies not capable of sustaining greatness falter and then flip-flop through periods of ordinary performance, good performance and occasional great performance.
Although Jim wrote this article some years ago, his summary findings continue to resonate today. At the beginning of his research into the organisations, his team was not focused on the leadership, in fact they discounted the leadership. But it became evident to them that the great companies had one thing in common — a very unique style of leadership. This blend of personal humility with a fierce sense of direction and unwavering determination built companies with the following characteristics:
People First, then Strategy.
If the people are the right people, then the strategy will be the right strategy. These leaders got the right people on the bus, moved the wrong people off, ushered the right people to the right seats, and then figured out where to drive the bus.
Realism with Optimism
The right people dealt in both realism — the most brutal and honest facts about the current situation at any given time — and in optimism — that they would prevail in the end. It is this strategic acumen with their fierce determination that provided the basis for sustainability.
Great organisations do not happen overnight. Rather it is like relentlessly pushing the a giant heavy flywheel in one direction. At first it is tough, but with that fierce persistence it turns once, twice, three times, and eventually gains momentum and continues in that direction with only a guiding force applied. When a company lurches from side to side with whole-scale changes, reactionary moves and restructurings, this breakthrough momentum is hard to achieve.
Great companies know that the focus remains on only three things: What the company does best, what inspires its people and what is the best economic model for their business. The same approach is taken to technology. Rather than early adopters, great companies invest in carefully selected technologies that accelerate that flywheel.
Disciplined people, disciplined thought and disciplined action build excellence. With disciplined people, a company does not need hierarchy. When it has disciplined thought it does not need bureaucracy. When it has disciplined action it doesn’t need excessive controls.
And when you combine the discipline of leadership with an ethic of entrepreneurship you get the magic of great performance.
It begins with the right people with the right skills, the right attitude and the right values
Jim was very clear in his book and this article. Without the right people in the right positions, greatness is beyond the reach of most companies. The “right people” are those with the traits and behaviours that naturally bring into being the other five characteristics of greatness. Most of these are paradoxical in nature – personal humility with professional fierce will; a focus on current facts, figures and analysis with a long term vision and an incurable optimism, an indomitable persistence with constant innovation; business assertiveness with a warmth and empathy for people, a comfort with one’s self with a constant desire to continue to grow and develop.
We use Harrison Assessments Talent Solutions to assist companies choose the right people and usher them into the right seats. Click here for your Free Report. Read more about Harrison’s use of Paradox Technology here.