Many years ago, I had the privilege of doing an independent study course with researcher, author, and speaker Jim Collins, when he was at Stanford. He served as my guide, mentor, and teacher as I helped a group of elementary school students from East Palo Alto start a small greeting card company, as a way to learn business skills and support their more traditional school learning. I left that experience humbled by my interactions with Jim and grateful for all that I learned from him and from the students.
I recently came across a talk Collins gave at West Point after he concluded a two-year appointment studying and teaching leadership at the prestigious school. He summarized his learning into 7 questions that really resonated with me:
- What cause do you serve? What is your or your organization’s purpose?
- Will you settle for being a good leader or will you grow to become a great leader?
- How can you reframe failure as growth?
- How can you succeed by helping others succeed?
- Have you found your hedgehog? (i.e., the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you can be the best in the world at, and what will sustain you economically)
- Will you build your unit of responsibility into a pocket of greatness?
- How will you change the lives of others?
These questions are helpful to reflect and decide upon for leaders at every level of an organization. They are not easy to answer! And yes, they are great coaching questions.
You can see Collins’s full talk here. I hope you enjoy it.