Jim Collins from good to great

In this story, we'll take a closer look at the Socratic business advisor named Jim C. Collins, a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick. Jim has an inspirational view on leadership and an everlasting legacy that took many companies to a level of excellence. 

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How it al started

Jim C. Collins was born on 25 January 1958, in Aurora, Colorado named  after his late grandfather.

The Collins family has a lineage of skilled mountain climbers and Jim was no exception.


As a child, Jim spent his time going to San Francisco elementary school. After elementary school, he attended Stanford University, where he studied mathematical sciences.


After graduating in 1980 he spent 18 months in McKinsey & Co.'s San Fransisco office where Jim got exposed to a very influential project.

The project resulted in a bestseller book called 'In Search of Excellence', written by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, who where at that time partners at McKinsey. This exposure formed the basis for his views on excellence in enterprise.


In 1983, Jim returned to Stanford to study and eventually graduating with an MBA in Mathematical Science from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. 

A honorable career

After gaining his MBA, Jim worked his first full-time job as a product manager for Hewlett-Packard, where he worked for 18 months.

He stopped working for Hewlett-Packard when his wife, Joan Ernst, took on the challenge of partaking in the Ironman Thriathlon.


Jim left his job to train her and arrange several sponsorship deals, including Nike and Budweiser.

Because of his unwavering loyalty and her unlimited discipline, Joan managed to become the Ironman World Championship winner.


After her victory, Jim started working again as a researcher and instructor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Management.


His teaching period lasted from 1989 to 1995. After three years of teaching he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992.


During this period he also published his first best-seller book, together with his former teacher Jerry Porras, called 'Built To Last'.

One year after the success of his first best-seller book, Jim founded a management laboratory in Boulder Colorado.

From there, Jim conducts research and teaches executives from various social and corporate sectors. These included Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Girl Scouts of the USA, the American Association of K–12 School Superintendents and the United States Marine Corps.

He invested more than 25 years studying businesses and sectors, which resulted in a total of 6 best-selling books.

Some of these books have been translated into more than 30 different languages and sold more than ten million copies worldwide.


His most renowned piece of writing is the book 'Good to Great', which has inspired entrepreneurs from around the globe with his innovative ideas.

Level Five Leadership

Now we'll take a look at two of Jim Collin's most interesting views on business and how to thrive as an enterprise.


Jim describes 5 levels of leadership, which are backed by empirical evidence from a 5 year research project.


The results of this project debunked the conventional view of company leaders.

At that time, the main view was that only a larger-than-life charismatic leader could lead a company to greatness.


To illustrate this, he uses a pyramid form divided into 5 parts:

A level 5 leader distinguishes himself by putting people first and strategy second.

This implies finding the right people for the organization and getting rid of the wrong ones.


A level 5 leader also embodies the duality of weighing professional will against professional humility.

According to Jim, level 5 leaders are distinguished by this trait in contrast to egocentric and charismatic leaders.


Companies with this kind of leadership have the tendency to go from good to great. 

First Who - Then What

'First get the right people on the bus, then make sure the right people are seated in the proper position'. 

Jim emphasizes that companies truly go from good to great due to the people involved.

Once the people are in their designated seats, you should focus on the 'what' side of the equation. 


This is one of the three points Jim urges leaders to know. The second point Collins makes is that when working with the right people, they will be able to motivate themselves, making the management job way easier.


Lastly, Jim makes the point that without the right people, even the best strategy wont take a company to the next level.

Linked to his famous quote: 'Great vision without great people is irrelevant.'


So always ask, first WHO then WHAT

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Closing remarks

In today's world, people are being flooded by self-proclaimed business guru's. Jim Collins is in a league of his own, paving the way for many to follow but few who last.


Jim is a prime example that first you have to become excellent yourself, before being able to help others achieve the same.


Jim continues to inspire people around the globe and guides them to achieve greatness in their endeavors.

Let Jim C. collins be an inspiration to take your life from good to great.


To finish up, here are a few more famous quotes of the worlds most renowned business advisor:

'Creativity dies in an undisciplined environment'


'A culture of discipline is not a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness.'


'Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.'


'A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough right people.'

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