1) What prompted me to choose this book?
I originally read “Good to Great” as a free man who was the CEO of Financial Assurance Corporation. At that time, I was prompted to read the book because I held aspirations of being a better, more effective leader who was capable of leading an organization from just being good to being great. Since I did not attend business school, I consistently sought after mentors and models that could help me build an enduring business. I felt that the framework presented in “Good to Great” was one I could model. In reading the book, I discovered all I was looking for and more. I found myself relating to Darwin Smith, the former CEO of Kimberly-Clark, who oversaw KC’s transformation from a good company to a great company. In retirement, Smith reflected on his exceptional performance, saying simply, “I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job. That sentiment embodies the reason why I initially read “Good to Great”. I was trying to become qualified for my position as CEO. It is the same reason I read it again during my time of incarceration. I am striving to be qualified for my next leadership role after prison.
2) What did I learn from reading this book?
In reading “Good to Great”, I learned some of the timeless, universal insights that can be applied in any organization that wants to improve its value and performance. Perhaps the most significant insight I learned is the “Good to Great Framework”. This framework defines the dominant characteristics that were found in the good-to-great companies whose 15-year performance was researched over a five-year period and contrasted with a comparison group of companies which did not possess all or any of these traits. I learned that all companies that make the leap from good to great have the benefit of Level 5 Leadership. A Level 5 Leader is defined as an executive who builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. Another tenet of the Good to Great Framework is the concept of “First Who…Then What”. The idea that organizations should not begin with a new vision or strategy. Having the right people in the right positions is an organization’s greatest asset. I also learned the importance in being willing to Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith). This idea is illustrated through the Stockdale Paradox which says you must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality. I learned that organizations that successfully transition from good to great also have A Culture of Discipline. Having disciplined people eliminates the need for hierarchy, bureaucracy and excessive controls. Disciplined people are inspired to great performance. These are among the primary insights I learned from reading “Good to Great”.
3) How will reading this book contribute to my success upon release?
After prison, I will face many challenges as a justice-impacted-person and returning citizen. To overcome these challenges successfully, I can’t just be good, I have to be great. Understanding what creates enduring great organizations of any type will assist me in making the greatest contribution I can to any organization I’m associated with. I now have a better understanding of the fundamental differences between the ordinary and extraordinary, between mediocrity and excellence. I now have proven framework for greatness that I can and will conscientiously follow.