A Note From The CEO On Leadership

Five years ago, a close friend & mentor gave me a copy of the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. If you’re not familiar with the book, it attempts to objectively identify the factors that separate good companies from great companies. While Collins does define a “Great company” through a measure of sustained profitability, the book is about a lot more than profit.

Early on, the trait of leadership among the executives is illustrated as one of the key differentiators. They differentiator was not the style of leadership, or the school of management they attended, but rather a phenomenon they called “The Window & the Mirror.” Here’s how it worked:

When CEO’s of average performing companies were questioned on company failures, they would look “out the window” and find other subjects to take blame, usually deflecting the responsibility in some way, shape, or form. When the same CEO’s were questioned on company successes, ironically they looked “in the mirror,” at themselves. Phrases like “That was my plan from the beginning…” Or, “Of course it was successful! When I came on board, I had a vision & I did this & I did that…”

To contrast, when the CEO’s of the “Great” performing companies were questioned on company failures, they didn’t look out the window. They did exactly the opposite. They looked in the mirror, at themselves, and said something like, “That was lack of foresight & poor judgement on my part.” They took responsibility for the company’s failures, even when they happened at a level far removed from the CEO. When the same CEO’s were questioned on company successes, they did something even more unique! They looked out the window, and said something like “Yes we have been successful, thanks to all these hard working & talented people on our team. We have a great group.” Not I, me, or my, but we, our, & team.

You don’t have to be a CEO to apply the concept of the window and the mirror. As fathers, mothers, sons & daughters, athletes & coaches, and friends – we can all learn how to better accept own our mistakes, find humility, and give more credit to those around us. Where should we start? Maybe by asking ourselves, “Who can I compliment & give credit to today?” If we all gave a little more credit, than we would all receive a little more credit too. Think about it.

Richard Smith