Organizational or institutional arrogance can be a significant problem, even among successful ministries. This problem in corporate culture is described in two interesting books, How the Mighty Fall (Collins) and Too Big to Fail (Sorken). In How the Mighty Fall, corporate arrogance leading to downfall includes these stages: hubris born of success, undisciplined pursuit of more, denial of risk and peril, grasping for salvation, and capitalization to irrelevance or death. That’s a recipe for disaster in any organization, including ministry organizations.
So, what can be done to limit or control institutional arrogance? There are at least two leadership choices – that lead to organizational practices – which facilitate institutional humility. These practices balance out healthy pride in current accomplishments.
First, celebrate heritage and honor past contributors. In short, get over the attitude God showed up when you arrived on the scene. God has been at work in your ministry since long before you became the leader. Your work rests on the shoulders of others. Even church planters or ministry founders build on the successful best practices of others, on the combined wisdom they have learned from predecessors, and by coaching from mentors. We are all a product of what God and others have done for us. Don’t forget that in the midst of your current success.
Second, cooperate with other ministries. When you partner with others, you admit you can’t do everything, don’t have a corner on the market of good ideas, and need other ministries to round out your contribution to God’s kingdom. For example, a very successful megachurch recently asked Gateway to design a training program for their staff. They told us, “You’re experts on this. We want you to help us.” That’s organizational humility – a very successful ministry admitting (while seemingly successful at everything they do) that others do something better than they can.
These two steps are a good beginning (I am thinking about a couple of more ideas to add to this list but that’s enough for a blog). Success can have a poison pill tucked inside that ultimately causes a ministry to unravel. Beware the subtle temptation of organizational arrogance. Make good leadership choices that, while enjoying and promoting your current success, maintains institutional humility.