West Point Leadership and Family Businesses

In his article The Re-Education of Jim Collins published in Inc. Magazine, Bo Burlingham of Editor at Large, Inc., writes about the lessons that Jim Collins, business guru and author of such business classics as Good to Great and Built to Last, learned during his two-year appointment to West Point’s Chair for the Study of Leadership. He came away with a new understanding of leadership based on a 3-point model he observed in the West-Point culture

Collins describes the attitudes among the West-Point cadets as points of a triangle: Service– Growth–Success. To my mind, these attitudes apply as much to family businesses as they do to the careers of the cadets.

Expanding on the triangle, Collins sets forth three bullet points pertaining to building a culture of engaged leaders and a great place to work. When applied to family businesses these can be paraphrased as three questions:

  • Service–What cause or purpose are we passionately dedicated to, and that we are willing to sacrifice for?
  • Challenge and growth–What huge and audacious challenges do we as a family have that will push us and make us grow?
  • Communal success–What can we do to reinforce the idea that we succeed only by helping others?