There is no shortage of business books on sale today. They are filled with the latest buzzwords, management trends and good looking charts yet most do little more than stating the obvious.
It’s not often you come across a book like “Good to Great” that is insightful and counterintuitive. The author Jim Collins, a recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award at Stanford, provides a refreshing perspective on what differentiates mediocre and great companies with some detailed accounts of how different companies have been run by their leaders.
For example, he compares GE’s performance under Jack Welch, a celebrated CEO role model, to the performance of Alan Wurtzel’s Circuit City during Jack Welch’s tenure at GE from 1981 to 2000. Had you invested $1 in the company run by the lesser known and low profile Wurtzel, you would have made 6 times your return than with Jack Welch.
Among the key differentiators, Collins talks about character traits of some of the best CEO’s – “gracious, humble, self-effacing, understated” with an unwavering resolve. These are individuals who take responsibility when things go wrong but give all the credit to their teams when things work out.
Yet, the media often portrays the great business executives as those who are authoritative, aggressive and egocentric leaders. There are countless TV shows of such tough-minded tyrant leaders running great businesses. Just today on this blog we discussed the research that one third of bosses behave badly. But this begs the question of what type of employees such an egocentric CEO could attract.
The most talented people have many career options and they are unlikely to be loyal to an egocentric boss that puts themselves above the interests of the company and their staff.