Jim Collins, David, and How the Mighty Fall

One of the most popular business books in recent decades is Good to Great by Jim Collins. For a season, it was a must read for leaders and teams. Leaders continually referenced phrases from the book in attempts to teach lessons from the book or, in some cases, show off their biz chops and prowess. Thanks to Jim Collins, if you said something like, “Let’s get the right people on the bus, go with our hedgehog, and work for the flywheel, while being level five leaders,” many would have nodded wholeheartedly. In the book, Collins provides incredible insight, based on meticulous research, on how companies that were good in terms of their performance became great. They moved from mediocrity to the top of their industries and were widely recognized as market leaders. They were great and mighty.

But another book needed to be written.

In the midst of a changing market and changing times, some of the companies who had previously been declared as great lost their way and struggled. Others like Circuit City, one of the “great companies,” disappeared completely. So later Jim Collins wrote another book titled How the Mighty Fall, as some of the previously great companies were great no more.

The reality is that great companies don’t always make it to the next generation. In fact, not a single company will endure for all time. Only the Church will last forever.

People are frail, just as companies are frail. All people are frail, even those viewed as great and mighty and strong. Looking at David, the great king of Israel, reminds us that even a man after God’s own heart is frail. David committed adultery and murder after the Lord took him from leading sheep to leading His people, after the Lord rescued him from Saul, and after he received the promise that his throne would last forever. Though he was a great warrior, a great leader, and a man who penned psalms in the Bible, he was simultaneously frail. And so are we.

When we stop recognizing our fragility, we are headed for a fall.

Jim Collins is not the first one to use the phrase “How the mighty fall.” Ironically, David was. David lamented the death and demise of Saul, the king before him, by saying, “How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19). David watched what happened when a leader cared more about success than sanctification, more about reputation than character. David saw the pain of the fall and understood destruction happens when we are in awe of ourselves instead of in awe of God.

Yet a night came when the man who coined the phrase “How the mighty have fallen” was unable to keep himself from falling and no longer focused on the One who could.

We are wise not to look at ourselves but to the only One who is able to keep us from stumbling.

Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)