You are the CEO
Who does not want to be great? Everyone has had the dream to be the next big name like, Bill Gates or Mark Zukerberg. Most business books have lots of numbers, charts, and statistics that most common people cannot understand. Good to Great by Jim Collins is not your typical business book about how to make a great company. Jim Collins tackles the question why some companies make the leap and other do not. Instead of talking about how to read numbers to be successful, or how to create good ideas, Collins talks about leadership. Collins creates a study on leadership based on 28 companies. He has eleven good-to-great companies, eleven comparison companies, and six unsustained comparisons (companies that became great but did not stay great). Collins breaks down the companies from top to bottom through articles, interviews, and research in order to find how leadership succeeded or failed at pushing the company from a good company to a great company.
After introducing his study, Collins starts his analysis at the top with CEOs. He introduces five levels of leadership, with the fifth level being the best type of leadership. Level five leadership starts with humility. "Level 5 leaders display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated. In contrast, two thirds of the comparison companies had leaders with gargantuan personal egos that contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company." (pg 39). A company does not consist of just a CEO, it actually has other people that work. When starting a company, one has to figure out who will be doing what jobs and what is the company working towards and/or for. Collins found that companies that answer the question of who first, as opposed to answering the question what, were the companies that succeeded. One cannot get something done if one does not have the right people first. One cannot have any person. Collins emphasized surrounding oneself with the right people. The right people are helpers that will make a vision come life.
With CEO and people analyzed, Collins looks into the culture and mindset of the companies. Hard times will come for any company, but how the company looks at the hard times is what separates a good company to a great company. Good companies do not face hard facts and try to change numbers to make people believe that they are doing well. Great companies face the hard facts head on and try to fix the problems instead of hiding the problems.
Collins has found the good-to-great companies answered the question who before the question what, but people are not the only thing that make a company great. Their product or service has to just as great and innovative. What pushed certain companies' products or services to be great, not just mediocre? The hedgehog concept is the answer. The hedgehog concept consist of a three circle Venn diagram. To move from good to great, one has to be clear with these three questions. These three questions shape your answer to the question, what? The first question is, what are you deeply passionate about? The second question is, what drives your economic engine? The last question is, what can you be the best at in the world? (Pg 118). Everything from the answering the question, who, is the foundation of the hedgehog concept. A company has to face the hard facts that one may not be the best in the world at something even though the company may want to be the best at. Humility is the key to understanding that you may not be the best and figuring out what one CAN be the best at in the world. Comparison companies did not have the humility to accept that they were not the best and change what they would create or provide. Instead, the comparison companies continued to be mediocre. It takes the right people to not only answer the questions but to persevere with the answers. Comparison companies did not have a hedgehog concept, and even if the company did have the hedgehog, greed or egos muddled the vision of their hedgehog concept which, in turn, stunted the growth of the company.
Most people will not be a CEO at a major company, but size does not make a company. A little league team, a small charity, or even oneself are all companies in the sense that each company wants to build towards greatness. The corporate life may not stimulate one to want greatness, but something else in life will compel one to reach for greatness. It is easy to forget what we are deeply passionate about, what drives us economically, and what we can be the best at in the world. CEOs are not the only ones needing to ask these questions; Everyone needs to be asking these three questions. People complain about not getting promoted, or not doing what they love, because people are not facing the hard facts of their life. Good to Great is not a business book, it is a life book. People face all the same problems that companies face, and Good to Great helps one attack those problems through leadership. We are the CEOs of our own lives. What will you change to become great?