Mighty Fall Jim Collins is the best-selling author of Built to Last and Good to Great. Collins is a student of companies and organisations – great ones, good ones, weak ones, and failed ones. His latest book (which I picked up recently in an airport bookshop in the USA), based on extensive research, is How the Mighty Fall. In it he proposes that, "Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you."

In his research, which took more than four years, Collins sought to discover whether decline can be detected early and avoided. Decline is a bit like a disease. You can look healthy yet really be sick. His conclusion is that by understanding the stages of decline, leaders can substantially reduce their chances of falling all the way to the bottom.

Here are the five stages of decline:

1. Hubris Born of Success (arrogance and pride)

2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More (over-reaching for more and more)

3. Denial of Risk and Peril (ignoring the warning signs)

4. Grasping for Salvation (grasping for quick fixes)

5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death (atrophy settles in)

Every organisation, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline. There is no law of nature that the most powerful will inevitably remain at the top. According to Collins, anyone can fall and most eventually do.

In its essence, the church is 'people' and is better represented by a living system (or organism) than an organisation. However, these organisational lessons about how the mighty fall apply directly to local churches and Christian ministries, as well as to individuals, especially leaders.

Collin's latest book was an interesting read, especially after having just read the Old Testament book of Daniel where we see great and powerful rulers getting caught up in pride, then falling dramatically. Nebuchadnezzar is a classic example (Daniel 4). He was warned ahead of time but ignored the warning and was humbled greatly. This is a good lesson for all of us.

Here are some wise sayings from God's Word:

"Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall." [Proverbs 16:18. NLT]

"If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall." [1 Corinthians 10:12-13. NLT]

 "All of you, serve each other in humility, for 'God opposes the proud but favors the humble.' So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor." [1 Peter 5:5-6. NLT]

3 thoughts on “‘How the Mighty Fall’ by Jim Collins (Book Review)

  1. Hi Mark,
    Sounds like a book with some good principles. Here’s one I am reading by Dr. Henry Cloud titled ‘9 things you simply must do to succeed in love and life’. Very easy to read and follow with real cases as examples. A summary of Cloud’s 9 principles are: He suggests that we are to dig up and invest our talents, and move past the negative. We know we must make decisions based on their effects, and always ask how to improve a situation whether or not it’s our responsibility. We achieve our goals through small steps, and protect the good with a healthy hatred. Learn the way of humility. Do not try to avoid upsetting people; just make sure that you are upsetting the right ones.
    I’m pleased to report I have nearly finished the book! I now have several others to sink my teeth into. Another I am looking forward to starting but more importantly, finishing is ‘Anointed for business’ by Ed Silvoso.
    As with all things, information acquired is useless unless put to practice. So, I work on those things I know need improving and do not lose heart if I slip up occassionally, for we are all human, correct? Cloud quotes Solomon in Ecclesiates 4:9-12
    Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their work:
    If one falls down,
    his friend can help him up,
    But pity the man who falls
    and has no one to help him up!
    Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
    Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
    A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
    I think we can safely say that Solomon was not advocating homosexuality when he said “if two should lie down together, they will keep warm”. 😉 “But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” but also the one who refuses to be helped due to pride.
    We all need some really good sound friends we can rely on to keep us on track. For those who are lacking friends in this category, I’d just say that it’s all up to you to go and pursue people you know would be good for you and who would give you sound advise. Find yourself a good mentor, not someone to idolise but a trustworthy person who will be there for you. Counsellors are a good starting point for some. Beware though, they are human too and have faults as well. Test any advise given to you and don’t be rash in your actions.
    Another thing I have to say is, relationships are best formed face to face rather than via the internet. Call me old fashioned but I’d sooner trust a person I can see than one who just types.
    I’ll get off my podium now. 🙂 Have a great day!

  2. Hi Mark,
    I like what you said about the church (and I believe companies too) are more like an organism than an organisation.
    After writing about this in my blog a few years ago, I think seeing organisations in this way, whether religious or secular, can help avoid the above steps as well as minimise the quick fixes the the old management manuals say will help you re-engineer your processes for success.
    I have always admired your humble style of leadership and the way our church has integrated the old and the young, the conservative and more adventurous so well is a good example of how complex organisations can be managed successfully.
    Thanks for leading the way.

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