Good Great Power
Good to Great is a fascinating study of how companies who have settled into and exist with a good enough mentality, culture, and results can experience the awakening of becoming great. From a researched based study, author Jim Collins and an extensive team of researchers, assesses, evaluate, and compare twenty-eight companies to learn what ultimately makes the good become great.
One of the key findings is what Collins entitled “Level 5 Leadership.” As Collins articulates this quality, “‘Level 5’ refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities with Level 5 at the top. Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.” Additionally Collins goes on to describe Level 5 leaders as “self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy – these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. They are more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton and Ceasar.”
A significant dynamic of Level 5 leadership Collins and his team discovered was heavily related to the distribution and use of power. While often in the business sector in our Western culture, power flows through a tighter, hierarchical structure with clear and straightforward controls concentrated on heavy executive power. Yet in the social sector, which Collins created an accompaniment monograph to cover due to the distinct differences between business and social sector organizations, Level 5 leaders distribute power through a more diffuse structure with very limited traditional executive power. Level 5 leadership in the social sector is truly defined by “the ability to get people to follow when they have the freedom not to.”
An interesting interview that Collins and his team of researchers covered in their social sector monograph was of the Girl Scouts of the USA CEO, Frances Hesselbein. When asked about power and the apparent lack of traditional executive power due to being a primarily a volunteer based organization, Hesselbien replied, “Oh, you always have power, if you just have know where to find it. There is the power of inclusion, and the power of language, and the power of shared interests, and the power of coalition. Power is all around you to draw upon, but it is rarely raw, rarely visible.”
Collins identifies and associates this style of leadership that views power in a more resourceful way as legislative leadership as opposed to executive leadership. Collins writes, “Legislative leadership relies more upon persuasion, political currency, and shared interests to create the conditions for the right decisions to happen.” It is often in the social sector that we see Level 5, legislative leadership being the key characteristic for greatness being achieved.
I am personally drawn to and attracted by this characteristic of organizational leadership because of the specific organizational role I have served in over the past three years. I have served as The Director of Church Health and Multiplication for The Wesleyan Church denomination. Obviously, this is a social sector organization, but even more specifically, the role I have served in is a role where power and the power dynamics are very legislative and sit at a great distance from anything close to executive power. Structurally speaking, my role would fall into middle management. I work for those with our highest-level executive powers, our General Superintendent and Executive Director of Discipleship and Multiplication, as well as serve those (our District Superintendents) with more executive power than which I positionally have. Collins statement about ‘getting people to do things that they have the freedom not to’ truly resonates with me.
From serving in this role for three years, I would initially say I have not had any real power because of a lack of authority and I would say I have only been able to plan, prepare, and accomplish that which I have been able to gain through relationships and trust. But, reading Frances Hesselbein’s description of power and that power has many forms, I can re-picture the role I have served in as having great power and having tapped into much of it through inclusion, shared-interest, persuasion, language, and coalition.
I have primarily approached my role as a network developer. In hindsight, the network has developed primarily through finding and seeing the power that exists in the non-authoritarian relationships, social dynamics, and shared organizational interests. I definitely would not have viewed power having played a part, but when I look at how a culture is being created within our denomination from this legislative, non-executive style, ultimately style is actually describing how power was working and was being used.
As I continue to serve in my role for one more year, I see incredible opportunities and implications of a learning curve continuing in thinking more about legislative leadership and the power dynamics within our denomination. We are in an election year with a new General Superintendent to be elected in the coming year. I look forward to praying and watching how God moves through the dynamics of Level 5 leadership and the use of power to help us continue to pursue the real greatness of living out the Great Commandment and carrying out the Great Commission in the days ahead.
 Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap–and Others Don’t (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 2001), 39.
 Ibid., Collins. 13.
 Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: a Monograph to Accompany Good to Great (Boulder, CO: HarperCollins, 2005), 32.
 Ibid., Collins, 32.
 Ibid., Collins 10.
 Ibid., Collins 11.