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

Changing the World through Everyone.

Written by: on December 2, 2021

What might life look like if only a critical mass of the organizations in my ministry context had employees who were all maximizing their potential? It would mean several things including, but not limited to, a significantly transformed community with many individuals who pursue the presence of God, demonstrate a wide variety of character qualities, and add value to society through a range of distinctive products and services.  Unfortunately, most organizations in my context and around the world are not filled with staff that are living at maximum potential. In An Everyone Culture, authors Kegan and Lahey critically examine the problem of wasted potential at the personal and corporate levels, and argue that an everyone culture, that recognizes and deliberately develops the potential of all employees willing to pursue personal character development, is the pathway to corporate excellence and profitability. The authors are both seasoned educators and with years of teaching experience at Harvard.

An Everyone Culture may be classified as a business book that focuses on organizational culture and behavior. It addresses the importance of unleashing human and organizational potential through learning from personal mistakes[1] and thereby being deliberately developmental. The book may be divided into two parts. Part one, covering chapters 1-4, introduces the concept of what the authors call a Deliberately-Developmental-Organization (DDO) and define development as the “… growth of our mindsets, or meaning-making logics; qualitative advances in our abilities to see more deeply and accurately into ourselves and our worlds[2].” Part Two (chapters 5-7), concludes this interesting book by discussing the value and practicalities of running a DDO. A key word in An Everyone Culture is development. Yet this refers to deliberate – not accidental – development, thus aligning with previous research which argues that achieving greatness is possible only through “conscious choice and discipline[3] [emphasis added].”

Although the book makes an excellent contribution to organizational development literature, it is limited in the sense that it assumes all readers would come from egalitarian societies with a propensity to embrace the reality that all men are created equal. Indeed, even egalitarian societies have delicate situations such as family-owned businesses where middle management sometimes feel obliged to overlook the failings of junior staff that are family members of senior staff. Thus, my suggestion is that in hierarchical cultures or organizations, it might be helpful to first work towards changing the corporate culture to one that is more egalitarian, then seek to apply the principles of a DDO.

Within my ministry context, organizations – corporate and nonprofits alike – may be deliberately developmental by firstly recruiting the right people, and then assigning them to the right seats on the bus, as Jim Collins suggests in Good to Great[4]. This implies putting in a lot more effort into the hiring process than is probably being done in many organizations now. Jesus demonstrates deliberate recruitment – one done with conscious choice – by praying all night before selecting His twelve disciples[5]. Once recruitment is done correctly, perhaps nothing else would help the deliberate development journey more than senior organizational leaders modelling serious introspection and humbly admitting their weaknesses and working towards positive change. If a critical mass of organizational leaders adopt this stance and ultimately influence their employees to do same, An Everyone Culture could become a significant catalyst for changing the world.

[1] Kegan, Robert and Lisa Laskow Lahey. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. (Harvard Business School Publishing: Boston, 2016) P53.

[2] Ibid, p91

[3] Collins, Jim: Good to Great and the Social Sectors. (Random House: London, 2006) P31.

[4] Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. (Harper Collins: New York, 2001). P41.

[5] Luke 6:12

About the Author


Henry Gwani

Disciple, husband, father, community development practitioner and student of leadership working among marginalized communities in South Africa

7 responses to “Changing the World through Everyone.”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Henry, thanks for you thoughtful post. It is such a refreshing perspective to hear about the cultural limitations found outside of our own “cultural bubble.” In cultures that are not egalitarian, what kind of steps would lead an organization forward to maximizing people’s potential?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Roy, much thanks for your kind words and question about how people might maximize their potential in hierarchical cultures. I think there’s no silver bullet, but I recommend prayer for wisdom in each situation. For example when David sinned (Uriah/Bathsheba) and Nathan had to approach him about this in 2 Sam. 12, he came with a parable. This very wise approach worked in a warm-climate, indirect, hierarchical culture. I hope this helps

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Henry: I appreciate your perspective and identifying the distinctions with non-egalitarian cultures. I love the emphasis you have on the importance of hiring right and the time, prayer, and intentionality that it takes which will ultimately reap exponential benefits for the organization as a whole. So often I seen the need to replace empty positions quickly as to ensure the tasks get done and when that takes place, there is a potential for long-term challenges if the candidate is not a good culture fit.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Henry: Great essay. I also read Jim Collins, “Good to Great” and although I didn’t make the connection with Kegan’s book, I see it now. There is a lot of overlap in their thinking and one of the major ones you rightly pointed out was hiring the right person in the first place. If we can get that right, so many other things down the road will fall into place. First things, first, right?

  4. Elmarie Parker says:

    Henry, thank you for your thoughtful essay. Like our other colleagues, I appreciated your evaluation of how the principals in Kegan and Lahey’s book might or might not work in cultures that are more hierarchical than egalitarian. Your reply to Roy’s question and the use of parable in such societies resonates with my experience in the Middle East…using a story to make a point is a big part of the rhetorical style here. What role do you see vulnerability currently playing in your context–especially the vulnerability of those in leadership positions?

  5. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Henry, like others, I was thankful for your critique about how this process assumes an egalitarian structure. Simon Walker talks about “owning” the power one has, how would you compare Walker’s argument about power with Keegan and Lahey’s argument of a more “level” approach?

  6. mm Eric Basye says:

    Henry, very interesting point about the challenge the DDO concept might present a culture or business that is not egalitarian in their framework of operation. I did not consider that at all. I appreciate that you made that observation and challenged the concept that these principles can be applied universally in any context.

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