I just finished reading Jim Collins’ new book, Great by Choice and as he says, the results may surprise you; they did me.

Here’s the good news, if you, as CEO,  have ambition, creativity, vision, insight, a good strategy, are innovative, possess a willingness to take risk; in short, all the typical characteristics we attribute to leaders, you can become a standout success.

However, and it’s a big however, one that certainly caused me as a leadership coach to pause. All the companies Jim Collins and his partner Morten Hansen researched, were led by CEO’s with these characteristics – the ones that thrived AND the ones that did not.

Here’s what he did find that was different about these leaders.  The companies that thrive possess three common characteristics:

  • fanatic discipline
  • empirical creativity
  • productive paranoia

As I reflect on the great leaders I have known in my career as a leadership coach,  my surprise at the results fades. The great leaders I know all share these characteristics.

Jim drives this point home in chapter 2 as he tells the story of Roald Amundsen’s and Robert Falcon Scott’s quest for the South Pole.  When you understand what Amundsen did to prepare and Scott did not do, it becomes crystal clear why Amundsen was successful and Scott was not. Just as it will become clear why each of the high-performers Collins and Hansen study achieved their results.

I encourage you to read the book, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I possess these high-performer characteristics?
  • What am I doing today to focus on them each day?
  • How might I integrate my genius and my talents to maximize my results?


Elisa K. Spain

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