Are you a great leader? What is it that separates the great leaders from ordinary leaders? Jim Collins says there are 3 specific traits he has found in great leaders.
At Catalyst, Jim Collins stated there are three consistent traits seen in all great leaders. Fanatic discipline, Collins defines as the discipline to not deviate from the plan. Second, empirical creativity, which is creativity based on the concrete knowledge you have access to. Third, productive paranoia, always asking “what if” questions, this is the leader who is prepared for anything or at least has tried to think through lots of scenarios. For the purpose of this blog I will focus on the first trait, fanatic discipline. This is new material for Collins’ new book, “Great by Choice“.
Collins told this story to illustrate what fanatic discipline looks like. On October 19, 1911, two teams of adventures headed out in a race to be the first person to reach the South Pole. Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott led their teams in a journey that would ultimately cost Scott’s team their lives. Amundsen began with a plan; each day his team would travel 15 to 20 miles, regardless of the weather. The first day of the journey the weather was great, but just as the team had planned they did not go over the 20 mile mark, even though they could have easily done more.
Scott’s team began the first day and traveled an incredible 40 plus miles. However, the next day they did not move at all. Everyday depended on their circumstances. If the weather was good and they felt good, they would put in 20, 30 or 40 miles. If the weather was bad or they were extremely worn out from the previous day, they would stay in their tents, sometimes for multiple days.
Amundsen’s team continued day after day to move 15 to 20 miles. With only approximately 45 to 50 miles remaining in the journey, Amundsen got an incredible day to travel, but just like every previous day Amundsen advanced only 17 miles and set up camp. It amazes me, because when most of us see the finish line we want to press and press to get there. After all Amundsen had no way of knowing where Scott’s team was.
With fanatic discipline, Amundsen reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911 Amundsen’s team reached the South Pole, 35 days before Scott’s team would. A 700 plus mile journey. On January 17, 1912, Scott’s team reached the South Pole only to find Amundsen’s team had reached the Pole first. On their return Scott, along with his team died of starvation and frost bite, a mere 11 miles from their supply outpost.
Out of this story come many lessons, but there were two Collins really brought to life.
- Slow and steady always wins.
- You will not succeed without a plan.
I am finding these two principles to be so true in my own life; in my fitness journey, in our finances, in my ministry. Collins refers to it as the 20 mile march, it is the need to develop a plan and not deviate from it. For me in ministry this is hard because I am a big picture person. I come up with the ideas but I really have to work hard to make sure the big ideas happen. Most of the time it is not just one big idea, it is multiple ideas and I want all of them to happen at once and to happen right now.
I came to the realization this past year when I found myself in the midst of about 5 major projects I had taken on. All of them great and all of them important but I could not give the time I needed to all the projects at once. After getting all of them going and feeling completely over whelmed I decided to put three of them on hold temporarily and really focused on 2 of them. I am developing a plan for them and working through these two with all of my attention. I am getting very close in the two projects I have been focusing on to bringing someone along side of me to mentor and train to take over and maintain. As I am in the process of passing them off I am ready to go back to another one of my three remaining projects.
This is why a “Life Plan” has become so important to me, as well as weekly planning. It is helping me to focus on where I am going, and helping to keep things in perspective, because it is so easy for us to allow things to slip out of perspective. Develop your 20 mile march and don’t deviate from it.