Good To Great

Good To Great

By Jim Collins

Level 5 Leaders

The Hedgehog Concept

Good is the enemy of Great’.  This is how the author sets off a riveting journey explaining the findings from half a decade of research in the conquest of how to make good companies great.  Essentially, ‘Good to Great’ happens very rarely because it is so exceedingly difficult.  In his research, Jim Collins (the author), has discovered systematic phases through which any great company goes in becoming great and lays out a framework.  If you do not have time to read the book, Aniket Ambekar offers a reasonably good summary at this link.

Leaders who have brought the ‘Good to Great’ transformation in companies are not the ones who are charismatic or big personalities but are rather quiet, shy, deliberate.  They are the ones who have the combination of humility and professional will.  Organizations that strive to become great need to have a Level 5 leader.

Level 5 Leaders:

Jim Collins explains leadership in terms of 5 different levels with Level 5 being the highest level in the hierarchy.  Following are the traits of a Level 5 leader:

  • They first and foremost think about the success of their organization and then personal riches

  • These are the leaders who are shy but show extreme fierceness in getting the job done

  • These people think about the future of their companies without them and plan about their succession

  • They are modest and rarely like to talk about themselves or their achievements. They prefer to share the credit with others as opposed to other “good” company leaders who are self-obsessed and egalitarians

  • Level 5 leaders always apportioned the credit of success to others and if there were no one to credit they credited towards ‘Luck’

  • In times of failures they took the responsibility. This was exactly the opposite in case of leaders of ‘good’ or failed organisations

The Hedgehog Concept by Jim Collins:

“The Hedgehog Concept is developed in the book Good to Great. A simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of three circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3) what best drives your economic or resource engine. Transformations from good to great come about by a series of good decisions made consistently with a Hedgehog Concept, supremely well executed, accumulating one upon another, over a long period of time.”

Excerpts from Good to Great:

“Are you a hedgehog or a fox? In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” 

Those who built the good-to-great companies were, to one degree or another, hedgehogs. They used their hedgehog nature to drive toward what we came to call a Hedgehog Concept for their companies. Those who led the comparison companies tended to be foxes, never gaining the clarifying advantage of a Hedgehog Concept, being instead scattered, diffused, and inconsistent. 

For the comparison companies, the exact same world that had become so simple and clear to the good-to-great companies remained complex and shrouded in mist. Why? For two reasons. First, the comparison companies never asked the right questions, the questions prompted by the three circles. Second, they set their goals and strategies more from bravado than from understanding.

A Hedgehog Concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial

Every company would like to be the best at something, but few actually understand—with piercing insight and egoless clarity—what they actually have the potential to be the best at and, just as important, what they cannotbe the best at. And it is this distinction that stands as one of the primary contrasts between the good-to-great companies and the comparison companies.

To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. It requires the discipline to say, “Just because we are good at it—just because we’re making money and generating growth—doesn’t necessarily mean we can become the best at it.” The good-to-great companies understood that doing what you are good at will only make you good; focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness.

As you search for your own concept, keep in mind that when the good-to-great companies finally grasped their Hedgehog Concept, it had none of the tiresome, irritating blasts of mindless bravado typical of the comparison companies. “Yep, we could be the best at that” was stated as the recognition of a fact, no more startling than observing that the sky is blue or the grass is green. When you get your Hedgehog Concept right, it has the quiet ping of truth, like a single, clear, perfectly struck note hanging in the air in the hushed silence of a full auditorium at the end of a quiet movement of a Mozart piano concerto. There is no need to say much of anything; the quiet truth speaks for itself.” 

If you are reading this, it is reasonably expected you are a good leader who has been called to be a great leader.  The Hedgehog Concept is critically important for taking companies from being good companies to becoming great companies.  Likewise,  understanding one’s God-given vision, purpose, and mission results in leaders who share that same arena of devotion to excluding all the things that will not contribute to their becoming a great leader.

Understanding the Hedgehog Principle and being a Level 5 Leader are critical for becoming the leader God intends you to be.

Isaiah, the prophet whom God called and sent to a people who would not hear also recorded the prophecy of the Messiah’s message regarding setting his face, like a flint, to be and do the Great redemption only he could provide.

Example of Jesus:

Isaiah 50:6-7, KJV

  1. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 

  2. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. 

Luke 9:51-56, KJV

  1. And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 

  2. And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 

  3. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 

  4. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 

  5. But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 

  6. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. 

Luke 12:50, KJV

But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!

Example of Apostle Paul:

Acts 20:22-24, NIV

  1. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 

  2. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 

  3. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 

Acts 21:11-15, NIV

  1. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'” 

  2. When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 

  3. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 

  4. When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” 

  5. After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 

Philippians 3:14-17, NIV

  1. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

  2. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 

  3. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 

  4. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

Are you a fox or a hedgehog?  Are you going to be a good leader or a great leader?  Are you a Level 5 Leader or something less?  Today is an excellent day to choose whether you will let the special traits of your person shine as a star and be a good leader, or whether you will sacrifice self’s glory and limit yourself to doing what you can do better than anything else you are capable of doing to do something great.

Going from Good to Great is a challenge and a sacrifice.  But one cannot become a great leader without going through the process, just as a company cannot move from a good company to a great company without Level 5 Leadership and practicing a Hedgehog Concept.

I can expect no greater reward than seeing you excel in doing what God has called you to do.  Go ahead, follow the principles and disciplines, be a great leader doing something great for our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Focus on Jesus and Follow His Plan

God has designed us to be “Better Together.”

The LORD bless you and keep you,

The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you,

The LORD lift his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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