Leadership Summit 2010 | Jim Collins – Never, Ever, Give Up

Posted on August 5, 2010


“Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you.”


RESOURCE: How The Mighty Fall
RESOURCE: Jim Collins Amazon Page
RESOURCE: JimCollins.com

Through Build to Last and Good to Great we took a look at the positives of enduringly great companies and organizations. Then we took a look at the dark side, kind of a study and obsession with studying trainwrecks.

Anyone can fall. And many do.

They fall through a series of stages, at least through the lens of our analysis. And, maybe you can be sick on the inside, and still be strong on the outside; a sickness that is hard to detect early and easy to cure, but easy to detect late, and hard to cure.

The disease analogy is helpful, but is wrong in one way…these [following] stages are largely self-inflicted.

The decline is more a matter of what you do to yourselves, rather than what happens to you.

These are the five stages of “How The Mighty Fall.”

1. Hubris born of success. “Outrageous arrogance that inflicts suffering on the innocent.” Outrageous arrogance to neglect our original calling, to believe that our success was derived entirely of our own doing. Believing that just because our intentions are good, and our purpose noble, our decisions must be necessarily good. Bad decisions taken with good decisions are still bad decisions.

The antithesis? A special type of leadership exemplified in Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark (“I was just trying to become qualified for the job.”), Anne Mulcahy of Xerox (“I was an accidental CEO”), and Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, (“When the going gets weird, the weird become CEOs.”) What do these three share in common? It is not about them. And they never, ever, give up. They are “Level 5 Leaders.” The greatest leaders in our study, their signature was their humility. And that humility is not soft, but rather an absolute burning passion to do whatever it takes no matter how painful, for the sake of the cause, enterprise, work, values, and it is that combination of humilty and disciplined will that makes the Level 5.

2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More. Overreaching, going too far, too much growth, expansion, etc. “undisciplined.” How would you know if you’re overreaching? Breaking “Packard’s Law”=if you allow growth to exceed your ability to have enough of the right “fantastic” people, in the key seats, to execute, you will fall. Regulate growth, and regulate reach, by asking the question, “do we have all the seats filled with fantastic people, and if it’s “no,” then we do not move until we have them.”

3. Denial of Risk and Peril. The critical thing is the “denial.” When a culture of denial takes hold, then we are fully in stage 3. Again, from the outside, you look great, which makes it easy to deny. Look at the following table. Are we a team on the way up, or are we a team on the way down?

Never confuse faith and facts…never give up with the discipline to confront the brutal facts today.

4. Grasping for Salvation. You, nor anyone else in the world can deny the fact that you are falling. A search begins, looking for a silver bullet. Greatness is never a single event…it is a cumulative process, what is called the “flywheel” effect. It does not happen any other way.

By the way, you can come back from stage 4.

5. Capitulation unto irrelevance or death. It’s over.

So, what is the total antithesis of stage 5?

All 18 companies of the Built to Last are still stand alone companies today. With an average of over 100 years of endurance, why? In the face of the constant demise, why are they still standing? One of those great questions…and I live for great questions.

Because they had a reason to endure the struggle. If it’s just success, if it’s just money, it’s not enough. They have an answer to the question,

“What would be lost if we disappeared? Would we leave behind a gaping hole if we went away? We must continue the struggle. We have to endure.”

In our research, we found again, they are driven by purpose beyond money and success [VIA: reminds me of “Drive” by Daniel Pink] That purpose rooted in core values. Imagine, in your work, the power of values and purpose. We find a paradox. Core values are not open for question, for change,…they separate what we stand for…but on the other hand, they recognize the signature of mediocrity is not the unwillingness to change, but chronic consistency. You have to be willing to change.

“The ability to hold to opposing thoughts in the mind and still hold the ability to function.” [VIA: reminds me of “The Upside of Tension” by Andy Stanley]

Preseving the Core & Stimulate Progress. It is the “and” that holds it together.

10 specific to do’s:

1. Do your diagnostics. (www.jimcollins.com) “the good to great diagnostic tool.”

2. Count your blessings, literally…in a spreadsheet. Do not stop until you have at least a hundred. Why? When we begin to account for all the good things that happened to us that we did not cause, all the success we did not cause, it’s humbling. Count.

3. What is your questions-to-statements ratio, and can you double it? The great leaders don’t know the answer, and they know they don’t know the answers. That’s why they have great questions. “Why don’t you invest more time in being interested.”

4. How many key seats do you have on your bus? What percentage of those seats are filled with the right people?

5. Do your “teams on the way up” and “teams on the way down” diagnostic.

6. Assemble and create, in your next meeting, an inventory of the brutal facts.

7. Write a “stop doing” list. A culture of disciplined people begins not with what we do, but with what we have the discipline to stop doing.

8. What do you mean by great results? Define and demonstrate clicks on the flywheel.

9. Double your reach to young people, by changing your practices without changing your core values.

10. Set a BHAG. Realize your purpose.

While having lunch with Peter Drucker, he downed a Merlot, and then downed a double espresso: and I thought, “preserve the core, stimulate progress.” I asked him, “What book are you most proud of?” “The next one.” He replied. As I stared at the Drucker archives of over 25 books he had written…where is 65? One-third of the way through. Never give in,…never give up. The path out of darkness is with those who exasperatingly are constitutionally incapable of capitulation.

— VIA —

I’ve attached here How A Mighty Church Falls – Leadership, 2009-11-29, in case you missed it in November.

I was also struck by Collins’ #9 above, which is one of the first times I’ve heard a value of the young like this at the Summit from a prominent “staff” member of the Summit. I pray more of that happens (as did with Tony Dungy). Once again, I am blessed and impressed with Collins’ rigor and attention to detail. His exhortations are most definitely worth heeding, and at the very least, my prayer is that more leaders would “humble themselves” and truly be committed to the most important purposes of the Kingdom of God as a result of this talk.