Greatness is a Choice

courtesy of

At a recent Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) conference in Atlanta I had the opportunity to attend a seminar led by Jim Collins, titled “Great by Choice.”  The information I left with would be valuable to any and all business owners.  Below is an outline of what I learned, including links to even more in-depth information.

Greatness is a choice.  You can choose to be good, or just good enough, or truly great.  Truly great leaders have drive and confidence, but also the humility to put the needs of the company, clients and employees ahead of their own.

So what distinguishes the greatest leaders from the rest?

It’s all about having fanatic discipline – sticking to your goals no matter what.  Discipline is not a natural trait that some people are born with and others are not.  Rather, discipline is an art form to be learned.  It takes practice and dedication to be disciplined.

Another trait is what Collins referred to as empirical creativity.  This involves taking our natural creativity and adding discipline to it for maximum effectiveness.  By empirically testing our creative ideas first, before throwing a lot of time and resources at them, we are able to find out what works and move ahead in the right direction.  We test our ideas by trying them out on a small scale and verifying their effectiveness before drastically moving forward.

And finally, great leaders employ productive paranoia – being prepared for the situations that could put your company’s future at risk.  One key is having the cash reserves and buffers to protect your business from any economic catastrophe.  It is important to understand what would be disastrous to your company, and then prepare for it.  The second key is not putting your business in jeopardy by taking big risks.

Luck happens to everyone, both good and bad.  What separates the great leaders from the rest is the ability to maximize the return on luck.  Start thinking of luck as an event, rather than just some indefinable aura that follows some people around and not others.  Then, when luck happens, make the most of it.  Back it with your drive and discipline to get the highest return on your luck possible.  And remember that a single good luck event will not make your business, but one catastrophic bad luck event could break it – so always be prepared and have your business protected.