#GLS2015 Session 2: Jim Collins

Live blogging from Willow Creek Global Leadershop Summit.  Italics are my editorial comments.  Everything else is the speaker.  

Learnings from my recent journey to Westpoint Leadership Academy.  I went to teach, but I was the one who got schooled.  I believe that questions are better than answers.  Here are 7 questions:

1. What cause do you serve with level 5 ambition? 

  • Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America: every single kid, regardless of zip code, deserves a high quality education.  The best and brightest among us should serve in the schools most need of renewal.
  • If you have a charismatic cause, you do not need to be a charismatic leader.  Wendy Kopp is quiet and reserved, but her cause is compelling.
  • Level 5 leader: personal humility and an utterly indomitable will.  Ambition for the cause with a service heart.
  • Ego driven leaders inspire people to follow them.  Level 5 inspire people to follow the cause.
  • Westpoint is service with a capital S. All of the cadets know that some of them will die for the cause.

2. Will you settle for being a good leader or will you grow to become a great leader?

  • Drucker: the only alternative to tyranny in 20th century will be organizations well managed.  Collins:  21st century will be networks well led.
  • Colin Powell: in my entire career I have never used the phrase, ‘that’s an order.’  Book, ‘It Worked For Me.’
  • Eisenhower: leadership is getting people to do what must be done.  (Collins: and they need to be right! Also, a leader gets people to want to do what must be done.  This is an art.)
  • Eisenhower did not start out as ‘Eisenhower’ – he started as carrying the bags for General MacArthur.’  Will you do whatever it takes to scale your leadership as the demands of your enterprise grow?

3. How can you reframe failure as growth in pursuit of a BHAG? (Big hairy audacious goal.)

  • If you know for certain that you will accomplish it, it isn’t a BHAG.
  • ‘You don’t understand, Jim.  I am not failing, I am growing.’  The point of attempting the BHAG is growth along the way.  GREAT story of Tommy Caldwell climbing El Capitan Dawn Wall
  • Reframe failure as growth.

4. How can you succeed by helping others succeed?

  • In West Point, everybody is failing at something.  A community of cadets helping each other in the areas where they all need to succeed together.  I would like to imbue every organization with West Point ethos of ‘let me help you.’  You are never alone,  your success is tethered to my success.  Communal success.
  • A triangle relationship of: service, success, growth.
  • It is impossible to have a great life without having a meaningful life.  And a meaningful life comes from meaningful work.

5. Have you found your personal hedgehog?

  • Live in the intersection of 3 circles.  Top circle: passion for what you do.  Second circle: what you are encoded and made for.  This is very different from what you might be good at.  Third circle: economic engine.  Living at the intersection of these 3 is your personal hedgehog.  This gives you the irrational endurance to persist.
  • In 1988, when there was a gathering of Silicon Valley’s top 500 technological innovators, Steve Jobs was not invited.  He was in the wilderness and written off, but during that time, when he spoke to Jim’s Stanford business class, he was full of energy, vision and passion for what he believed in.  Irrational endurance.
  • 1932 Lady Astor: Churchill? Oh, he’s finished.
  • If you believe that life comes down to a single hand, you can get discouraged, but if you see life as a series of hands, and you play them as best you can, and you keep playing those hands, you can become great.

I love that concept.  Collins riffed on a litany of world class leaders who had been written off/failed famously who have shaped the world.  

  • Real creative impact excels, if you choose, after 50 years of age

6. Will you build your minibus into a pocket of greatness?

  • West Point produces great leaders because each unit is great.  Focus on your unit rather than on your career.
  • Be a ‘first who’ leader rather than a ‘first what’ leader.
  • Be rigorous, not ruthless, about people decisions.  In the end, life and leadership is people.

Great moment from Jim: the proudest achievement of my life is my marriage.

  • My wife, iron man champion, trains high school cross country running.  No stars, team sport, everybody serving each other to help everyone succeed.

7. How will you change the lives of others?

  • This is the question.  Maybe many or just a few.  How will some people’s lives be better because you are on this earth?

A moving and heartfelt message from Jim Collins.  Dude has serious game.  

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