The one-sentence summary

Ignore charismatic leaders, complex strategies and the competition – if you want enduring success, concentrate on having a common sense of purpose.




  • It is the sequel to the 1994 classic about the successful habits of companies.
  • It uses a 5-year research study to work out how companies can migrate from being merely good to being great. By the time the author had finished, he wondered whether it should in fact have been the prequel.
  • Level 5 leaders build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
  • Of particular note are the ‘dogs that didn’t bark’, factors that do not play a role in taking a company from good to great, including:

    ~ Larger than life celebrity leaders

    ~ High executive pay

    ~ Strategy (all companies claim to have one)

    ~ Technology (it can only accelerate change, not instigate it)

    ~ Mergers and acquisitions

    ~ Transformation programmes or themes

    ~ Sexy sectors or industries




  • Although this book has taken on revered status, much of it remains helpful and relevant. You can try to apply the principles:

    ~ First who…then what. Get the right people on the bus, then decide where to drive it

    ~ Confront the brutal facts (yet never lose faith). Work out what you are good at, and do that. Work out what you are bad at, and don’t do that.

    ~ The hedgehog concept. The hedgehog does one thing well (curling into a ball) whilst the fox rushes around, creating the impression of speed

    ~ Culture of discipline. When you have one, you don’t need hierarchy

    ~ Technology accelerators. These are never the origin of greatness, merely enhancers of it

    ~ The flywheel and the doomloop. Moves to greatness all happen gradually – there is no miracle moment




  • The evidence per company is highly detailed, so if you do not know the company (they are all American) or are not interested in it, then you have to wade through for the bits you want
  • If you read The Halo Effect, you may think the whole study is rubbish