You Can Be Good: Or You Can Be Great

board development and revitalization mission. vision. values oversight and accountability: measurement roles and responsibilities Nov 30, 2021
You Can Be Good: Or You Can Be Great


What does it mean to be “great”?

How does it differ from merely “good”?

And does it matter?


What are the implications for the not-for-profit sector?


Jim Collins, an important writer and researcher, answers these questions in a couple of important books, many articles, and even more presentations.


First, this in this week's blog, Good to Great, the business model generally. Then, next week we'll consider, Good to Great for the Social Sectors.


So what does the research suggest constitutes “great”? 

Superior performance. Distinct impact. Lasting endurance. There is much of value in each volume.


Three concepts warrant emphasis here…


First, five levels of leadership:

Collins's discovery was based on a hierarchy of capabilities and traits discovered during his study.

  • Level 1: The Highly Capable Individual.
  • Level 2: The Contributing Team Member.
  • Level 3: The Competent Manager.
  • Level 4: The Effective Leader.
  • Level 5: The Executive.


“Level 5 leaders display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They're incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves. While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy. Every good-to-great transition in our research began with a Level 5 leader who motivated the enterprise more with inspired standards than inspiring personality.”


Second, the Hedgehog Concept:

A relatively simple yet powerful concept that flows from a 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 derive decisions made consistently with the centrality of the hedgehog concept, laser-focused and well-executed, accumulating one upon another, over a long period of time.


Critical to success, then, is leveraging the connection between and among your passion (your mission), where you are best in the world (or at least your unique contribution to your community), and what drives revenue, the resource engine.


Third, turning the flywheel: success breeds support and commitment. 

No matter how dramatic the result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is “no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment”. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.


So, moving from good to great involves at least three components:

Your leadership: the “who”, then the “what” (the right people in the right seats on the bus);


The hedgehog: connect your purpose, to your best possible contribution, to driving revenue;


The flywheel: make laser-focused decisions, well-executed, over time, by top-level leaders who understand your uniqueness and can leverage it.


This is a simplification of a compelling argument. Take the time to read the book if interested.


Next week, I take Collins’ work and report on his work as it applies to the social sectors, the not-for-profit agencies, where accomplishing your mission replaces profit as a primary intended outcome. And he identifies some of our unique barriers to success.


This is one of the most important pieces of work for our sectors.


Greatness is not a function of circumstance.


Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.


What are your main “pain points” dealing with continual improvement? What advice would be most helpful to you? And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.


P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? 

Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, or even send an email. 



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