be hundreds of books written on leadership. Go into any good bookstore,
and you certainly won't be spoilt for choice. Until recently,
my own opinions on the definition of leadership were along the
lines of someone who is ultimately able to bend people to their
will. Ok so there are nicer ways of saying this, and many ways
of nicely causing people to do what you want (and lots of books
that tell you how), but this - it seems - is the essence of the
In other words
leadership seemed ultimately to be a worldly ambition. I thought
this way for a long time - but my gut was also telling me that
this couldn't be the whole truth of the matter. After all many
Christians are also leaders.
I want to digress to a study that made a surprise
discovery about leadership. I read this recently and realized
that here was a secular investigation that came to some remarkable
conclusions about leadership, and which I think can provide an
interesting perspective to some Bible passages I'll highlight
This secular study looked at 1435 companies looking
for a trait where for at least 15 years their financial performance
was on a par with everyone else, and then they went through a
transition and for at least 15 years significantly and continuously
outperformed the competition. Less than 1% of the companies they
looked at met these criteria - 11 to be exact. There then followed
several years of research to look at these companies - and others
to compare - to find out what made these companies special. They
called these companies 'good to great'*.
One of the several aspects they discovered revolved
around leadership. To quote "The research team was shocked
to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness."
They called it "Level 5 leadership".
Regarding levels 1-4, they can be summarized as
- Level 1 is a highly capable individual contributor
- Level 2 is a strong team player
- Level 3 is a competent team manager
- Level 4 is an effective leader - able to drive
an organization towards some goal or vision.
The chief executive officer - the CEO - of an
organization - operates at level 4. The strong leaders we all
know - celebrity, egotistical, ambitious, demanding - certainly
fall into this category.
However this study identified what they could
only conclude as a better form of leadership:
- Level 5 is a leader who builds enduring greatness
through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional
To elaborate (and quoting liberally from the study*):
- Level 5 leaders:
- Every one of the good-to-great companies
has level 5 leaders in the critical transition phase. None
of the comparison companies did. These leaders are described
as being timid and ferocious, shy and fearless and modest
with a fierce, unwavering commitment to high standards.
- A description of one of the level 5 CEOs:
shy, awkward, shunning attention, but also showed iron will,
determinedly setting a direction despite skepticism from
- Level 5 leaders are self-effacing, quiet,
reserved, and even shy - more like Lincoln and Socrates
than Patton or Caesar
- Level 5 leaders rely on instilling inspired
standards and not inspiring charisma to motivate. They build
a culture of discipline. It is not a tyrannical disciplinarian
one but one that enables freedom and responsibility.
- Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs
away from themselves and toward building a great company
or organization. They often will sacrifice their own gain
for the gain of the company.
- When things do not go well Level 5 Leaders
take responsibility for the failures and never blame other
people, external factors, or bad luck. When they do go well
they attribute success of their companies to external factors,
their team or luck.
- Level 5 Leaders are ambitious for their
organization, and rarely allow their ego to be an obstacle
for the success of their organization.
- Level 4 leaders:
- The Jack Welchs, the "Larger-than-life
celebrity leaders, who ride in from the outside are negatively
correlated with taking a company from good-to-great.
- Level 4 leaders - often the superhero CEO
- either eliminates any potential successors from his management
team or chooses weak successors.
- When things do not go well Level 4 Leaders
do not always take responsibility for the failures and sometimes
blame other people, external factors, or bad luck. When
they do go well they tend to attribute success of their
companies to themselves.
My own conclusion of this - after reading this
book* and based my observations of many leaders I have dealt with
in my day job over the last 15 years - are that Level 4 leaders
are ultimately insecure about themselves, Level 5 leaders have
a strong sense of security about themselves.
Consider the findings of this secular study and
contrast with these verses:
- Now Moses was
a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face
of the earth. Numbers 12:3.
- "But Lord,"
Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest
in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." Judges
- When David returned home to bless his household,
Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How
the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing
in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar
fellow would!" David said to Michal, "It was before
the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from
his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people
IsraelI will celebrate before the LORD. I will become
even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in
my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be
held in honor." 2 Samuel 6:20-22.
- The greatest among you will be your servant.
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles
himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12.
- To the elders among you, I appeal as a
fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also
will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's
flock that is under your care, serving as overseersnot
because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants
you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording
it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown
of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way
be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves
with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes
the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves,
therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up
in due time. 1 Peter 5:1-6.
- Who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself
nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in
human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled
himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!
This is just a sample - the Bible has much to
say on humility. All the great leaders in the bible humbled themselves
Finally consider this -
well - awkward passages in Ephesians:
- Submit to one another out of reverence for
Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the
husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the
church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church
submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands
in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved
the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing
her by the washing with water through the word, and to present
her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle
or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way,
husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who
loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his
own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does
the church for we are members of his body. " For
this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united
to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is
a profound mysterybut I am talking about Christ and the
church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as
he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
I've been married for almost 15 years, and the
modern day relevance of this passage is one I've struggled with.
The best interpretation I have found is 'well this means both
must submit to each other' which is a restatement of Ephesians
5:21. In my case I see marriage as a partnership, and there are
plenty of matters to be dealt with when you have four children
- and the concept of 'husband being head of the wife' did not
used to make sense to me.
Here is my updated point of view: For a 'husband
to be head of the wife' is not to be interpreted as a statement
of power, which is the natural interpretation. It is to be interpreted
in the way Jesus lived his life demonstrating what is meant by
'Christ is the head of the church'. Jesus lived as a servant,
he humbled himself completely. He paid the ultimate sacrifice
for the sake of the church, because his will was to do the will
of the God. Obedience to this passage therefore means a husband
must in Jesus name, and in accordance with the will of God, give
himself completely to his wife, must sacrifice himself completely
for her benefit. It's an ultimate act of love and commitment -
of complete submission to the will of God in putting wife above
self. Interestingly this passage does not ask the wife to love
the husband, but demands the husband actively love the wife.
April 17th, 2006
Irvine, California, USA.
*The findings of this research were published in
a book "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and
Others Don't" by Jim Collins, published by HarperCollins.