In October of 1911 two teams of explorers one led by Amundsen and one by Scott--lined up on the coast of Antarctica with the goal of reaching the south pole. Amundsen's team arrived 34 days before the second and arrived back at base camp but Scott's team died on the way back. Studied 9 years to find out why some organizations and leaders thrive in the most difficult circumstances while others fail to achieve greatness in those same circumstances?
"Great By Choice" is based on a rigorous study of organizations that survived in difficult times and the leadership differences parallel those teams in Antarctica.
Level 5 leaders--what separates them is not personality, the x factor is humility. What else have we learned? Three distinctive behaviors great leaders need--
Fanatic Discipline--Trying to make a march across the US--one group waits for conditions to be good and the other walks 20 miles each day no matter what the conditions are. Amundsen's team in Antarctica exemplified the second.
Fanatic discipline doesn't go too far either--don't push beyond what you can do even when you get close. Manage yourself in good times so you can do well in bad times.
What is your 20 mile march? Every organization would benefit from having a 20 mile march--a daily goal to reach. Maybe a personal 20 mile march is to read 50-100 books a year or taking daily time to pray or working on relationships.
It's all about consistent consecutive performance. Ask myself--what do I need to do today to hit my march with consistency?
Discipline is not enough--you must also create and make things work in new ways.
Empirical Creativity--Amundsen went and lived with Eskimos to prepare for his trip while Scott depended on new sleds that hadn't been tested and didn't work.
Need the ability to marry creativity and discipline. Creativity is natural; discipline is not. If you breathe you are creative. The really rare skill is to marry discipline to creativity.
Productive Paranoia--The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive. It's what you do before trouble comes that make a difference so you can be strong when people most need you.
These three come to life in the 'SMaC recipe' based on what actually works and why. The greatest danger is not failure but to be successful without understanding why you were successful in the first place.
You need to preserve the core and stimulate progress. Constitution (basic values) to preserve the core with an amendment process to stimulate progress.
Think of an event that arose--
1) you didn't cause it
2) it had a potentially significant consequence
3) it had an element of surprise
How did you handle that event? Question is--what is the role of luck? I realize luck might not resonate as a concept in a faith world.
They studied and quantified luck. Luck is not an aura. The key is to see luck as a specific event (3 listed above). Bill Hybels said this definition also applies to a miracle.
1) Were the winners luckier?
2) What did they do differently about it?
Bill Gates in 1975--was he the only lucky one? Thousands of others could have done what he did but he sacrificed to do it.
Talked about his wife's experience with cancer and out of that they learned that life is people and time with people you love. Every day they remember that lesson so they are getting a high return on what was undeniably a bad event. That's what good leaders do.
Good leaders reflect the genius of the 'and'--on one hand they do the daily 20 mile march but when the unexpected event comes they make the most of it instead of squandering it.
As leaders are we responsible for our performance or are we the victims of what happens to us? Back to Amundsen and Scott--they both faced the same conditions but had different outcomes. We still find pairs of companies in the same conditions where one rises and one falls. The answer cannot be circumstance.
Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance--it's a matter of conscious choice and leadership.
How do you know if you have a great organization?--
1) superior performance relative to your mission
2) makes a distinctive impact (what would be lost if we disappeared?)
3) achieves lasting endurance beyond any one leader (an organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without the leader)
Two thoughts in closing--
First, a desire to say thank you to Bill Hybels--who has always extended to me a hand of friendship and character who has always made me feel useful in your world. Might there be no better definition of friendship than to be always here for you so you might never really be alone. That is what great friends are.
I hope each of you will commit somewhere in your life to be part of building something enduring and great. An enduring great family or marriage or friendship or organization.
In the end I believe it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life which is gained by doing meaningful work. ...Gain that deepest satisfaction of knowing that your short time on this earth has been well spent and that it mattered.