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