Follow Graham

Join TEC 31 or KEY 112


« How to keep your staff motivated in 2016 | Main | Newsflash: No one person has the answer to all your questions »

Discipline is the mark of an effective leader

Jim Collins is one of my favourite business writers. He has taught at Stanford University as well as researched and written about successful companies in “Built To Last” and “Good to Great”. One of the things I learned from these books is that one does not have to be a particular type of person to be a successful leader. Loud leadership and quiet leadership can both be effective.

One feature in his writing is that his insights are the result of a team of researchers he employs in what he calls a “management laboratory” at Boulder, Colorado. Here he conducts research and teaches executives from the corporate sector.

Ten years after the worldwide bestseller “Good to Great”, Jim Collins brings us another groundbreaking work. This time he asks: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?

Based on nine years of research, supported by rigorous analysis and filled with anecdotes, Collins and colleague, Morten Hansen, outline the principles for building a great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times.

With a team of more than twenty researchers, Collins and Hansen studied companies that out-grew their competition by at least ten times over fifteen years, in environments characterized by forces and shifts that leaders could not predict or control.

The research team then contrasted these “10x companies” to a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to achieve greatness in similarly extreme environments.

The study results were full of provocative surprises. One key conclusion is that the best leaders were not more risk taking, more visionary, and more creative than the comparisons; rather they were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid.

In other words they were less likely to gamble the future of the company with a project, product or plan which might help them hit the jackpot.

They did not have a better crystal ball than any competitor.

They did not employ a better team of creative geniuses to impress the customer.

Instead they focused on analysis; observing and researching what the numbers were telling them in their companies and in their markets. Then they were more disciplined in implementing their plans and seeing them through. Sometimes that means tough management – dealing with the folk who are not completely signed up to implementing the plan.

When you observe a leader, it is easy to see how disciplined they are. You can rely on disciplined leaders to get things done. Disciplined leaders seem to do the things that other people can’t do or don’t want to do. Disciplined leaders back their judgement and stay the course – but re-set the course if the evidence before them changes.

How many of us have the courage to stay the course when it looks as if the plan is not working? My take-out from Collins’ work is this: If you have put together a good plan based upon sound research and empirical observation – rather than guesswork and intuition – then we as leaders must use our powers of effective communication to convince others around us to stay on track.

Reader Comments (1)

blog is too good and its helpful for readers really nice blog...

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>

Graham Jenkins | | 0403 396 665