Learn To See

Leaders see things that other people often don’t see. If you want to develop one thing in your leadership then develop your ability to SEE.

To SEE the BIG picture.

To SEE the DETAIL on the BIG picture.

To SEE who can HANDLE the DETAIL on the BIG picture.

To SEE above the mess or clutter, of what’s going on and have the ability to  maintain some clarity of vision and help others navigate that journey with you.

Jim Collins in his book Great by Choice describes it by saying that leaders of great businesses have developed an ability to ‘ZOOM IN, ZOOM OUT’. It’s not so much about should we change things but about being vigilant to sense changing conditions. Great leaders can do this as fast or as slow as is necessary due to the fact they have a handle on conditions. They SEE it. 

[What do you think?]

Book Review: Great by Choice by Jim Collins

I have read his other books (Good to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall), so I knew what to expect. It did not disappoint. It was as before, a well researched, well thought out, well presented investigation of the practices demonstrated by successful leaders and their businesses.

The beauty is that the principles outlined are not really that complicated, the key is sticking with them. That was the difference maker. Most of us can manage to stick at something until something happens, something that knocks us off track and then we let go of what we considered non-negotiable. The beauty of reading such a book is that it reminds you that being great is not a chance event, it is achieved by choices, and then maintained by sticking to those choices.

As a Church leader I am reading and thinking about how these principles could work for us. We want to excel, to achieve success in what we do. I have no desire to be mediocre, so I read books like this one to learn from great business leaders, take what I can and put in to practice the elements that fit. To be honest – all of it fits.

‘The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.’ ‘Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.’ The many concepts discussed all work towards these quotes.

The challenges for me:

1. The 20 Mile March. This is all about consistency. Those performance markers for the journey. It’s not a case of running fast when things are good and doing nothing when times are tougher. It’s about completing the 20 mile march, every day. Q: what do we need to do consistently to continue to make progress?

2. Firing bullets, before firing canonballs. Discover what might work for you without going for broke first time. A bullet causes less damage but provides evidence to the potential of an idea. To be great is about making decisions based not only on creativity but also on the empirical data. Q: what can we learn from what we try?

3. Zoom out, then zoom in. It’s not so much about should we change things but about being vigilant to sense changing conditions. Great leaders can do this as fast or as slow as is necessary due to the fact they have a handle on conditions. Q: do we have a sense of the conditions, the times that we are in?

4. The SMaC idea. Specific, Methodical and Consistent. They are the ‘operating code for turning strategic concepts into reality, practices more enduring than mere tactics’. It’s those things that we work hard to never change, or rarely if we must. The values that underpin what we do. Q: what are the key aspects of what we do that will never change? The expression of them might change but as a value they will not.

I would recommend this book as an excellent read for any leader. The overriding theme – do we abandon our values the moment good times or bad times come our way? If the answer is yes, then we are less likely to become great. ‘It’s not just about what happens to us but what we create, what we do and how well we do it’. Don’t know about you but I want to learn from wherever I can to be better equipped to lead God’s church – this book will do that. Get your copy here

[If you have read it, share your thoughts]

Book Review: How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins

Recently finished reading this book. Absolutely loved it. In fact I was happy just with Appendix 5, I think there is enough in there to keep us discussing for a long time.

The beauty of a Jim Collins book. It’s thought provoking. It’s easy to read. There is a journey to it. The comparison between how some companies fall while others rescue themselves – that insight is priceless. You can put yourself, your organisation, your team, the Church for me as a Pastor, in to the scenario and determine how you are doing.

The 5 stages of decline become clearer as you read the evidence. Very obvious at times, it makes you wonder how the leaders in the companies didn’t notice. I guess when you are in it you don’t always see it.

Some thoughts from the various stages that show leadership succcess:
‘Leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers’. [That’s a kick of a reminder]

‘The greatest leaders do seek growth – growth in performance, growth in distinctive impact, growth in creativity, growth in people – but they do not succumb to growth that undermines long-term value’.

‘They do not confuse growth with excellence’.

‘Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big’.

‘Taking action inconsistent with your core values is undisciplined’.

‘To compromise your values or lose-sight of your core purpose in pursuit of growth and expansion is undisciplined’.

‘When bureaucratic rules erode an ethic of freedom and responsibility within a framework of core values and demanding standards, you’ve become infected with the disease of mediocrity’.

‘The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency’. [Ouch]

‘If you want to reverse decline, be rigorous about what not to do’. That’s when you need to…‘Breathe. Calm yourself. Think. Focus. Aim. Take one shot at a time’.

‘The right leaders feel a sense of urgency in good times and bad, whether facing threat or opportunity, no matter what. They’re obsessed, afflicted with a creative compulsion and inner drive for progress’.

‘Circumstances alone do not determine outcomes’.

‘Never give in. Be willing to change tactics, but never give up your core purpose’.

‘Success is falling down, and getting up one more time, without end’.

So many great thoughts. Recommended read for leaders. Get it here.

Secure Leadership

It’s tough being a leader sometimes. You can be an easy target so it is important that you remain secure in who you are and what it is you are about. Dare I be so bold as to make some observations about different leaders…

Secure leaders keep doing the right things.
Insecure leaders keep changing stuff just for the sake of it.


You cannot build anything of lasting value if you are not willing to commit to some basic principles for the long haul. Don’t change stuff from one week to the next just because it didn’t work properly. Now I’m not against change but it has to be done right not ‘just because’.

Secure leaders are less about process and more about people.
Insecure leaders are all about themselves.

Image is nothing. Influence is everything.

The business of doing what you do – yes, you want it to be right but if that is at the expense of connecting with people and growing them – whether that is your team, the customer or even you, then I think ultimately you are missing the point. Find somewhere that is growing, popular and successful and you will probably find a place that invests in the people. If you are looked after, you are more likely to go back!

Secure leaders stay focused on the vision.
Insecure leaders compare.

Don’t make comparisons – it can have two alternative effects.
First: if you think you are not doing as well, then it will frustrate you and demotivate you.
Second: if you think you are more successful than the ‘competition’ then you might get distracted from the core vision and become over-confident in your own abilities.

Only compare when you are secure. Yes – learn from others but don’t think of yourself as failing just because you are not the same.

Secure leaders say thank you.
Insecure leaders want thanks.

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great says that Level 5 leaders always give praise to the team when things go well, but look to themselves when things go wrong. That is a secure leader. I know which I would rather be.