The following is taken from an article in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal. This comes from an interview with Jim Collins. Collins wrote “Good to Great” and “Built to Last”, both of which are books worth your time if you want to learn about leadership (espeically Good to Great).


The subtitle for your monograph is “Why business thinking is not the answer.” How is business thinking misapplied in the social sector? The mistake social sector organizations often make is to implement “business practices,” but they imitate mediocre businesses.

For instance, bringing in an outside change agent. That’s what many average companies do, but great organizations have the discipline to grow leadership from within. There’s also the practice of using incentives. Average companies spend a lot of time incentivizing desired behavior. Great institutions discipline themselves to get people whose character is naturally to exhibit great behavior.

Since discipline is so key, where do you most often see breakdowns in discipline? Not being rigorous about who’s put in leadership roles. In churches and other social sector organizations, the work is too important to let key seats on the bus be occupied by the wrong people.

Second is being unclear about your goals. You must ask, “What do we mean by great results?” Your goals don’t have to be quantifiable, but they do have to be describable. Some leaders try to insist, “The only acceptable goals are measurable,” but that’s actually an undisciplined statement. Lots of goals—beauty, quality, life change, love—are worthy but not quantifiable. But you do have to be able to tell if you’re making progress. For a church, a goal might be: Young people bring other young people here unprompted. Do they talk about the church with their friends? You may not be able to measure that, but you can assess it.

Third is undisciplined action, most commonly seen in the inability to stay with a coherent program long enough to get flywheel momentum.

Average organizations constantly lurch from one initiative to another. They’re always looking for the next big thing, when the next big thing might be the thing they already have.

What role does leadership play in great churches? One of the things from Good to Great that really resonated with church leaders was the Level 5 Leadership finding, that leaders who took companies from good to great are characterized by personal humility and by a fierce dedication to a cause that is larger than themselves.

I was delighted how the Level 5 concept took hold, and yet the deeper I got into it, the more I realized that Level 5 Leadership looks different in a non-business setting. A church leader often has a very complicated governance structure. There can be multiple sources of power, constituencies in the community, and constituencies in the congregation. With all of that, you’re going to run into trouble if you try to lead a church as a czar. Church leaders have to be adept in a more communal process, what we came to call “legislative” rather than an “executive” process.

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