If you have an interest in leadership probably you know the name of Jim Collins. Author of Built to Last, Good to Great, and other research-based best-sellers, Collins (no relation to me) has been an astute observer of leadership and a teacher of leadership skills. An Inc magazine article (October, 2013) describes one of these teaching assignments. Collins was invited to give lectures on leadership to West Point cadets at the US Military Academy. Not willing to use past lecture notes, Collins immersed himself in the West Point culture, made seven visits to the campus before giving his lecture, got to know some of the cadets and even joined some of their physically demanding training programs as a participant guest. This example of getting to understand his audience is a model for all of us who want to be great communicators able to connect effectively.
Among the lessons he learned and shared in the article (available online at Inc.com – check on current issue) Collins concluded that if we want to lead well and build a culture of engaged leaders we need to spend time thinking about these things.
- Service. That’s commitment “to a cause or purpose we are passionately dedicated to and are willing to suffer and sacrifice for.” Almost everything the cadets did grew out of their desire to serve.
- Challenge and growth. Leaders and their followers thrive on huge and audacious challenges that push people hard and make them grow. The cadets who did best kept pushing to be better. If they failed at something they committed to doing it again until they got it right.
- “Communal success” Ask “what can we do to reinforce the idea that we succeed only be helping each other.”
Collins shared that the cadets were among the happiest, most engaged, and most purposeful young people he had ever met. He attributes this to living in accordance with the three issues above.
With recent events in Washington, these Collins words are insightful: “I’m convinced that every major problem we face as a country is a leadership problem. Whether it’s short-term thinking in business or a problem with government performance, every problem requires superb leadership to solve.” What do you think? Please comment.
(Above is an Inc. photo of Jim Collins and cadets)