Posted by: watchman | February 6, 2009

Great Lesson: Level 5 Leader

I have been reading a book called Good to Great which has nothing at all to do with church or ministry, but still holds some good great lessons for the field. The book examines some of the greatest companies (those that were able to become sustainably great, instead of just good). Jim Collins, the author, then pulls out some identifiable patterns and principles  on three different fronts: people, thought patterns, and actions.

I have learned a couple of things about ministry and leadership fromt this book, though that is not the primary topic of the book.

Level 5 Leader

Unless you are very into business journals, I will guarantee you have never heard of any of the 11 CEOs featured in this book. They were not regularly on television, they weren’t flashy, or concerned with their own public persona. Collins points out that the typical image of a great CEdoxO is that of a charismatic superstar business genius who can turn a company to greatness by sheer force of his or her personality.

The best business leaders, however, maintained a fascinating paradox. They were both extraordinarily ambitious and equally humble. Their employees and fellow executives spoke of their bosses as being driven and focused, but also humble enough to be friendly and not overbearing as many of their more public counterparts.

I thought about this in the context of ministry. So many churches are looking for a flashy leader. Churches want a minister with charisma –  a visionary hot shot. Often they get an ego maniac, just looking to build a monument to his or her self.

Part of being a level 5 leader is the ability to build the organization to a point of sustainable health and success. Collins defined sustainability as the company was able to maintain profitability and market presence even through leadership change. So many organizations that are based on a certain leader’s ability, are doomed to decline with the eventual absence of that leader.

Most churches are terrible about basing their ministry on one person’s ability, and I believe it is due to a faulty system and plain old laziness.

  • The faulty system is the typical American Christian belief that the pastor or priest is the professional that is in charge of doing the ministerial work. In all actuality, the Jesus model is that of a facilitator who teaches his flock how to do the work.  He said his disciples would do even greater things than him and commissioned them to do those very things. Sustainability. A pastor should be investing himself in the lives of others, not building a monument to himself. However, the current system promulgates the latter instead of the former.
  • The idea that the pastor does all the work is very convenient for a group of people who don’t want to do anything anyway. We have all sorts of people in our lives who do stuff we don’t want to and we even speak about them in the posessive.  When I want my toilet fixed, I call my plumber. I have a garbage man to haul my garbage, my babysitter watches the kids, and my pastor does ministry stuff. I write the check and I expect a return on my investment.

I think of the fact that Jesus seemed to flee from taking credit, yet at the same time he was amazingly driven and ambitious – he wanted to save the world. That sounds like a level 5 leader. We need those kinds of leaders in the American church today. However, the same thing keeps happening to those kind of good leaders that happened to Jesus – rejection, hatred, and outright persecution.

By the way, a great resource for pastoring like Jesus is our friend John Frye’s book, Jesus the Radical Pastor

I’ll have two more posts on things I am learning from Good to Great:

  • Relationships First, Then Vision
  • Brutal Honesty


  1. Not on topic with the blog post, sorry, but I saw this the other day and thought of you guys.

    A friend and I are probably gonna read through this together, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to think about it yet. Thought you guys might like it though.

  2. Hi Matt. Amazon says it is on the way!

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