“Focus on Your Unit Not on Your Career” – Jim Collins

Jim Collins shares 7 Challenges in the form of 7 Questions. These are Jim’s personal perspectives based on research at West Point Academy and experience with companies and top CEOs.
1. What cause do you serve, with Level 5 Ambition?

Level 5 Ambition (read more in Good to Great) is defined as personal humility with an utterly indomitable will. Leaders must have relentless ambition channeled away from ourselves into a cause more important than us. The soft-spoken founder of Teach for America, Wendy Cox, taught, if you have a charismatic cause, you don’t need to be a charismatic leader. “To serve is to live.”

2. Will you settle for being a good leader or will you grow into being a great leader?

We confuse leadership and personality all the time, but it’s not about power, position or rank. True leadership only exists when people follow you even when they have the freedom not to. Colin Powell has said, “In my 35 years of service I don’t remember telling anyone ‘that’s an order.’” Leadership is not a science, it’s an art.

3. How can you reframe failure as Growth in pursuit of a BHAG?

A BHAG is an acronym for Big Hairy Audacious Goal from the book, Built to Last. Collins shares the story of his good friend making history in his free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan after “failing” for four years. However, his friend said, “I’m not failing, I’m growing. That’s the point of the climb – it’s making me stronger.” We must reframe failure as growth.

4. How can you succeed by helping others succeed?

At West Point Academy students dread and train for the IOCT. An Indoor Obstacle Course Test they must complete in 3:30 to graduate. Many students were helping others who struggled. “We succeed at our very best only when we’re helping others succeed.” This creates an engaged culture and an environment of ‘you are never alone.’ Collins stresses we only succeed by helping each other. This communal success builds meaning.

5. Have you found your Hedgehog – your personal hedgehog?

We must live in the intersection of three circles: You must love what you’re doing, do what you’re made for and genetically encoded for (this is different from what you’re good at) and something where you can make a living and fund your BHAG. That’s when you’ve found your hedgehog.

6. Will you build your Unit – you minibus – into a Pocket of Greatness?

You must focus on your unit of responsibility, and not on your career. Take every opportunity of responsibility and build it into a pocket of greatness. He stresses the “who” over the “what.” Figure out who should be in key seats on the bus. Be rigorous, not ruthless, which means taking care of your people. “For life is people.”

7. How will you change the lives of others?

The greatest leaders find a way to make a contribution and a distinct impact on people. How will some people’s lives be better and different because you were here on this earth?

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