Martians to save planet Earth?

Breakthrough leaders come from Mars

In the classic business development book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins describes the special type of leaders that create sustainable, breakthrough results as “leaders from Mars”. They are a unique combination of personal humility and professional will – quiet and unassuming, shunning the limelight. They have time for family and friends and time to make a community contribution as well.

Good to Great - Breakthrough Cycle

Leadership for sustainability

Story after story of breakthrough sustainability starts with the actions taken by individuals as leaders – the sort of people that Collins calls “Level 5” leaders. These leaders engage teams in fully understanding and supporting their projects and direction.

Sometimes these leaders are at the top of the business. Other stories tell of other determined individuals – sometimes managers, sometimes “just folks”. (One of the success stories in our archives was led by the gardener!)

Technology last, strategy first

The technology in sustainability success stories comes in fourth or fifth, and after the technology comes better business results. Often the technology isn’t expensive – it’s just the strategic and creative application of simple concepts.

This is in total alignment with the research from “Good to Great”. The critical sequence for success starts with great leaders and a great team, operating with great honesty in the real world. Then strategic decisions on technology and infrastructure are made on top of these great foundations.

Time management and sustainability

At a personal level, sustainability requires leaders who have the time and the space to stop and think about “non-urgent” issues like the environment. These leaders have the time to work on innovative long term strategies to build their business. They have the time to  develop their teams and the connections to critically evaluate reality.

What the world needs now…

… is far more than “love, sweet love”.  It’s great leaders and smart, powerful change agents, with the discipline and resolution and strong personal infrastructure (a balanced, well-supported life) to sustain their efforts, and the skills of leadership, team building and communication that will engage whole organizations and communities to shift the world.

WANTED: more leaders from Mars!

If you want to make a difference – in the world, in your business, or in your life – make sure you’re studying leadership. That’s the critical first step for breakthrough results.

(Originally published in Balance3 Update, June 2006)

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About Leigh

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Leigh is the principal of the business innovation practice Balance3 and her clients have included corporations such as Amcor, National Foods, Dair, SPC Ardmona, Kobelco, Corporate Express and New Balance as well as a range of smaller businesses and individual clients.