[This post is a part of a series of notes from Catalyst 2011]
Jim Collins started out his session sharing with us that he was nervous. He wasn't nervous about the fact that he was speaking in front of 13,000 people. He was nervous because the content of his talk was in large portion new material. Jim Collins has a new book entitled Great by Choice, which is what his talk was based on.
The main premise of both his new book and this talk was the question, "Why do some leaders and organizations thrive in times of uncertainty and chaos?" Jim Collins and his team tried to answer this question by looking at leaders and organizations that did well in difficult times, while others failed. Through loads of research and data they were able to pull out several principles that seemed to carry throughout the leadership of those who were successful in times of chaos while they lacked in the leaders of failing organizations.
Characteristics of Those Who Are Great by Choice
Level 5 Humility. Being a successful leader is not about having a magnetic personality, but having an unbelievable humility. This level of humility channeled into a mission or cause is key to all leaders and organizations that continue to thrive in an environment that others often fail.
Fanatic Discipline. The great leaders are fanatic about having disciplines in place. Jim talked about the concept of a "20 mile march." Great leaders will have the discipline to push when it's difficult and not do too much when things are going easy.
Empirical Creativity. The great leaders are not great because of innovation. The best leaders seek creative solutions not by creative inspiration, but by looking at empirical evidence.
Productive Paranoia. Those who show characteristics of this are always asking the question, "What if?" The paranoid leader works and prepares for situations that seem unlikely because he or she knows that "the only mistakes you learn from are the ones you survive."
There's a lot more than Jim shared throuhgout the session, I felt like I could write down almost every statement he made. He shared some great action steps for leaders to do; if you want to spend more time listening to this I highly recommend checking out the Catalyst Experience Kit.