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Glorifying God in Greatness

Written by: on September 8, 2016

James C. Collins – Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t

                              Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great

Introduction

James C. Collins has distinguished himself as an author, professor, and researcher. He founded a research management laboratory where he conducts research with CEOs and senior leadership teams in the corporate and social sectors. He has produced learning environments for those in education, healthcare, government, faith-based organizations, and cause-oriented nonprofits.

According to Collins, the listed books are ultimately about one thing: timeless principles of  “Good to Great.”[1] He indicates, the work is a discovery of timeless, universal principles that can be applied to any situation and enhance one’s life experiences in building something great in the corporate world, the church, nonprofits, or community organizations.  The work is about building a framework of “greatness” that can stand the test of time no matter how the global scene changes.

Summary

A synopsis of the two books can be understood through the lens of the four stages outlined in the good to great conceptual framework.

Stage I – Disciplined People

A. Level Five Leadership

“Level Five leaders build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of extreme personal humility with intense professional will.”[2] They are ambitious for the work, not themselves

B. First Who…Then What?

Level Five leaders make sure the right people are on the bus and seated in strategic places, and the wrong people are off the bus, before they determine where to drive it.

Stage II – Disciplined Thought

A. Confront the Brutal Facts—Stockdale Paradox

“Retain unwavering faith you can and will prevail in the end, and at the same time   have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”[3]

B. Hedgehog Concept

A self-assessment concept reflected in three intersecting circles: “what you can be the best at in  the world; what you are deeply passionate about; and what best drives your economic or resource engine.”[4]

Stage III – Disciplined Action

A. Culture of Discipline

Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and function in the freedom of disciplined action within a framework of responsibility, characterize a culture that creates greatness.

B. The Flywheel

The process of building greatness is like consistently pushing a giant, heavy flywheel until enough momentum is gained which ultimately leads to breakthrough and beyond.

Stage IV – Build Greatness to Last

A. Clock Building not Time Telling

Great organizations prosper through multiple generations of leaders who leave legacies of  success models for their successors to build on.

B. Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress

Enduring great organizations acknowledge “core values which never change and operating strategies and cultural practices which endlessly adapt to a changing world.”[5]

“A great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time. For a social sector organization, performance is assessed in terms of how effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact relative to our resources.”[6]

Analysis/Reflection

The depiction of Level Five leaders reminded me right away of Jesus’ leadership style and mannerisms in His earthly walk. He exuded humility and was unassuming and reserved while occupying the most powerful position of authority, and manifesting extraordinary feats. Jesus always gave all glory to God, His source. His attention was focused on His mission of advancing the Kingdom of God and not on Himself.  He also handpicked His disciples and got the right people on the bus and in the right seats, before discipleship, miracles, and revelations.  Jesus even got the wrong person off the bus by giving Judas free reign to literally hang himself and get himself removed from the bus. Collins states the right person on the bus has more to do with character than knowledge or skill.

In March, 2003, Collins was interviewed by Christianity Today.  Collins stated, “I am delighted that so many people in the Christian community resonate with the Level 5 concept. They probably feel tension between the brutal competiveness of the outside world and their inner faith and being a type of person that the New Testament calls you to be. If you thought you had to be an anti-level 5 to be successful, but now you find this evidence that your instincts were right all along, that can be powerful.”[7]

Committing to the Hedgehog Concept in the Social Sectors is quite challenging, especially Circle 2—“Understanding what your organization can uniquely contribute to the people it touches, better than any other organization on the planet.”[8] Addressing the circles relating to this Concept should be quite helpful this semester in our class on “Designing a Research Model.” Hopefully, this reality check will enable us to gain greater clarity and be able to fine tune our research endeavors even more.

I found confronting the brutal facts of my current reality to be rather daunting. Meditating on the concepts of the Stockdale Paradox brought a host of scriptures to mind that reinforced my faith walk. I thought about my fellow cohortees and how tenacious we all have to be in our faith in God as we are completing our studies and dealing with other external challenges.

In Deep Work, Cal Newport encouraged his readers to produce at an elite level and informed that human beings are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging. [9] Collins challenges his readers to consider, “What work makes you feel compelled to try to create greatness? Get involved in something you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be.”[10]. Collins maintains, “Our work and our life move toward greatness when we’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic value that makes a contribution. Knowing that our short time here on earth has been well spent and that it mattered, gives meaning to life.”[11] This is a Selah moment.

Notes

  1. James Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t (NewYork: HarperCollins, 2011) 279, Kindle.
  2. James Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great (New York: HarperCollins, 2011) 452, Kindle.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 474.
  6. Ibid., 75.
  7.  “Good to Great’s Leadership Model Looks Familiar to Christians,” Christianity Today (March 2003): accessed September 6, 2016, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/marchweb-only/3-10-51.o.html.
  8. Collins, Social Sectors, 262, Kindle
  9. Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), 29, 84.
  10. Collins, Good to Great, 3376, Kindle.
  11. Collins, Social Sectors, 3386, Kindle.

About the Author

Claire Appiah

15 responses to “Glorifying God in Greatness”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Claire, you wrote that ‘Addressing the circles [of the Hedgehog] relating to this Concept should be quite helpful this semester in our class on “Designing a Research Model.” Hopefully, this reality check will enable us to gain greater clarity and be able to fine tune our research endeavors even more.’

    Can you say just a little more about how working the Hedgehog will help refine our research?

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Marc,
      Let me see if I can make sense of my comments. In the Social Sectors, Collins states, “The essence of a Hedgehog Concept is to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long term results. . .” (232)
      Circle 1: Understanding what your organization stands for (its core values) and why it exists (its mission or core purpose).
      Circle 2: Understanding what your organization can uniquely contribute to the people it touches, better than any other organization on the planet.
      Circle 3: Understanding what best drives your resource engine (time, money, and brand}.
      This might only be my personal challenge. But, I feel that the Hedgehog Concept has raised the bar for my understanding of what excellence in performance looks like in terms of my dissertation and ministry outcomes. For me, I believe the Hedgehog Concept will inform and shape how I design my research model. One thing would be to discard complacency with “good” and truly strive to produce something “great” to the glory of God.

  2. Aaron Peterson says:

    Hi Claire. Good to hear from you again! Are you loving our LA weather? So nice!
    You wrote, “Meditating on the concepts of the Stockdale Paradox brought a host of scriptures to mind that reinforced my faith walk.” Would you please elaborate a bit? What kind of tensions do you hold in your faith walk?

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Hi Aaron,
      Yes, I am loving our summer weather in southern CA and I hate to see it go.
      OK. Stage II of the good to great framework involves retaining unwavering faith while you confront the brutal facts of your current reality. I’m saying I did that and my current reality looks scary. But, it is not the Stockdale Paradox per se that ignited my faith, but the biblical precepts that it is founded on. In other words, meditation on the Word of God itself is what empowers and encourages me, even in the face of the brutal facts of my current reality. I hope this is a bit clearer.

  3. Aaron Cole says:

    Claire,

    Great summary of the book! I very much enjoy reading your writing. I completely agree with Jesus being the ultimate Level 5 leader. In our world today, what Christian leader would you identify as a level 5 leader? Why?

    See you in London,
    Aaron

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Hi Aaron Cole,
      Welcome back home! You ask the question, “In our world today, what Christian leader would you identify as a level five leader? Why?
      I would say, Pastor Matthew Barnett of Angelus Temple, the church of the Dream Center in Los Angeles. Pastor Barnett’s leadership style and mannerisms exhibit level 5 leadership. He is humble, unassuming, and compassionate, at the same time relentless in his drive to create a great ministry and sustain it. He is quick to give others praise and recognition for their contribution to the successes of the ministry and operates from a culture of discipline. He boldly acknowledges the brutal facts, but applies the Word of God as the basis for never losing faith in God.
      In 1994, he founded the Dream Center that serves the inner city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas, meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the lost, hurting, and oppressed on a large scale daily. From its inception the ministry has gone from good to great. As a level 5 leader, he has “built enduring greatness.”

  4. Pablo Morales says:

    Claire,
    That was a great summary of the book. Key outline with key quotes. I still have a file full of quotes from the book. It goes on for several pages!

    I was also encouraged by the Level-5 leadership description in the book. It did make me think of Jesus and His call for us to be servant leaders. Isn’t it amazing that God’s principles are the ones that always work!? May we continue to grow as servant leaders in our pursuit of God’s vision for our lives. May the rare mix of humility and determination characterize the way we lead.

    I look forward to seeing you again in London!
    Pablo

  5. Claire Appiah says:

    Pablo,
    Thanks for your comments and response to my blog.
    I love your level 5 leadership style characterized by humility, servanthood, wisdom, and glorifying God in allowing him to have the pre-eminence. When will Christians and non-Christians catch on: God’s principles, God’s ways, and God’s vision are always the best course of action to follow?
    Looking forward to our next meet in England.

  6. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Claire:

    You amaze me. Your insight, practicality and passion are so encouraging.

    I took to heart what you said: “Committing to the Hedgehog Concept in the Social Sectors is quite challenging, especially Circle 2—“Understanding what your organization can uniquely contribute to the people it touches, better than any other organization on the planet.” I agree. Greatness must be definitely Level 5 driven or you can miss the heart behind the “why” of ministry.

    See you soon.

    Phil

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Phil,
      I think that when Christians embrace the concept that “Greatness” is our reasonable service in glorifying God in all things and exalting His Kingdom, then more of them will be eager to get on board; Part of the “why” of ministry.

  7. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Claire,
    Great reflection but I wanted to comment on one statement. You stated, “In Deep Work, Cal Newport encouraged his readers to produce at an elite level and informed that human beings are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.” I also find this to be true as it relates to attaining my personal goals. One of the reasons we excel at challenging things is because we place a high value on it. Things we consider easy are often meaningless so often fail to give it our best. Having the right on our team is important if we desire elite results because they’ll place great value on challenging task instead of quitting.

    Garfield

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Garfield,
      I think people, in general have not been taught to strive for greatness or persevere in the challenges for achieving greatness in spite of their talents and abilities. I like the fact that in pursuit of your personal and professional goals you do not back away from the tough tasks. As you mentioned, “One of the reasons we excel at challenging things is because we place a high value on it.” As Collins stated, “greatness is a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” Thanks for your thoughts.

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