Wednesday, June 11, 2003

On Arrogance

I don't often find repeated illustrations in the world of sports for Lean but I have another one today, after my comments on Sammy Sosa last week.

Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press produced an excellent article recently, titled "Folly, arrogance put million-dollar jobs in jeopardy". He lists the recent sports figures like Rick Neuheisel at Washington, Mike Price at Alabama, Larry Eustachy at Iowa State, Jim Harrick at Georgia, as well as Sosa, as examples of highly visible, highly paid leaders who have damaged their institutions and their own reputations by very poor choices. Wilstein labels the root as "arrogance" and I think he is right.

When I read Wilstein's article, my mind raced, in contrast to the excellent book by Jim Collins Good to Great. A core feature of that book is the discussion of what Collins calls "Level 5 Leaders." (Chapter 2, p 17, if you have the book) In his research (very well documented) Collins found the following patterns of leadership evident in truly great companies:

  • Leaders have both professional will and personal humility.
  • They are compelled to produce business results.
  • They have genuine personal modesty and seldom boast.
  • They build an enduring company that will outlast them.
  • They channel personal ambition into the company, not the self.
Read more in Collins' own description of Level 5 here.

Clearly, none of these highly visible sports figures had the same attitude that Collins describes. Equally clearly, none of our companies will achieve the type of customer satisfaction that flows from waste-free, innovative systems apart from such leadership. I challenge myself with this. And you.

I hope this his helpful.

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