Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Good to Great

Written by: on September 8, 2016


The leadership market is filled with a plethora of authors and principles that vacillate from “snake oil” to legitimate and practical practices and theories.  Among the best is widely acclaimed and respected author Jim Collins.  In my opinion, Collins is considered a canonized author on the sacred writings of leadership.  Since its release, then has been my “go to” for myself and aspiring leaders.

Collins begins his leadership treatise with six words that become his clarion call throughout his book, “Good is the enemy of great.”[1]  Business and social sectors can reduce their focus to being “good” and miss the disciplines to being “great”.


Collins believes that there are three simple truths that good to great leaders possess: “First, if you begin with ‘who’, rather than ‘what’, you can more easily adapt to a changing world. Second, if you have the right people on the bus, the problem on how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.  Third, if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction, you still won’t have a great company.  Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”[2]

Good to Great stays in lock step with Collins’ previous book, Built to Last, which emphasizes how companies can accept “good” and miss the potential of being “great”.  Collins examines companies, that we are all familiar with goodtogreatflywheelin their successes and those that have failed, and gives us principles of why they are where they are at.  The principles are researched and then shown how to be reproducible.

Collins’ Good to Great focuses on:  “First Who…Then What, Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith, The Hedgehog Concept, A Culture of Discipline”.[3]   These Main areas are what take a business or social sector from being stagnated in “good” and the successful position of being “great”.


Collins great line is, “Good is the enemy of great.”  Institutions and religious organizations can be, and are hindered, with their present “bottom line” dilemma.  This is what I refer to as present reality or the failure to look at the real picture.  But possibly of greater concern is the inevitable transition of the senior leader in every institution and religious organization.

Is there an acceptance of a “good” senior leader because of past success or creativity versus the pursuit of a “great” leader that can raise the institution or organization to heights beyond what has ever been known?  Collins’ work in the social sector has helped to address these concerns versus writing it off because the social sector operates at both a lower standard and lower disciplines.

His simple 36 page, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, disarms the disparity between the social sector and the business community.  Collins made it clear by saying, “We must reject the idea – well-intentioned, but dead wrong – that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become ‘more like a business.  Most businesses – like most of anything in life – fall somewhere between mediocre and good.  Few are great. ”[4]

Collins believes that the success within the social sector is linked to five issues that are distinct to the social sector and quite different than the business sector.  His third issue, of the five, is “First Who – Getting the Right People on the Bus, within Social Sector Constraints”.[5]   Collins scathingly warns, “Time and talent can often compensate for lack of money, but money cannot compensate for lack of the right people.”[6]

As I have researched my dissertation on transitioning senior leaders, it seems that the burden of transition falls on one of three entities:  the incumbent, the candidate, and the organization.  Collins call to the “right people” seem to resonate in all three entities to have the right people on their seat of the bus.  Collins calls all to recognize where we are and where we can be.


[1] Jim Collins, Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 1.

[2] Ibid., 42.

[3] Ibid., Contents Page.

[4] Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, (Boulder, CO: self-published by Jim Collins, 2005), 1.

[5] Ibid., 13.

[6] Ibid., 17.

About the Author

Phil Goldsberry

15 responses to “Good to Great”

  1. Hi Phil. It sounds like this is a great book for your research topic. I too think it is important to get the right people on the bus. I wonder what a leadership transition would look like if the board and congregation came to a place where they knew the senior leader was the wrong person driving the bus. Sounds a bit awkward, but probably more common than we think. I think you could steal the title of this book for your dissertation: Good to Great Leadership Transitions.

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      Do I owe you for the new title? That is a great idea if I could pull it off.

      Even in the church we need to face present reality with all leadership. Respect needs to be given to senior leaders but that is not an excuse for poor leadership. As Collins would encourage proper placement on the proper bus, we should do the same.

      Thanks again for a possible title.


  2. Aaron Cole says:


    Great synthesis of the book! I really resonated with your Collins quote: “Time and talent can often compensate for lack of money, but money cannot compensate for lack of the right people.”. How true. Have you ever violated that principle? What was the common effect when a ministry leader does this?

    See you in London,

    • Phil Goldsberry says:

      Violated? Yes. Sometimes as a leader we think we can “lead” anybody to greatness. At times we feel if we could train, believe in, or give them a little more it will turn the corner for them and their potential.

      Yet, as Collins said, money cannot compensate or change the reality of a person’s ability. At times it is better to cut your loses and find the right person for the bus. In churches that is difficult and possibly a longer process.

      See you soon,


  3. Kevin Norwood says:


    Thanks for a great synthesis of this incredible book. I resonate with how you have broken down the issues and the subject at hand.

    When you brought your conclusion about the three people and that they all are involved and on the bus. In your research how important is the culture of the organization that is in the mix? How do non profits sustain the culture of great?

    Circuit City no longer exists in Oklahoma. It is the great example of Collins from 2001. By 2016 it is gone….what changed in the organization? Was it a person or the transition from one person to another person or was it that it is just to much work to be great?

    Just posing a couple questions.


    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      Great question on sustaining greatness. The key is to make the vision clear to the followers and to make sure that the vision has eternal value, not temporal highs.

      With Circuit City, as with other companies that Collins looks at, is their ability to adapt to a changing market. Can they flex with change or crumble?

      Great insight.


  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Thanks for a clear and concise blog on the salient points in Collins’ books.
    You mentioned that in your dissertation research on transitioning senior leaders, the burden of transition falls on the incumbent, the candidate, and the organization. Did your research reveal that any one of these entities had more influence on outcomes than the other two or were they all equally responsible for the transition outcome?

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      The longer I research this the more it seems that there is a burden of proof that is equally divided between all three. It would seem that the balance of power would be on the incumbent but the longer I examine this, the new designee has as much on him but from a different perspective.


  5. Rose Anding says:

    Great Blog Phil,
    It great to know that some information from the book may aid in your “Dissertation on transitioning senior leaders, it seems that the burden of transition falls on one of three entities: the incumbent, the candidate, and the organization”.

    That is great information, but in my opinion, firstly foremost I would view the structure of the organization, and having a vision that moves people emotionally… must be firmly in place; because the incumbent, the candidate builds, develop and expand upon the foundation.

    It great sharing with you. You are off to a great start… if the Lord ‘s, we will meet in London. Rose Maria

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      First, hope to see you soon! The organization does play a great role. But a misguided incumbent can wreck havoc over those that he/she has garnered to his corner and not the corner of what is best for the organization. The new designee can come in with selfish motives and destroy the organization with his/her lack of sensitivity and prowess that will build the future.

      Great question.


  6. Marc Andresen says:


    When the time for your retirement nears (years from now), how will you counsel the pastoral search team (ala Collins) regarding what to look for in your successor?

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      Wow! Go for the jugular! A successor has to have several layers of alignment: Alignment with God, alignment with the vision of the organization, alignment with the “DNA” of what is existing – yet not afraid to transition to what can be, and a heart aligned with the people (forcing square pegs into round holes is disaster).

      Great question. I feel like I am writing my future each time my research goes another step.

      See you soon.


  7. Garfield Harvey says:

    Lovely blog. In reading your blog, it’s clear that some leaders know where they’d like to be but often fail in accepting or assessing their reality. It happens in many social sector settings when leaders believe such acceptance of their reality is accepting defeat (if they’re failing). However, leaders must always measure (or assess) the different stages in their organization to determine where change needs to occur (if anything needs to change). As you stated, “Collins calls all to recognize where we are and where we can be.” We can be effective if we make the subtle changes.


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