One of the most quintessential leadership books that has had a major impact on my ministry and leadership has been Jim Collins’, Good To Great. Collins’ basic premise for his work is that good companies never achieve greatness because they are satisfied with the status quo of being good. Collins, in his monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors, distills what makes a company great when he says, “A great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time. For a business, financial returns are a perfectly legitimate measure of performance. For a social sector organization, however, performance must be assessed relative to mission, not financial returns (Good to Great Social Sectors, p. 5). For Collins, relatively few companies ever achieve such greatness. They simply are good companies, but disappear with time because they have not created a lasting legacy of being great. He would state it like this:
“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
Through a series of stories and examples of great companies and leaders that have stood the test of time, Collins weaves in concepts in order to achieve greatness. His most impactful concept is to challenge your organization with “BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).” In Collins’ thought, an organization does not achieve great things because the organization does not possess challenging goals that push people to the brink of their personal best.
Good to Great and the accompanying monograph were insightful to me in my current context. As I have been working hard to revitalize a church culture over the last year, I have come to the realization that the shift I have been making in my context has been moving a church from being good to becoming great. Simple processes such as creating systems, becoming missional in thought, and caring less about the bottom line and more about the people in our community does not define a good church, but it should, if done right, defines a great church. After all, my desire to pastor is not to be in a pulpit for 20 years and then retire, but to create an organization that has a lasting impact long after I am gone.
By understanding the principles of a great organization, it will help me think years down the road and not just live in present success. Master plans for buildings, future hires, and even succession must be thought through if a church is to achieve greatness. It is my conviction that many want to achieve great things within the ministry, but lack the basic knowledge on how to achieve that and the discipline to see the process through. Good to Great and Good to Great Social Sectors offers ideas for both. After all, Collins states, “Mediocre companies rarely display the relentless culture of discipline-disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action- that we find in truly great companies. A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness (Good to Great Social Sectors, p. 1).” Because of our mission, the church should be the greatest force in the world, but it will take disciplined labor.