Jim Collins has had a profound impact on my leadership. Many of you know Jim from his books, Built to Last, Good to Great, etc. Of all Jim’s work, one of his ideas has been far more challenging, and haunting, to me than all the others.

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

I’ll not attempt to summarize the years of research Jim has done to reach this conclusion. If you’re interested, his books make a compelling case for his position on this issue. I surface this idea here for another reason.

As you and I begin a new year – I’m assuming few of you are striving for mediocrity. I guess there are people like that – I just don’t know any of them. The people I know want to live full, productive, rich lives. Lives full of meaning, purpose and contribution – in short, I believe we all want to be “great.”

So how do we make 2013 a great year? Let’s look at Jim’s prescription…

Conscious Choice – Leaders select the strategies and tactics we’ll employ on our quest for greatness. Rarely do others set these for us. We make the choices regarding products, services, talent, structure, culture, leadership approach, compensation, work environment, levels of encouragement, accountability, resource allocation, feedback, coaching, etc. Our choices are key drivers of our outcomes.

Discipline – This is perhaps the most challenging part of achieving greatness. We must actually do the things we purpose and plan to do. The importance of execution cannot be overstated. Don Soderquist, the former head of Wal-Mart said, “If you fail at the point of execution, you fail.” Discipline is certainly required for greatness.

You may have noticed by now, this post in entitled 3 Essential Ingredients… Jim only outlined two. What’s up with that? I want to propose a third for your consideration. No, I’ve not done 12 years of empirical research on this, but what I have done is more than three decades of paying attention. Here’s the missing ingredient in Jim’s formula – your personal definition of greatness.

What does great mean to you? I actually think that should be your starting point. What does success look like to you? I encourage leaders to define the desired outcome – first! How will we know “great” if we see it? People, neither teams nor organization drift to greatness – it must be pursued. How do you pursue that which you cannot define?

If you want to make 2013 a GREAT year for you, your team or your organization. Define Greatness; then, Conscious Choice and Discipline will, in most cases, take you there.

What does a great 2013 look like for you?[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.