Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Change is Good, Especially When God Is Moving

Written by: on November 17, 2018

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize you have been working in the completely wrong direction? (read that in Andy Rooney’s voice) This happened to me on Thursday, I was about to start writing my blog post for this week, and per usual, I started to glance at the other posts from our cohort to see the direction people had gone and had a startling realization. Everyone had read the wrong book. Either that or I had. (turns out it was me)

SO, I had to make a decision, do I not read The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior In The Human Enterprise by Manfred Kets De Vries and use the skills gained from Bayard’s How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read or read the book and be late with my post. I looked at your posts Elite 8 and since the book seemed to have been liked by all the posts I read, I chose to be late.

So, please excuse my tardiness.

I did find Kets De Vries book to be a valuable resource. I understand he is writing about leadership in business but I found plenty that will be of use within the scope of church leadership. First, Kets De Vries is one of the most qualified leadership experts in the world. He is the Founding-Director of INSEAD’s Global Leadership Center, author of multiple books on leadership, written over 350 papers on leadership and has spoken all over the world on being an effective leader. [1] Carol Kennedy writes of Kets De Vries “s unique among leadership gurus in bringing two distinct sets of academic skills to bear on the subject, those of a trained economist and a qualified psychoanalyst” [2] in describing his qualifications. She goes onto discuss his book in glowing terms ending with this, “it peels back the layers of self-deception to reveal how our hidden personalities, largely hard-wired since early childhood, affect the way we lead and manage others.”[3]  I would like to think I am my own leader, that I am in control of my decisions as a leader, as a pastor, a husband and father. I could not be more different than my dad if I tried, but I am adopted so, who knows, maybe it is a genetic thing. That is why leadership books and programs are so important. Not everyone in the world comes from a great home life. Leaders come from all walks of life and each has to forge his or her own path. So, as Kennedy describes our hardwiring, we must learn to grow past who we are, and as a pastor that should be my goal.

I would like to start with Kets De Vries chapter on The Mussel Syndrome. He begins the discussion with the illustration of a mussel, how we can learn about the inability for some to change in mirrored in the life of the mussel. “The mollusk has to make only one major existential decision in life, and that’s where it’s going to settle down. After making that decision, the mussel cements its head against a rock and stays put for the rest of its life” [4] He then goes onto write about the consequences of the mussel syndrome, the example was one that hit home because I watched part of it while in the computer industry. The Fortune magazine’s “hit parade”[5] as Kets De Vries calls it, is a list of companies that are the most admired. He lists the qualities and then talks about the initial list in 1983, which had IBM at the very top and by 1997 it had fallen to 102. A precipitous drop, but not has bad as Digital Equipment Company (DEC). It dropped from number 7 to number 386, ended up being bought by Compaq and then Compaq was bought by Hewlett Packard, [6] I joined the computer industry in 1993, a time when the fastest PC was a 386/20 with a 212mb hard drive and 4mb of RAM. This was the computer only executives received and they got a 15″ Black and white or Black and Green monitor to go with it. By the way, this cost upwards of 5-6000.00 each. The industry boomed and manufacturers seemed to care little about controlling prices. The main players were IBM, Acer, HP and Compaq. Dell came in and changed all of that, where we were getting 18-20% mark up it soon became -1% on average. Compaq and IBM were the hardest hit, so I watched what Kets De Vries described. 

Churches can act the same way, they are comfortable in doing things the way they always have done them. There are some churches that want to continue without change, in part because the way they did things reached many people. Just like companies like DEC who assumed doing things the same way would always work, churches have fallen into the same trap. The need to reinvent ones church does not mean letting go of who God is, but it can feel like it for those who have been through times where God has moved in a mighty way. To many times, people who see the need for change are very judgmental of those who do not want to change, and that judgement goes both ways. The issue should not be what I want in a church, it should be what is the most effective way to meet the needs of the community and reach people for God.

The questions from Kets De Vries book, found in boxes throughout, used to take the temperature of the leader and the organization can be adapted to fit any industry, including churches. To many churches are like the mussel. They attach themselves to a wall of “that’s not how we do things” and do not move. This happens in old and new churches. Talk to a member of a progressive church and they are just as against change as the older church. They may be seeing things move now, but eventually they will face the same problem. They have to be willing to assess and make changes just as Kets De Vries suggests.

[1] “Manfred Kets De Vries.” Manfred Kets De Vries. Accessed November 17, 2018. http://www.ketsdevries.com/biography/.

[2] Kennedy, Carol. “Choice of the Month: The Leadership Mystique.” Director 55, no. 8 (2002): 85.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Kets De Vries, Manfred F. R. The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise. Harlow, England: Prentice Hall/Financial Times, 2006. 48.

[5] Ibid 50.

[6] Ibid. 50.

About the Author

Jason Turbeville

A pastor, husband and father who loves to be around others. These are the things that describe me. I was a youth minister for 15 years but God changed the calling on my life. I love to travel and see where God takes me in my life.

13 responses to “Change is Good, Especially When God Is Moving”

  1. Jason,

    Yes! I think the motto “change or die” is appropriate, and not just for mussels. I am grateful I am in charge of my own company – the barriers to change are not significant, and I am able to be nimble to respond to changing climates. Each year when planning, I always try to change up something.

    This course has made me aware of next generation needs and challenges in greater depth than before, and I am hoping to continue reframing my work for that group as time progresses.

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      Mark it is a good thing to be able to make all the decisions that is why so many young pastors want to plant their own churches instead of working in older churches but I truly think that is to the detriment of the faith. You do have to convince people to change though in your line of work.


  2. M Webb says:

    So, you read other posts before you post…very interesting! I am very proud of your Bayardistic approach and “reading around” the author and keeping a “peripheral” birds eye view. Well done sir!
    I really like your reflections on “change judgements”. Judging others does go both ways, and wouldn’t you know it, the evil one is behind all of that, causing and encouraging both sides of the “change” to resent, resist, rebut the others. Wow, great review on that area for sure.
    I did not see the author do any comparisons with Christ, but he should have. He was the master at like you said, “taking the temperature” of the people and community needs and giving them exactly what was for their good, His glory, and the advancement of the Good News! Oh, if we could pattern our leadership after Him. That is the goal I think LGP8 seeks, and I know your passion to advance His Kingdom is awesome!
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      I too would have loved to have seen him use the greatest leader as an example, unfortunately the world doesn’t always see the truth, or just part of it.


  3. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jason,

    I concur with Mike on wishing the author did a comparison with Christ. The “servant leadership” of our Saviour is one to be emulated. I see you as a servant leader, and am grateful for your writing, always pointing us to Scripture and to Jesus. Please keep doing that!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you! Eat some bird…

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      The servant leader model Jesus gave us is all to often not even seen in church, not just pastors but in the congregation as well. We need to find a way to get this back into our churches.


  4. Shawn Hart says:

    Jason, insightful post. I have seen change done wonderfully in churches, and I have also seen it backfire and cause division. I was at a church in Oklahoma when the elders decided that they were going to add the new projector like other churches were doing. I was excited about the opportunity to move into the present, but then a member asked, “Why do we need a projector.” It really was a very innocent and reasonable question for an older person to ask. However, the elder he asked replied by saying, “It’s our decision…if you don’t like it, I suggest you find another church.” Well, the projector was added, and the member found a new church…but so did a few more members because of the lack of communication.

    I believe there are a few questions we must ask before any major change to a church is made:
    1. Will God be glorified?
    2. Will the family be edified?
    3. Will the need it serves be communicated properly?

    Change is not always easy…but it is easier if it is done right.

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      Those are great questions to start with, unfortunately even starting with those questions doesn’t always lead to good change. I am beginning to see that it is a discipleship question, not just a materialism question.


  5. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for your transparency on your process for the week :). I noticed that you caught onto the image from the book, as you put it: “Too many churches are like the mussel. They attach themselves to a wall of “that’s not how we do things” and do not move.” Since your research is around the area of change within a congregation, it isn’t surprising that you would focus on this! Are you finding some of the ways to help open up the mussel of your church? Part of it may just be naming/recognizing the problem, and I know you are delving into how to get things unstuck from there.

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      I actually did a little reading about mussels and the best way to loosen them is a little at a time, I am beginning to see the same thing within a church. 😉


  6. Greg says:

    I love change as long as I can control it…is that bad:-) For someone that lives a flexible life I know there are some things that I love and am comfortable doing. Every so often I have to decide what is worth dying for and what are just my preferences….that is a hard journey. I have to remember that those that come from a more “stable” (some would say sedentary) life will find change an uncomfortable thing. I appreciate your willingness to be challenged and to challenge the people God has given you for this time. This is not an easy time to pastor nor be a boat rocker (which I know you are:-)

  7. Chris Pritchett says:

    There must be something to the engineer thing…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAY27NU1Jog

  8. Trisha Welstad says:


    Thanks for your post and highlighting the illustration of the mussel. I have seen this analogy come true and am watching it in real time at a church near to us. The members say they want change and hired someone very different than the previous pastor but are unwilling to adapt to his leadership style. It is sad to watch as no one is happy and the mission is being sidelined for drama. How do we unstuck the mussel? What’s most effective and when do we end up stuck with everyone else? These are questions I wrestle with often.

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