Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? This question is the subject of Jim Collins and Morten Hansen’s outstanding book, Great by Choice.

I picked Great by Choice as my top book for 2011, knowing Collins and Hansen wrote with companies in mind, not churches or ministries. Having said that, their findings offer extremely helpful insights for those of us serving Christ amidst the chaos of 2011. In fact, I found myself thinking frequently about churches I know of that thrived or withered over the last 10 years (or done a little of both), and found the principles of Great by Choice very much on target.

“Studying leaders in an extreme environment is like conducting a behavioral-science experiment or using a laboratory centrifuge: throw leaders into an extreme environment, and it will separate the stark differences between greatness and mediocrity. Our study looks at how the truly great differed from the merely good in environments that exposed and amplified those differences.”

Here’s a fact: Church life is sometimes the very definition of chaos. Elders and ministers show a lot about themselves amidst chaos. It shows their maturity, their preparation (this is huge in Great by Choice), and their spiritual fiber. It isn’t the most innovative, the most risk-taking that thrive in chaotic times. It’s those who:

“…prepare with intensity, all the time, so that when conditions turn against you, you can draw from a deep reservoir of strength. And equally, you prepare so that when conditions turn in your favor, you can strike hard.”

First, 10xers embrace a paradox of control and non-control. They anticipate they will face adverse circumstances beyond their control. Yet, they accept full responsibility for their own fate. They don’t make excuses. They don’t accept that chance or luck events will control their fate. The authors continue:

“10Xers then bring this idea to life by a triad of core behaviors: fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia. Animating these three core behaviors is a central motivating force, Level 5 ambition.”

Churches must obviously allow for the God’s leading and involvement in their circumstances. However, we must also accept responsibility for obeying our calling and employing all available resources to fulfill God’s expectations of us. Though the terms above may sound very corporate, as one reads the book one finds the terms have biblical┬ácorollaries. For instance, “Fanatical discipline” as the authors lay it out is quite similar to the biblical concept of faithfulness. “Level 5 Ambition” is ambition to see a cause greater than oneself prevail.

So, fear Great by Choice not. Buy it and read it. If we pay attention, I believe it can really improve our ministry.

Thoughts? Do you agree that leadership’s capacity is shown amidst chaos rather than pleasant conditions? If so, how?