Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

by Jim Collins. Harper Collins Publishing, 2001.

Through a major study of companies that consistently produced great results, Jim Collins has distilled the factors that contribute to organizational greatness. Collins believes that all kinds of organizations—including churches and synagogues—can move from being "good to great."

Some of Collins' findings may be as surprising to those who lead faith communities as to those who lead General Motors. For example, the author extols "Level 5" leadership, which blends personal humility with professional will. Level 5 leaders are often quiet, gracious, and mild-mannered, but they resolve to do what needs to be done and they take responsibility rather than blame others. Such leaders refuse to identify themselves as the source of all answers. Instead, they ask good questions, confront brutal facts, and retain faith in the ultimate outcome. (Abraham Lincoln was a Level 5 leader.) Another finding: great organizations follow the "hedgehog concept": unlike foxes, whose actions are often scattered and inconsistent, hedgehogs can see patterns in complexity and move in a disciplined way toward fulfilling their goals. Collins emphasizes the importance of investing energy only in those things we are (or could be) "best at," as well as those things about which we are most passionate.

Boards, finance teams, personnel committees, and others responsible for allocating congregational resources will find helpful and cogent insights in this book.