In Love With Your Work
“To be successful, the first thing to do is to fall in love with your work.”
Sister Mary Lauretta
“You begin with passion, then you refine passion with a rigorous assessment of what you can best contribute to the communities you touch. Then you create a way to tie your resource engine directly to the other two circles.”
There are many good companies; why do some become great? In his book, “Good to Great”, Jim Collins demonstrates why some companies, even though in the same industry, with the same circumstances, comparable size, profits, and product lines excel while the others just remain good or even fail.
Collins and his team of researchers studied twenty-eight companies over a period of five years and produced mountains of data from the industry and human resources to arrive at the conclusion that there really is a common thread among those companies who “made the leap” to greatness.
Some of the most important things they found that great companies have include:
- Level 5 leaders. An outstanding characteristic of these women and men is their humility. It’s about the mission; it’s not about their own fame and fortune.
- These great companies have a culture of discipline. This does not mean harsh, overbearing rule. It means that everyone sticks to the plan religiously.
- They appreciate how technology can accelerate the process of growth, but don’t rely on it to be the “aha” of the progress of the company.
- These companies have a “deep understanding of three intersecting circles translated into a simple, crystalline concept (the Hedgehog Concept).”
In the public sector the three intersecting circles are: a great company is passionate about what it is doing; It understands what it can be great at; and it understands what drives its economic engine. The driver of the economic engine is the factor that has the greatest impact on the business. In most public corporations this is “profit per x”.
In Collins’ monograph, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors”, the Hedgehog Concept is still the key to success, but it is inappropriate to speak of profit. Non-profits are by definition, well non-profit. Added to passion for your objectives and understanding of the capabilities of the organization, the directors should be able to direct resources in such a way as to continue the goals of the organization and become a lasting source of help to the communities that they are serving.
The Good-to-Great framework is consistent with the models of leadership we have been discussing in Leadership and Global Perspectives. Disciplined people, thought, and actions in a ministry will honor the Lord. A set of timeless core values held in one hand with the flexibility to change when necessary is needed as we minister to others. We have already seen this in Dr. Lowney’s book, Heroic Leadership. “The paradox is that the energizing power lies precisely in the combination of nonnegotiable core beliefs and a willing embrace of change.”
We have discussed many times in class that Jesus is our model of servant leadership. A “Level 5” leader channels her ego needs away from herself and into the larger purpose of the foundation. It’s not that a leader should not strive to be really good at what she does. As a leader her success should be reflective of the company. Of course she wants to be the best she can be.
Great, Level 5 leaders will be modest but determined; humble but fearless in pursuing the goals of the organization. Leadership qualities are displayed that all of the other members of the organization can emulate. We have seen this helpful advice from Paul De Pree in his observations that leadership is ‘liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible.”
Part of the humbleness of leaders will include setting up future leaders. How many organizations have we heard of that have fizzled when the main personality dies or retires? Collins found that the great leaders had ambition first for the organization (I might say ministry) and its success (service) rather than for personal wealth or aggrandizement. I might dream that the ministry would not only continue but even become better after I retire. It is not about me.
As a Christian why should I care about having a great business (ministry)?
Because, it is impossible to serve others with joy unless I care deeply about the work I am engaged in. And it is easier to enjoy it if I know that it is meaningful and I should do it to the best of my ability. Though I am first of all serving the Lord and other people, I will still have the reward of “knowing that (I’ve) had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, (I) might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that (my) time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered.”
 Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors (Boulder, CO, Jim Collins, 2005). 20.
 Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York, NY, Harper Collins Publishers). 118.
 Chris Lowney. Heroic Leadership (Loyola Press) 248.
 Max De Pree. Leadership is an Art (Crown Business: New York), xxii.
Jim Collins, Good to Great, p. 210
7 responses to “In Love With Your Work”
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Mary, enjoyed your post. I think you make an excellent connection between Collins and Lowney when you speak of the need for holding on to core values and yet still have the ability or flexibility to change when necessary. Though I prefer “Heroic” over “Good to Great,” I agree that it is core values that form not only what we do, but who we are. Thanks Mary!
Collins’ definition of what he calls “Level 5 Leaders”–
“fearless in pursuing the goals of the organization”–
as you say, fits well with Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit is given to each of us “for the common good” (1 Co 12:7). Thanks Mary.
Mary, your post is a good reminder that, as church leaders, our work should be a CALLING. To this day, I cringe whenever a minister refers to his/her position at their church as “my job.”
While there is a lot of truth to this, being in the ministry is being a servant to God and His people.
If we are doing our “church work” for the glory of God, we do it with excellence…not because our our salary, but because of our heart.
Mary, beautiful post and inspiring opening quote. Sounds like you, as I see you to be very passionate, determined and disciplined with your calling. I really like the Hedgehog model and visualize the Holy Spirit as being the engine to fuel the passion and focus.
I agree with your statement that leaders should make future leaders. Leaders need to develop leaders who understand and support the vision and mission of the organization. Jesus was a perfect example of a leader. He selected 12 individuals based on particular factors and he taught them and developed them. It took some time to get them to the place of leadership.
He also allowed us to see that all that whom we select may not be the best for the position of leadership.
“Though I am first of all serving the Lord and other people, I will still have the reward of “knowing that (I’ve) had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution.”
This statement is so important to understanding the fruits of our labor. Making a difference is something as a leader I strive to do. In doing so, I want to make sure that what I contribute can be sustained and bring continual value to any organization that I serve.
“Because, it is impossible to serve others with joy unless I care deeply about the work I am engaged in.”
Wow Mary! This is such a profound statement. (I’m adding it to my “great quotes to think about” board.) It made me look back to the times I loved my work and how much easier it was to serve the people I worked with. Thank you!