"Great by Choice" by Jim Collins

"Great by Choice" by Jim Collins

Adaptability is key.

The Washington Post just featured an interesting article about self-help author and business guru, Jim Collins. The article centers around the question: Is Jim Collins just lucky? The answer seems to be: maybe. 


The Washington Post writer discusses Collins’ book, Great by Choice, which focuses on what makes great leaders truthfully great. Collins’ answer to what makes a leader great isn’t necessarily what you would think it would be; he describes a great leader as one who is adaptable to changing times and situations and explains that adaptability will be increasingly needed. 

According to Collins, most people expect great leaders to be more “visionary and charismatic, and heroic.” He argues that these qualities can be found in great leaders, but that being visionary, charismatic, and heroic isn’t necessarily enough to be a great leader in today’s day and times. Instead, a great leader needs to be able to move with the small and large changes in a persons’ life. 


I think that the idea of adaptability as a skill is one that would benefit more than just leaders; in today’s tough economy, more and more people are being forced to learn new job skills late in life and are having to learn to adapt to changing technologies and business needs.


Collins’ arguments in Great by Choice aren’t solely based on speculation; the author conducted a study which evaluated the success of a variety of start-up companies and their rates of success. The categories which make a great leader are fairly interesting: fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, productive paranoia and ferocious ambition.


I’m eager to read Great by Choice so that I can understand what exactly the term “productive paranoia” entails as it’s new to me. 


Collins further states that Great by Choice is a kind of blue print for young leaders and future leaders who want to see how to get ahead in their lives. His other idea is that all great leaders need mentors and guides to also show them the way. Even leaders need role models, especially those who are tough on their proteges. Living up to the standards of a hard mentor is not easy, but can be exceptionally rewarding in the eyes of Collins. 


Who was Collins personal mentor? Collins looked up to several mentors, one of whom was business author Peter Drucker who was always striving to improve his writing and his life, even in his twilight years.