The inimitable Jim Collins has brought us a sizeable number of terms and models over the years. From his classics like The Hedgehog Concept, The Right People on the Bus and Level 5 Leadership to his more recent ideas of The 20 Mile March and Bullets over Cannonballs, Collins-isms are common place in the general business lexicon of today.
One of my personal favorites, though, is one referenced less often – that of The Stockdale Paradox, as first introduced in Chapter 4 of Good to Great. In a nutshell, The Stockdale Paradox represents the ability to maintain firm conviction in the ultimate (successful) outcome and deal with the harshest outcomes head on. At the same time. The subtlety here is not to ping pong between the two, not to live in blind optimism or drown in pressing “ToDos”, but to live in the space between and operate in a way that addresses both or, at the very least, doesn’t sabotage either.
I believe that, particularly in a fast growing company, this “double vision” is crucially important for a leader in helping their team maintain focus, maintain growth and maintain morale.
For those interested in this sort of thing, Jim Collins explains where the name came from (and the back story, which is truly remarkable) here. The lesson is a life lesson, easily applied to business. (and not the other way around). There’s something beautiful about that, to me.
In Admiral Jim Stockdale’s own words:
“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”