Why do some leaders win and others fail? | Jim Collins – GLS Session #6

October 19, 2012 1 Comment by Brett Donald

Why do some organizations prevail within struggle while other leaders fail?

Jim Collins opens his session with a very interesting story about Roald Amundsen and his team that travelled across Antarctica while another team that went at the same time all died.

This is the question that his newest book, Great By Choice addresses.  They studied small companies that went from small to great 10x faster than other similiar companies.

 What makes a leader win?

A. The Leader is a Level 5 Leader.  A Leader with ambition but humility.

B. But there are Three Distinctive Leadership Behaviors that are present in these winning leaders.

  1. Fanatic Discipline
  2. Empirical Creativity
  3. Productive Paranoia

Nationally Acclaimed Business Thinker & Author

A passionate speaker with an intense stare and great mind, Jim is a relentlessly curious student of enduring great companies. He is the author of the leadership classics Built to Last and Good to Great.   http://www.jimcollins.com/



1. Fanatic Discipline

  • The “20 mile march” approach.  The idea that if marching across the nation, don’t go more on a good day and less on a bad day but be disciplined to march a consistent 20 miles each day!
  • Every individual would benefit from having a 20 mile march.  Turning good intentions into great results.
  • Manage yourself in good times so you can make it through the bad.
  • Commit to your 20 mile march and hit it consistently.
  • “The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change but chronic inconsistency.” 
  • But discipline alone is not enough.

2. Empirical Creativity

  • “Empirical” is the key word.  Not just creative ideas alone. Do the research.
  • It is the genius of the “and.”  Blend creativity and discipline.
  • Creativity is not the hard part.  Discipline is.
  • The real skill is to marry creativity and discipline in such a way that discipline adds to creativity rather than destroying it.

3. Productive Paranoia

  • Take the paranoia and translate it into preparation
  • It is what you do before you are in trouble, before difficult times come that makes the difference.
  • Consider how you manage in good times so that you can be strong when people most need you.

 Great leadership is not about what is done to us but what we do.  It isn’t what happens to a leader that sets them apart but what they do when the unexpected, surprising, difficult, miraculous, or “lucky” times occur that makes the difference.

As a church planter & urban missionary with CityLights I blog on mission, leadership, and various aspects of church ministry.  Follow me on twitter or subscribe to this blog. If you blog, please leave your addy in your comment so I can check it out.  Cheers, 


1. What stood out most to you from Jim’s talk?

2. 20 mile march idea.  What is an area of your life that you think you need to apply this principle of consistent discipline to?


Favorite Collins Quotes:

  • “I have been married for 32 years and I consider that a great start.”
  • “The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change but chronic inconsistency.”
  • “even I can’t quantify an aura” 
  • “Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance.  Greatness is firstly a matter of conscious choice and discipline”
  • “your organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without you”


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