Humility Beats Charisma

by vernsanders on December 9, 2011

I’ve just finished reading the book Good to Great (for the first time…I know…book has been around for a while…schedule busy…yada…). It is interesting to read it with the mental substitution of the word “church” for the word “company” or “business,” and to speculate on the great churches and their “comparables” that never seemed to be able to get to greatness. What follows may not be “new news” to you, but that won’t stop me from reminding you, and adding my particular thoughts about things.

  • One of the most interesting (to me) findings in the book is that charismatic leaders can, through force of will, drag companies (churches) to greatness, but the greatness is not sustainable once that charismatic leader retires, dies, or moves on to a bigger challenge (Lee Iacocca, for instance).

In my experience, the opposite can also be true. A charismatic leader can get in the way of a church’s move to greatness, and it is only when that leader gets out of the way that a church can move forward. In the church, the charismatic leader is often about him/herself, and the church takes a back seat. It is as if the church members exist to justify the leader’s greatness.

  • On the other hand, every “great” company had what the book terms a “Level 5″ leader, and one of the most significant attributes of such a leader is humility (“Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”).

This is also my experience, for the most part. I have been privileged to serve at churches that are great, even if they haven’t been recognized as such by their numbers. In each case, the leadership team was made up of extraordinary, high-performing people, but they all deferred credit to the people who served with them, even as volunteers. Humility is hard to fake, especially at close quarters in a leadership team. But I would have to agree: the leaders I’ve known who have made it all about the team and the goal have produced much greater results than those who have used others’ work to do so…or worse, claimed credit for the others’ work.

Have you had the same experience? Ever served under or with a Level 5 leader? Are you one yourself (there’s a trick question…)? Please leave a comment and tell me about your experience.

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{ 1 trackback }

Why “Greatness”?
December 13, 2011 at 7:16 am

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Janice Timm December 12, 2011 at 10:38 am

I’m not sure what kind of leader I am (hopefully a good one at least), but I do know that when my choirs sing beautifully – as they did yesterday at our Lessons and Carols service – it is to THEIR credit, not mine! By myself I am only a soloist, and I much prefer the team effort of the choir.

vernsanders December 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

Great attitude, Janice, but I know you are selling your leadership gifts short.


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