Good to Great by Jim Collins is one of the bestselling business books ever, and it deserves to be so. In this post, I will reveal some of the discoveries Jim Collins and his team of researchers made about the leaders of the world’s most successful companies, and share some thoughts on leadership from my own new book—Mark Of An Eagle.

Collins states: “One of the most damaging trends in recent history is the tendency (especially by boards of directors) to select dazzling, celebrity leaders.” In over two thirds of the companies Collins and his team studied, they discovered: “the presence of a gargantuan personal ego contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company.” In the companies that demonstrated sustained success over a long period of time, the leaders were described as—"a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless.”

In a world where there appears to be some confusion about what makes an effective leader, this is worthy of reflection. My intention is not to denounce the value of charisma—it is a wonderful asset to have--unless it is partnered with a lack of character—a moral compass that provides clear direction for what is right or wrong.

Leaders are chosen for their competence--they become great through learning how to influence. What determines influence—that critical ability to gain followers who are willing to commit to the shared mission and goals of the organization?

People follow leaders they believe in—who demonstrate values with which they align. The leader is experienced as a person who has the individual’s and team’s best interests at heart—it is evidenced in the fundamental integrity of their actions. Influential leaders know that they cannot change others, only themselves. Being influential, therefore, is not about what we learn to do to others but what we learn to be for others—consistently becoming the kind of person others want to follow.

In Mark Of An Eagle, I refer to a book that has been very influential in my life—the Bhagavad Gita. It is connected to the Hindu spiritual tradition. At the risk of oversimplifying this ancient masterpiece, in a world where lying, manipulating and cheating are far too accepted and common, there is one teaching worth calling out. It is referred to as: Right Action. Right action is the commitment to our actions always being attuned to what we know and believe to be right.

Right action takes into account the effect our actions have on others and prescribes that we never act in a way that would intentionally harm others. In a pressure-packed, performance-oriented world, choosing right action every day is far from easy. The outcomes of Right Action may not appear, at first glance, to be in our best interests. Right Action is often a courageous decision because it might mean taking an unpopular stand on what is honest and just.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins uses the term—Level 5 Leadership—to define the pinnacle of great leadership. Within that definition he states: “(Great leaders) act with quiet, calm determination and rely principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.” And, in the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Bhagavad Gita we read: “Whatever a great man does, ordinary people will do; whatever standard he sets everyone will follow.”

 MARK OF AN EAGLE—How Your Life Changes the World by David McNally

Available on Amazon, CEO Reads or here.  

Mark Of An Eaglewas not written for leaders but should be read by all leaders. It provides a clear path to becoming the kind of person others want to follow. My team will certainly be reading this inspiring book.”

Leo Taylor, Executive Vice President—Price Chopper