Book Report: Good to Great by jim collins

What I am Learning While Reading Good to GREAT by Jim Collins

Sometimes we look at a company and think, “This company is going to go places” and then it flops. We wonder what caused the downfall.  Was it an economic downturn? Was it the leadership of the company? Was it the employees being inexperienced? 

At other times, a company that appears to just be an ordinary run-of-the-mill company all of a sudden takes off and is hugely successful.  We may wonder, why was it so successful? Was it just an economic upturn? Was it the leadership? Was it the employees?

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great” tackles some of those questions and studies various companies in similar industries and analyzes what he believes are some of the reasons that some companies are good companies while other companies are great companies.

Hopefully my ponderings will be able to help you assess your own company, or the company you work for and be able to see where the various attributes show up. Collins calls the people who lead great companies Level 5 leaders. 

So what does a Level 5 leader look like?  Collins and his team found that a Level 5 leader blends humility, “it’s not about me mentality,” with an intense professional will.  They are not hung up on their ego.  Their ego is channeled into building a great company so people see the company NOT themselves.  They have a blend of humility and will which makes them ambitious for the cause.  The company has effective leadership with a clear vision.  They ensure that there is a competent manager at the helm. They make sure that they have a group effort from the contributing team members. Alternately their workforce is made up of highly capable individuals who are talented and knowledgeable in their field of expertise.

A Level 5 leader is dedicated to making things the best they can be.  They have ambitions for the company.  They set the company up for success.  Their concern is for the company’s success and not for building their own personal wealth.  Level 5 leaders set the company up for success in the next generation.  Above all a Level 5 leader must leave a company that will be successful without him at the helm.

Very often, when Level 5 leaders are asked about the success of the company you won’t hear “I, I, I” from their lips, instead you will hear about their teammates, their board members etc.  They are generally quiet, humble, modest and reserved leaders.

Collins contrasted this with the good companies that tanked and one pitfall he found was that the leaders couldn’t let themselves off the podium,  They wanted to be in the spotlight. They were stuck in the “I” mentality.

The Level 5 leaders had a ferocious resolve and determination to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great. They tend to be fanatically driven with an incurable need to produce results.They don’t accept the idea that “good is good enough.” 

So far this is how far I have gotten in the book so this is where I will stop for now.  If the information provided rings true for you, you may want to read up more on Level 5 leadership.  

Leadership of a company is paramount to the success or failure of the company so pick a great leader. Over half of the great leaders work their way up through the company prior to accepting the leadership role of the company.  A lesser number of great leaders were leaders that were brought into the company from the outside. 

Let me sum up my learnings so far:

  • Level 1 to becoming a great company is having talented, knowledgeable, highly competent individuals at the helm as well as working for the company
  • Level 2 – have a number of contributing team members that provide a group effort to build the company
  • Level 3 – have effective leadership with a clear vision and able to share the vision with the workers
  • Level 4 – have people that blend humility and will and are ambitious for the cause
  • Level 5 – have people that channel their ego into building a great company and not to just shine the spotlight on themselves

I will keep you posted on my learnings as I continue to read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  If you want to read about the many examples he gives to back up his research, you might want to purchase the book for your library. 

Written by Joy Watson

April 14, 2021