People are the best protection against uncertainty, says management guru

Businesses should forget about achieving a sense of post-pandemic normalcy and prepare for a series of black swan events that risk sinking the unprepared, said Jim Collins, author of the best-selling management book. Good to excellent.

By putting the right people in the right positions, high-caliber leaders who focus on the underlying strengths of their business can lead their business through any crisis to ultimately reach their full potential, Collins said.

“There won’t be a new normal, in my opinion. There will be just one continuing series of non-normal episodes, big surprises that turn our world upside down yet again,” Collins told the event. Virtual Road Map to Greatness organized by The Growth Faculty. .

“Your ultimate protection against uncertainty… is to have the right people who, as a group, can adapt to any surprises that arise.”

Collins, a former faculty member at Stanford Graduate School of Business, has sold millions of copies of management books, including Built to last and How the mighty fall, which analyze the factors that define “iconic” companies.

His latest book, “BE 2.0,” outlines a roadmap for entrepreneurs that focuses on using disciplined people, thoughts and actions to create exceptional businesses that have unique and lasting impact. Luck alone cannot make a business grow. But companies that employ “productive paranoia” to learn from mistakes and deal with future risks can quickly take advantage of the opportunities presented by luck, Collins said.

“About 50% of good leadership is what you do with the unexpected. Bad luck can kill you; that’s why you have productive paranoia,” said Collins, who tells companies to face them head-on. “brutal facts”.

“When, not if, bad luck hits you, you are able to endure it, stay at the table and get the best feedback.”

Senior level leadership

More than ever, it’s critical to find exceptional “level 5” leaders who can lead companies to greatness, Collins said, noting leaders with huge egos are not eligible.

Successful executives such as Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox, and former Washington post Owner Katharine Graham had very different personality traits but shared an indomitable will, humility and the ability to be of service to their business, he explained.

While some people are born with charismatic and exceptional leadership abilities, others are able to develop their skills to reach “level 5,” said Collins, who has spent 30 years honing his concepts.

He told the audience about the time a “humble” Steve Jobs joined him to lead a conference at Stanford in the 1980s after he was ousted from Apple Inc., the company he co-founded and owned. ultimately helped to embark on the path to corporate greatness.

“There was a Steve Jobs 1.0 and a Steve Jobs 2.0,” Collins said. “And Steve Jobs 1.0 couldn’t have done the 97-2011 phase that made Apple the company we all know today. To do that, it had to evolve and become a level 5 for Apple. He has always been a strong, charismatic personality.… What he laid down was a foundation for Apple to be a great company far beyond his presence. “

Bus drivers

Getting the right people “on the bus” and “in the right seats” is one of the most important things for companies aspiring to greatness, Collins said. But as businesses and operating environments change, leaders must invest in key personnel or move them if they fail to outperform, he said.

“Be tough, not ruthless… If you hired the wrong person, it’s your fault; if you put someone in the wrong place, it’s your fault,” he said.

As the pandemic begins to subside, companies should analyze the lessons they learned from the latest crisis and incorporate them into the fundamental long-term premises that underpin their operations, he said.

In addition to outperforming financially, successful companies must also have a comprehensive, ambitious and forward-looking strategy to help them go from good to great.

For Collins, it’s the “flywheel” that creates momentum as companies seek growth opportunities and ultimately take major risks that could dramatically alter their bottom line.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos used the concept of a flywheel after the dot-com crash to help strategize to increase customer-based deals and revenue to attract third-party sellers and expand distribution, Collins said.

For the author, there is no lightning bolt that creates visionary businesses, but rather a structured and disciplined methodology that builds strong businesses that can survive even the most devastating crises to achieve greatness.

“At the end of the day, there is never just one decision,” he said. “It’s a series of extremely good decisions, extremely well executed over a long period of time.”

Sophie hares is a freelance writer based in Mexico. To comment on this article or suggest an idea for another article, contact Neil Amato, a FM editor-in-chief of the magazine, at

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