“You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.”
~Harry S. Truman
This book, published in 2001, is one of my favorite books to recommend both to for-profit corporations and nonprofit organizations. Jim Collins shares his research on many businesses in this book and tracks the trajectory of success that they took. What he attributes as the most important attribute to success, and why this book works for businesses and nonprofits, is leadership.
First off, let’s clarify the title. Collins argues in the very first line that “Good is the enemy of great.” We settle for good, or good enough and let great pass us by. It’s a very poignant statement that makes you take a good long look at your business practices to see if indeed you are striving for greatness and have a very clearly stated objective.
Beyond many of the factors we can study and determine to be reasons for success in the marketplace, Collins research showed him and his team that it is the leader. The person driving the bus will make all the difference in the world to a company.
He identifies what he calls the Level 5 Leader. These are the people that embody the quote by Harry S. Truman above. They put their egos aside for the greater goal of the company. Collins looks at companies that take off when these leaders come into power. Their interests are for the company or organization and not for their own recognition. He describes a Level 5 Leader as a person who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” (p. 20)
I know what you’re thinking, there are companies that have done very well without a Level 5 Leader at the helm, but they mostly do not sustain success under an ego-driven leader. Collins offers Chrysler under the leadership of Lee Iacocca as an example. Iacocca was brought in by Chrysler Corporation in the late 1970s to save the company from ruin. He was successful in reviving the company and once the acclaim for his success led him to focus on writing a book that sold seven million copies, speaking engagements on television and behind podiums, and flat-out fame in the business world, the company did not sustain it’s meteoric recovery. “[I]n the second half of his tenure, Chrysler’s stock fell 31 percent behind the general market.” (p. 29)
The book is a great read and I have only pointed out the tip of the iceberg—I didn’t tell you anything about the BHAG! If you are interested in leading anyone—as a CEO or as a volunteer, I highly recommend “Good to Great.” You can buy it here. I encourage you to learn more about the authoron his website.
A special thanks to Gina Maguire who recommended the book to me back in 2005.