Great by Choice Essay

Many times entrepreneurs ask themselves, “Why my competitors are able to succeed and go through catastrophe after catastrophe yet my business is crashing? What makes that person better than me? Am I, not the chosen one? ” Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen answer these common questions and many more in their educating novel entitled, Great by Choice. One of the main characteristic of a great leader is being prepared for every trail and tribulation that may come while running a business.

It is a true fact that every business go through some type of chaos whether it’s enormous or petite; therefore, business owners must be ready to handle chaos in order to maintain the business. It is a common saying that states, “It is easy to start a relationship, yet, it is hard to maintain it. ” Although this statement relate to relationships, it also relates to owning a business. “It is easy to start a business, yet it is difficult to maintain a business. ” Jim Collins identifies three core behaviors in his novel that enabled companies to become truly great over an extended period of time which will be discussed later in the paper.

At the beginning of the novel, Collins asked his self, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty and chaos and others do not? ” After interviewing successful business owners and studying ancient history of successful leaders, Collins was able to answer that question and his answer was,” It’s not that they thrive on chaos, but they can thrive in chaos and uncertainty. ” He created this illustration through a true story about two leaders name Amundsen and Scott: In October 1911, exactly 100 years ago, these two teams of explorers left the coast of Antarctica to try to be the first people in history to reach the South Pole.

The Norwegian team, [led by] Amundsen, got to the South Pole first. [British naval officer Robert Falcon] Scott and the British team reached the pole second, 34 days later. Amundsen and his team made it back to their base at Polheim on the exact date that Amundsen had put in his planning journals when he was making his plans in Norway. Meanwhile, Scott and every member of his team died on the way back, about 10 or 11 miles from a supply depot. (Collins and Hansen, 2011)

A great philosopher once stated, “In order to understand your future, you must first understand your past. History repeats itself. The tools that successful leaders used during ancient periods are the same tools that current leaders may retain. Therefore, it is vital for business owners to study and educate themselves on effective leaders in the past, so they may duplicate some of their leadership styles and be successful in the future. Amundsen and Scott story is the evidence of Collins answer at the beginning of the novel, Collins states: “It turns out that the way that Amundsen led his team maps very directly to the way our leaders led their companies.

This is especially true in how he was different in his behaviors from the way Scott led his team, which is more like our comparison leaders. It was an almost perfect metaphoric mapping. ” Hansen further emphasized, “When we looked at Amundsen, the fascinating part is that he had, literally, a 15-mile march target. He was going to go 15 miles every day toward the South Pole… .He built a system around that. On the good days, he held back; he didn’t go the distance he could have gone. He just stopped in the early afternoon and rested.

On the very difficult days, he made maybe five, six, seven miles, but nevertheless, he traveled on those days where Scott and the other team would sit in their tents. Both of them had a very interesting approach. Underlying that is what can only be described as fanatic discipline. Amundsen was extraordinary in his discipline, preparing his whole life for this particular moment. ” After reviewing these two leaders style of leadership, in result, they basically “reap what they sowed”. Amundsen created a plan that not only met his goal but helped him survive while meeting his goal.

Whereas Scott only did enough to get by and at the end he and his team died. Companies that have phenomenal leaders, usually plan carefully, every “I” is dotted and every “t” is crossed, therefore, they can take any hit and still be successful. Scott could not do that because he rush on the planning stage of his journey and ironically he rushed his time on earth. On the other hand Amundsen demonstrated the “three distinctive behaviors” that Collins and Scott discussed in their novel: productive paranoia, empirical creativity and fanatic discipline.

Like Amundsen, Bill Gate is a good example of productive paranoia. Bill Gates sat down and thought of all the things that could possibly go wrong with his company and then he prepared for those obstacles ahead of time. Gates allowed his fear to drive him to productivity. Many leaders get comfortable in their success and fail to realize that thousands of businesses are created every day, therefore, leaders should always be informed about the companies that surrounding them because if they become too comfortable then other developing companies can take their clients or buy out their business.

Running a business is like a running competition. Some runners know that they are good at running and they feel like no one else could catch up or out run them. Yet they lose because they get so comfortable at the speed that they were running and their competitors eventually catch up. Winning does not matter if you are good at the beginning yet lose at the end. A leader does not only succeed through fear but they also create a plan that is unique and creative to survive through the impossible. A successful leader is a risk taker and a risk taker display empirical creativity.

During Amundsen planning he stated, “I am not going to bet our expedition and bet our life on an unproven technology, so I’m not going with motor sledges. I am going with skis and dogs and sleds because we know they work. ” Technology is very popular and the average person would have chosen the motor sledges because many people believe that technology is reliable and convenient. Yet, Amundsen did not want to go the easy route out he wanted to stick with the fundamentals of traveling on snow and his plan worked. Why? Because he thought outside the box and he took a risk.

In addition Amundsen, put his base on Bay of Whales, which was known as a dangerous area. However, Amundsen decided not to listen to everybody and do his own research on Bay of Whales. In result, Bay of Whales was not as dangerous as others believed, therefore he choose that area to house his self and his team. Good leaders believe none of what they hear and half of what they see. After fear comes creativity and after creativity comes consists. Every great leader own the character trait of fanatic discipline which is the essential consists of action. Hansen better explained fanatic discipline, he states, Number one, you set a progress standard for yourself.

Secondly, you have a lower boundary, what you must hit, and an absolute commitment to hitting it in bad times and good times. Then there is an upper boundary, and you have the discipline to hold back and not just maximize growth because you can, because that is going to expose you to possible storms coming your way down the road. Then the fourth characteristic is that you must hit it. It’s not about good intentions: They don’t really count here. It is about hitting it. ” Hansen calls this theory the principles of a 20-mile march.

In the novel, Hansen and Collins used John Brown, who was the CEO of Stryker as a good example. When Brown became the CEO of Stryker he set a goal for the company net income to grow 20% every year. As the market fluctuated, Brown still focused on his target goal and him and the company managed to survive through the industry downturn. When you look at Bill Gates, Amundsen and John Brown, you are looking at the epitome of dynamic leaders. All three leaders were visionaries and they all worked hard towards a goal regardless of their surroundings. They were discipline.

Jim Collins once stated, “A culture of discipline is not a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness. ” While other companies were crashing, they were progressing and sticking to their plan of action. The purpose of the novel “Great by Choice” is to educate leaders on how to set a strong solid foundation that can survive during the storms. Every human being in this world is given choices, however it is up to an individual to choose to be great or choose to be a failure. At the end of the day, a person will always be remembered by the choices that they make in life, therefore my choice is to be great!

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