Reaching Greatness

Humility and fanatical discipline are key, says author Jim Collins

Published in CSP Daily News

SALT LAKE CITY -- There is a point in rock climbing where one confronts a life-taking decision: pull back and retreat or take the climactic step that could result in ascendance or free fall. For Jim Collins, there is no retreat. Nor is there for businesses he defines as great.

Thus, the peripatetic author of today's business-transforming Good to Great book challenged several hundred retailers and suppliers at Monday's annual Outlook Leadership Conference held by the Leadership Network Corp. CSP is the founding sponsor of the event being held through [image-nocss] today in Salt Lake City.

The challenge? The problem? Good is the enemy of great, Collins surmised. It is one of the key reasons that we don't truly have a lot of things that are great. Most companies will never become great simply because they're already goodand are content with that. Such is the lesson in much of life, he said, noting that among 1,435 companies he and his team of chimps, Curious George-type researchers, have worked with, only 11 reached the level of greatness.

The sad truth is most people will get to the end of their lives and have to accept the horrifying fact that they didn't have a great life because they simply pursued the good life, he said. I'm here to challenge you on the difference between great and good and how greatness can endure.

Learn more about what Jim Collins has to say about the c-store channel and business leadership in tomorrow's CSP Daily News and in the October issue of CSP Magazine.

Among Collins insights, he noted that great companies think first about who, then about what. I'm not going to figure out where to drive this bus until I've figured who should be on this, and who should be off of this, and who should be in the key seats.

First who, then what, he said, repeating the mantra several times, underscoring that too many companies mistakenly focus on objectives before determining whether they have the right people aboard. The challenge to all of you, before you leave here is: What' are the key seats on your bus or minibus? And do you have 100% of your key seats filled by the right who'?

Ultimately, to have the right people in the right seats on the right bus requires the right driver; that is, the right leader.

Among the attributes Collins identified among Level 5 leadersthe truly great executivewere fanatical discipline and humility. [For] the greatest corporate executives in the history of the Fortune 500, the singular (unifying) dimension is their humility, a humility of a very special type. It's not a humility that is meek or quiet. But [one that is] defined as ambition first and foremost for the cause, for the company, for the work, not yourself.

Combine [that] with the absolutely brutal-stoic will to do whatever it takes to make good on that ambition. Level 5 are relentless will' people.