jim collins
jim collins articles


(Listed Alphabetically)

The 10 Greatest CEOs of All Time

What these extraordinary leaders can teach today's troubled executives.

Aligning Action and Values

The Forum (originally published in the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management's Leader to Leader, Premier Issue Summer 1996)
Executives spend too much time wordsmithing vision statements, mission statements, values statements, purpose statements, and aspiration statements—and nowhere near enough time trying to align their organizations with the values and visions already in place.

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

Leading Beyond the Walls, a book edited and produced by the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management and published by Jossey-Bass
The most productive relationships are partnerships rooted in a freedom of choice vested in both parties to participate only in that which is mutually beneficial and uplifting.

Best Beats First

Of all the new economy's supposed "rules," the notion that nothing is as important as being first to reach scale may be the most widely accepted. It's also wrong.

Best New Year's Resolution? A "Stop Doing" List

USA Today
The start of the New Year is a perfect time to start a "stop doing" list and to make this the cornerstone of your New Year's resolutions, be it for your company, your family, or yourself.

Bigger, Better, Faster

Fast Company
If current growth rates hold up, the company that Sam Walton built will become the world's first trillion-dollar business within a decade. Far-fetched? Perhaps. But if you understand how Wal-Mart keeps growing, you'll know what it takes to keep your company moving in the right direction.

Book Value

To judge by the bestseller lists, a lot of people think you can become a leader by reading books. You can—but they're not the ones you'd expect.

Building Companies to Last

Inc. Special Issue—The State of Small Business
In a world of constant change, the fundamentals are more important than ever.

Building Your Company's Vision (not available online)

Harvard Business Review (with Jerry I. Porras)
This HBR cover story explains how companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed, while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. For the full text of this article, please contact Harvard Business Review.

Built to Flip

Fast Company
A battle is under way for the new economy. Which side are you on?

Change Is Good—But First, Know What Should Never Change

Reengineering and other prevailing management fads that urge dramatic change and fundamental transformation on all fronts are not only wrong, they are dangerous.

The Classics

Jim Collins offers what he believes to be the complete guide to the best business and management books ever written.

Companies Need Not Hire Outside CEOs to Stimulate Fundamental Change

Directorship (with Jerry I. Porras)
A visionary company can tick along for centuries, pursuing its purpose and expressing its core values long beyond the tenure of any individual leader.

Corporations Will Shape Our Future Values

USA Today
Visionary businessmen of the 20th century used their companies to shape society and its values. They will become the norm, rather than the exception, in the 21st.

The Daily Drucker

by Peter F. Drucker (Foreword to the book published by HarperCollins)
Peter Drucker had an uncanny ability to develop insights about the workings of the social world and to later be proved right by history.

The Death of the Charismatic Leader (and the Birth of an Architect)

This article is part of Inc.'s cover story, "What Comes Next?" Jim Collins points out that an enduring great company has to be built not to depend on an individual leader, because individuals die or retire or move on.

Expensive "Name" CEOs Not Necessarily Best Leaders

USA Today
Imagine the absurdity of paying a CEO $100 million for performing so badly that he gets fired. If true, executive compensation has indeed reached a new level of insanity.

Fast Company's Greatest Hits: Ten Years of the Most Innovative Ideas in Business

Edited by Mark N. Vamos and David Lidsky (Foreword to the book published by Penguin Group)
We need to examine life, work, and the connection between the two. We live short and die long, in the words of Dr. Walter M. Bortz, and the urgency of getting on with what we are meant to do with this one short life increases with each passing day.

Fear Not

"Change or die," say many of the experts. "The reason to get better is that bad things will happen to you if you don't." Is that kind of fear a good motivator? Not for long.

Few Hot Internet Companies Are Built to Last

USA Today
Only a small fraction of today's Internet companies will become powerful pistons in the economic engine of society.

Forget Strategy, Build Mechanisms Instead

This article is part of Inc.'s cover story, "What Comes Next?" Jim Collins says that to put your core purpose to work, you need mechanisms—the practices that bring what you stand for to life and stimulate change.

Good to Great

Fast Company
Start with 1,435 good companies. Examine their performance over 40 years. Find the 11 companies that became great. Now, here's how you can do it, too. Lessons on eggs, flywheels, hedgehogs, buses, and other essentials of business that can help you transform your company.


by Bob Buford (Foreword to the book published by Zondervan)
We only get one life, and the urgency of getting on with what we’re meant to do increases every day.

Hesselbein on Leadership

by Frances Hesselbein (Foreword to the book by Frances Hesselbein)
As we can learn from Frances Hesselbein, if your leadership flows first and foremost from inner character and integrity of ambition, then you can justly ask people to lend themselves to your organization and its mission—and you can create results.

The Highest Goal: The Secret That Sustains You in Every Moment

by Michael Ray (Foreword to the book by Michael Ray)
In Life, and in Business, you can follow the paint by numbers kit—or you can start with a blank canvas and paint a masterpiece. 

Hitting the Wall: Realizing that Vertical Limits Aren't

Edited by Michael Useem, Jerry Useem and Paul Asel (Chapter 1 and Epilogue from the book Upward Bound: Nine Original Accounts of How Business Leaders Reached Their Summits.)
Jim has been a rock climber for more than 35 years. Here he shares some of his lessons for life and business that he learned in the vertical classroom, such as: climb to fallure, not failure; separate probability from consequence; be an expert beginner.

How Great Companies Tame Technology

In 1997, I conducted a research interview with Ken Iverson, the CEO who led Nucor from obscurity into becoming the most profitable steel company in America.

Why do some companies fall from greatness? By understanding the Five Stages of Decline and avoiding their pitfalls, leaders can better sustain—or regain—great results.

Change is accelerating, uncertainty is permanent, and chaos is common. Yet some leaders and entrepreneurs navigate these conditions exceptionally well. They don't merely react; they create. They don't merely survive; they prevail. They don't merely succeed; they thrive.

The HP Way

by David Packard (Foreword to the book by David Packard)
Most entrepreneurs pursue the question "How can I succeed?" From Day One, Packard and Hewlett pursued a different question: "What can we contribute?"

It's not What You Make, it's What You Stand For

This article is part of Inc.'s cover story, "What Comes Next?" Jim Collins says that concentrating on products—or services, if that's what you sell—is a trap.

Leadership Lessons from West Point

Edited by Major Doug Crandall (Foreword to the book published by Jossey-Bass)
"In business, if you make bad decisions, people lose money, and perhaps jobs," the captain said. "In the military, if you make bad decisions, nations can fall and people can die."

The Learning Executive

Becoming a learning person involves responding to every situation with learning in mind.
Level 5 Leadership (not available online)
Harvard Business Review
What catapults a company from merely good to truly great? A five-year research project searched for the answer to that question, and its discoveries ought to change the way we think about leadership. For the full text of this article, please contact Harvard Business Review.

Looking Out for Number One

The board of directors you really need doesn't give a damn about your company.


by Peter F. Drucker (Foreword to the book by Peter F. Drucker)
There are two ways to change the world: the pen (the use of ideas) and the sword (the use of power). Peter Drucker chose the pen and thereby rewired the brains of thousands who carry the sword—and contributed as much to the triumph of the free world as any other individual.

Manager's Journal: High Returns amid Low Expectations

The Wall Street Journal
During the late 1990s, executives complained about out-of-whack expectations created by an irrational stock market. Now many of those same people complain about the pressures created by recession, war, terrorism, and a struggling market.

The Maverick and His Machine

by Kevin Maney (Foreword to the book by Kevin Maney)
Leaders like Thomas J. Watson Sr. are like forces of nature—almost terrifying in their release of energy and unpredictable volatility—but underneath they still adhere to certain patterns and principles.

The Misguided Mix-up of Celebrity and Leadership

Conference Board Annual Report, Annual Feature Essay
Virtually everything our modern culture believes about the type of leadership required to transform our institutions is wrong. It is also dangerous.

The Most Creative Product Ever

The next wave of enduring great companies will be built not by technical or product visionaries, but by social visionaries—those who see their company and how it operates as their ultimate creation, and who invent entirely new ways of organizing human effort and creativity.

Old Economy Companies Learn New Economy Tricks

USA Today
The belief that "new economy" companies will annihilate all "old economy" companies has been replaced with a more realistic view.

Pulling the Plug

Want to make room for all those new projects? Stop one thing you're doing right now.

The Secret Life of the CEO: Is the Economy Just Built to Flip?

Fast Company
Here's the truth: The problem isn't the market's rise or fall. The problem is people who react to events rather than seek to create something great.

The Secret of Enduring Greatness

That most great institutions fall—and we cannot deny this fact—does not
mean you have to be one of them.

Shareflipping Cheats Shareholders of Real Value

USA Today
Responsibility to shareholders is rapidly becoming an irrelevant concept in our country. Increasingly, corporate ownership lies not in the hands of shareholders, but in the hands of an entirely different species: shareflippers.

The Silicon Valley Paradigm and Why It Won

The Red Herring—Technology and Investing Monthly and Stanford Business Magazine
Jim Collins compares two Silicon Valley business models.

Sometimes a Great Notion

A surprising number of companies we consider great today did not start out with a compelling idea for a product or service.

The Timeless Physics of Great Companies

Businessweek (published as "Perspectives: Don't Rewrite the Rules of the Road")
The Internet is a big deal, but electricity was bigger. Building a great company requires adherence to principles predating both.

Turning Goals into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms (not available online)

Harvard Business Review
Catalytic mechanisms are the most promising devices executives can use to achieve their Big Hairy Audacious Goals. For the full text of this article, please contact Harvard Business Review.

The Wizard, King, and Hobbit of Business

Fast Company
The story of a father who builds an empire, a reluctant son who battles against his father before inheriting the empire and taking it to greatness, and a stranger who shows up in the nick of time to save all that the father and son built.