My friend Mark made a reference to Jim Collins’ monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer. Right on the front of the little red cover the reader learns the basis for his evaluation lies in his book, Good to Great. Confession – I have not read Good to Great. In fact, for some time I have rebelled at the thought of reading books specifically on "leadership." There was a time I read everything I could get my hands on – with some discerning. I guess it goes back to reading for my DMin. One of my seminars focused on leadership. I recall reading most of James MacGregor Burns, Leadership. I found it interesting Collins’ references this work. The respite from reading books on leadership had more to do with the season of my life – my interests were elsewhere. I really believed everyone was saying the same thing just packaged a bit differently. I also came to believe leadership models did not often address the particularities of volunteer organizations. I still maintain the conviction leadership needs to be shared – flatter than we find in most churches though we, in Baptist circles, practice some form of "congregational polity." That is another post. Thinking about picking up Wikinomics. This one seems to point out the nature of flatter leadership and collaboration as the new shift. I am game. Back to Mark.

I could not find his post to link to but remember Mark pointing out the distinctive leadership issues related to churches (and non-profits) and Collins’ attempt to take this into account with this little monograph. I bit. As if I was not reading enough, I added this 30+ page exploration into the ways leadership along the format of Good to Great may be applied to "social sectors." In a moment akin to, "You had me at hello," I found this statement in the author’s note enough to place the item on the checkout at Barnes and Noble. Collin’s offers,

If we only have great companies, we will merely have a prosperous society, not a great one. Economic growth and power are the means, not the definition, of a great nation.

Yes, I wanted to know just what this leadership guru would suggest was needed to define a great nation. I am not sure I buy the means to greatness for a nation rests with economic growth and power. Great nations may remain great if they follow the warning of the following statement,

No matter how much you have achieved, you will always be merely good relative to what you can become. Greatness is an inherent dynamic process, not an end point. The moment  you think of yourself as great, your slide toward mediocrity will have already begun. (p.9)

I could not help but think of my own denomination. Too often I have grown up hearing how our tribe is the hope of/for the world. Talk of greatness oozes as though everyone else in Kingdom work is not even running a close second. Then I read Paul’s post for today.  Our talk of greatness cannot be supported by our numbers. Maybe his call, along with Ben Coles’, should be heard. Scrap the statistics. Let’s get away from what David Fitch suggests the "church" has adopted as measures of success built upon individualism and efficiency (The Great Giveaway). Most leadership adopted by churches I know give more credence to efficiency. Not that we should be inept and lazy. Not that we should be sloppy. Efficiency plays the spoiler to depth. Numbers represent the superficial. We prop them up with either skewed counting, not considering this unethical in the least, or we work to get the crowd without concern for discipleship, following Jesus. We applaud bucks, butts and buildings as measures of success. Character depth matters little.


Great wisdom comes in heeding advice – so says the wise writer of Proverbs. So, on the advice of several bloggers I picked up The Spider and the Starfish. After reading Margaret Wheatley’s Turning to One Another it seemed wise to give attention to Finding Our Way.  My own mantra since graduating with that DMin has been, "never stop learning." Time to pick up some more from those who may be describing an appropriate shift in leadership.

While Collins’ suggests the kind of research necessary to press out his assessment would take ten years, it did not deter him from thinking intuitively about the implications of "good to great" leadership for the social sectors. It is worth a read.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

5 comments on “Reading …

  1. says:

    I like the notion of “flatter” leadership. Especially within the Church. Involving more people in the decision making processes allowing the Pastor to be more of a guide and possibly to concentrate on his “sheperding” duties rather than his administration of a non-profit.

    Sometimes though I think the need would arise for quick decisions made by one (or small group of people) that would simply take too long if run through a “flat” organizion. Seems to me a healthy mix of the two would serve better than one over the other?

  2. says:

    You are right there must be a healthy mix. The responsibility for working out this balance belongs to the group.

  3. says:


    I should have those DVD’s to you this week…Sorry it’s taken so long. With DMin and mission trips, I’ve been swamped.

    I picked up wikinomics. Have it in my had and I type. Looks like a great book as well. Love this post!

  4. says:

    Oh, and Len is having us read Starfish and the Spider, though I’ve read most of it already. Great book!

  5. says:

    Thanks in advance for the DVD’s. I remember all too well adding studies to an already busy schedule. I had Wikinomics in my hand and opted to wait until I finished Finding One Another and The Starfish and the Spider. I think these three may well comprise some great thoughts on collaborative leadership.

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