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Jim Collins: Great By Choice Quotes for positive action

Best leadership quotes ahead of Jim Collins's 2021 global virtual workshop


(Image: Jim Collins, co-author Great by Choice)

Quotes inspiring great leaders

If you're looking for leadership quotes that have inspired those at the highest level, Jim Collins is your man.

Named by Forbes as one of the '100 Great Living Business Minds', the bestselling author and thought-leader has coached and inspired business leaders already at the top rungs of business ladders across the world.

The author of global bestsellers Built to Last, Good to Great, and How the Mighty Fall, and co-author of Great by Choice, Jim Collins spent decades studying why companies thrive or fail.

In the run up to our just-released 2021 live virtual event Jim Collins - Roadmap to Greatness, we've pulled top quotes from the book for these chaotic times Great by Choice, co-authored with Morten Hansen.

Quote Round-Up from Great by Choice

"We cannot predict the future, but we can create it."

"What's coming next? All we know is that no one knows."

"The best leaders we studied did not have a visionary ability to predict the future. They observed what worked, figured out why it worked, and built upon proven foundations."

"10X [companies] embrace a paradox of control and non-control."

"10X [leaders] weren't just disciplined, they were fanatics."

"True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations."

"In an uncertain and unforgiving environment, following the madness of crowds is a good way to get killed."

"10X [companies] don't favor analysis over action; they favor empiricism as the foundation for decisive action."

"[Successful leaders are] always asking 'What if? What if? What if?'"

(See also: Jim Collins: Great by Choice amidst the Crises and Chaos)

"[Successful companies say]: There's no excuse, and it's up to us to correct our failures, period."

"Confidence comes not from motivational speeches, charismatic inspiration, wild pep rallies, unfounded optimism or blind hope."

"By sticking with your 20 Mile March [reaching performance markers], you reduce the chances of getting crippled by a big, unexpected shock."

"We never blame circumstance; we never blame environment."

"What did Intel leaders choose as their #1 core value atop the list? Not innovation or creativity, but discipline."

"Be creative, but validate your creative ideas with empirical evidence."

"Fire bullets, then fire cannonballs."

"If you fire only bullets but never commit to a big bet or an audacious objective, you'll never do anything great."

"Greatness requires the Churchillian resolve to never give in, but it also requires having the reserves to endure staggering defeats, bad luck, calamity, chaos and disruption."

"The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive."

"The probability of any particular Black Swan event might be less than 1% but the probability that some Black Swan event will happen is close to 100%."

"When a calamitous event clobbers an industry or the overall economy, companies fall into one of three categories: those that pull ahead, those that fall behind, and those that die. The disruption itself does not determine your category. You do."

"Sometimes the quick are the dead."


"Not all time in life is equal. Life serves up some moments that count much more than other moments."

"SMaC stands for Specific, Methodical, and Consistent. The more unforgiving your world, the more SMaC you need to be."

"The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency."

"Those who spend most of their energy 'reacting to change' will do exactly that, expend most of their energy reacting to change."

"The critical question is not 'Are you lucky?' but "Do you get a high return on luck?"

"[Successful leaders] never relax when blessed with good luck...[nor] wallow in despair when hit with bad luck. They keep pushing, driving for the overall goal and cause."

"There will be no 'new normal.' There will only be a continuous series of 'not normal' times."

"The next Great Disruption will come, and the next one after that, and the next one after that, forever."

"It's what you do before the storm comes that most determines how well you'll do when the storm comes.'

"In the end, we can only control a tiny sliver of what happens to us. But even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice."

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