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.