Church Leaders: Are You Looking in the Mirror or through the Window?


Renowned business author Jim Collins has a simple formula for what he calls “Level 5 Leadership”: humility + will = Level 5.  He refers to it, in Chinese philosophical terms, as the yin and yang of Level 5, a personal humility and a professional will.  “A study in duality,” says Collins.

How does this personal humility and professional will manifest itself? Collins would say a Level 5 leader with personal humility shuns public adulation, is never boastful, and channels ambition into a company, not self.  Professional will is an unwavering resolve. 

But perhaps the most memorable picture that Collins uses is this one: when a Level 5 leader realizes that the results of a company are poor—he or she looks in the mirror, not out the window!  That leader doesn’t blame others, external factors, or bad luck, but instead looks in the mirror at themselves.  And on the other end of the spectrum, when the results of a company are highly successful—he or she looks out the window, and not in the mirror.  They routinely credit others for successes.

Collins uses Lee Iacocca as an example of someone who had great success in saving Chrysler from the brink of catastrophe, but he looked in the mirror instead of out the window.  He started appearing on talk shows, recorded over 80 commercials, toyed with running for President, and promoted his autobiography which sold 7 million copies worldwide. However, in the second half of Iacocca’s tenure, Chrysler’s stock fell 31% below the market.  He found it difficult to leave center stage, and Chrysler insiders began to joke that Iacocca stood for “I Am Chairman Of Chrysler Corporation Always.”

So, pastors, when your church attendance is exploding, when your messages are getting acclaim, when fellow pastors are seeking your counsel, and when contributions are hitting record levels, are you looking in the mirror or out the window?  Are you channeling your ambition into the church, or into yourself? Are you routinely giving God and others credit for your successes?

Wayne Gretzky was arguably the best hockey player to ever lace up skates.  He was so good he was called “the Great One” by fans and media alike.  But in one interview Gretzky said, “I’m more comfortable with people just calling me Wayne.  There’ve been stretches in my career when I probably could have been called ‘the good one,’ or ‘the mediocre one.’”  That is refreshing and rare humility from the mouth of a sports superstar.

If you surveyed Christians and asked them to list heinous sins, pride probably wouldn’t even crack the top ten. However, the Bible is clear that there is one sin that God cannot stand, and it is arrogance!  Need some proof?  Take a look at some of these verses:

“The Lord despises pride; be assured that the proud will be punished.”  Proverbs 16:5

“I will not endure conceit and pride.”  Psalm 101:5

“Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.” Psalm 138:6

“God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”  James 4:6

The normal Greek word for pride in the New Testament is hubris.  We use that word in our English language.  But the Apostle Paul uses another word that is unique to him in the New Testament. It is a word that means to be overinflated, swollen, and extended beyond its proper size.  What a word picture of what it means to be proud!

So, fellow pastors, when our ministries have success—are we looking in the mirror or out the window?  And when things are not going so well, is our first reaction to look out the window at others or external factors, or in the mirror at ourselves? No one has ever been a better example of Collins formula, humility + will, than Jesus Christ.