Good to Great
For six years, Jim Collins and his 21-member research team studied 1,435 organizations on the Fortune 500 list to identify great business practices of organizations that continuously increased profitability for at least 15 years and had global competition.
The team settled on 15 years as their research criteria to avoid "pockets" of good luck. The team found 11 organizations that had beat the general stock market by an average of seven times -- twice the results delivered by the world's media-blitzed companies such as General Electric, Merck, Coca-Cola, and Intel.
This book introduces several great ideas but Jim's classification of Level 4 and Level 5 leaders is an extremely valuable insight for all organizational members and business students alike.
Jim Collins defines Level 5 Leaders as individuals who have extreme personal humility, modesty and a ferocious hope and resolve to do whatever it takes to make a great company. They channel their ego needs away from themselves. Abe Lincoln is such a leader. Ambition of Level 5 leaders is for the institutional success.
Collins describes leaders of comparison organizations as having concern with their own reputation and identified these individuals as Level 4 Leaders. Some of the Level 4 leaders described often use the word "I" a great deal, buy trophies to market their personal success, and attribute the organizational greatness to their own efforts.
Collins uses Lee Iaccoca as an example of a Level 4 Leader. During the first half of his term as CEO of Chrysler, he was totally focused on Chrysler's success. A stock market analyst called him the greatest turnaround CEO in history. Then Iacocca started appearing on The Today Show and Larry King Live sharing his turnaround story. He personally starred in over 80 commercials and entertained the idea of running for president of the U.S. He once made the comment that he could handle the national economy in six months. He wrote two books that sold 7 million copies. In the meantime, the stock of Chrysler fell 31% behind the general market.
Collins points out that the leadership brilliance of Iacocca did not sustain after he changed his focus from Chrysler to himself. He was not a level 5 Leader by Collins' definition.
Collins provides numerous examples of Level 5 leaders. Collins introduces an argument that organizations must define a single product or service that outshines the competition. He stresses that hiring the best talent is foremost in value and the importance of keeping great talent is critical even if they need to be moved into other positions to "bloom." His research examples provide several strategies that have helped organizations make the leap from good to great and other strategies that do not.
Jim Collins previous book, Built to Last, was on the best seller list for four years. As an Organizational Behavior professor, I speculate this book will introduce significant behavior changes in organizations and will certainly be included the business courses that I teach!
Freda Turner, Ph.D. is a researcher of best business practices and is affiliated with the Doctoral and Graduate Studies programs at University of Phoenix and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.