On Leadership: The West Point Way



Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.

~ Jim Collins

My favorite author on greatness is Jim Collins so I was thrilled to see an article in the latest Inc. regarding Mr. Collins’ experience teaching at West Point as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership in the summer of 2011.  Always looking for principles of greatness, Mr. Collins wondered why the cadets he met were so much happier than students at civilian schools especially considering how highly regimented and filled with pressure West Point life is.

After extensive observation and interviewing, Mr. Collins concluded that the answer to the paradox was that West Point fulfilled three fundamental principles of creating a sense of completeness and meaning in life.

He uses a triangle to explain his theory.  One point of the triangle he labeled success, another growth, and the third service.   As Mr. Collins talked with the cadets and observed their training, he listened with the triangle in mind.  Here is a brief summary from the article of his conclusions related to these principles and how they can help achieve greatness in your organization.

“If you want to build a culture of engaged leaders and a great place to work,” he says, “you need to spend time thinking about three things.

  • Service to ‘a cause or purpose we are passionately dedicated to and are willing to suffer and sacrifice for.’
  • Challenge and growth, or, ‘What huge and audacious challenges should we give people that will push them hard and make them grow?’
  • Communal success, or, ‘What can we do to reinforce the idea that we succeed only by helping each other?'”

Check out the full article here.  It’s a good read and worth your time.

Choose greatness.


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