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


Written by: on November 8, 2013

After reading the introductory chapter in Harvard Business School’s publication, Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice I made a decision that I will take the necessary time to read through each chapter.  As I was reading these opening pages I knew that I was going to walk away with something that will fit into the missing connection critical to my dissertation work.  In essence each of the five sections focuses on one set of dualities.  The task is not to pick one over the other but to hold or maintain the tension between them, recognizing each for what it is and what it is not.  Leadership requires performance and making meaning.  There is a duality in recognizing existing special attributes characteristic of leaders making them special and the social role that is associated with influence between the leader and society.  There are universal similarities basic across situations that unite leaders and particulars evidenced depending upon the situation and the individual leader’s identity.  How a leader approaches and exercises power and influence are among the attributes for one’s agency while the recognizing the constraints inherent within an organization.  Finally, there is the duality between leadership development as thinking and doing and leadership on emerging identity, becoming and being.[1]  For the first time I feel like I can trust the process.  This is remarkable considering a few short days ago I was expressing a desire for an option B for our Sizing Up My Topic assignment, one that would provide the uncertain one(s) to explore three possibilities.

The editors of this text recognize the need for leaders and leadership are critical in our present environment.  Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana ask, “How can we explain this disconnect between the mission and everyday practice?”[2]  I think I have heard that question asked in Christian circles as well.  How do we explain the disconnect between mission and everyday practice?  Over the past several years I have read about intuitive leadership, team based leadership, quiet leadership, reluctant leadership, leadership networks, the wisdom of crowds, leadership chaos, and the need to change or die.  I have read about finding our way, leaderless organizations, cell structures, organic leadership and organic churches.  I’ve been nudged and encouraged, I have discovered the deep value of ritual and liturgy to form and shape one’s sense of identity.  And yet what I have read and what I see happening among churches seems to reflect the distance between where the Church is amid change and leadership necessary to guide the Church as it emerges.  Said another way, much of what I see in church plants is a reformed and repackaged issue of its originator.  Will that be enough?

If I advocate there is a the connection between leadership and the Church as crucial for the emerging Church, what am I going to do about it? What is my leadership identity? Have I embraced that part of me? Responding to these questions gets me to the crux of the issue and the problem.  You see I have been hesitant and reluctant to claim my identity.  My own perception of my leadership calling and identity was culturally framed through my twenties, thirties and forties.  I discovered somewhat surprisingly that the cultural barriers I had lived into and sustained crumbled for both my husband and myself as we jointly began to discover a new way of relating to one another in our fifties.  He embraced the changes taking place within me.

I realize that part of the reason I am in this DMin program is to figure out and to step into my own sense of leadership calling, to own this sense of my identity.  Am I a pastor or am I an Adjunct?  Am I both?  This week’s reading added another, what will I do, what can I do to create leadership opportunities that will prepare women and men to navigate the liminal space where the Church finds itself?

If I were to plant a church or begin a learning community the name that has resonated most deeply is threshold.  A threshold is a liminal space.  You enter it having to leave something behind and yet you have not fully entered what is ahead.  You are in between.  “Being ‘in between,’ or on the threshold – a key feature of the change process – has received little conceptual attention.”[3] You begin as you are into a liminal space, entering fully engages the potential process of being transformed.  Developing capacity in leaders to navigate change may require a new kind of flexibility.  Leaders must be aware of, responsive and adapt to the changes taking place (and the ones that need to take place) in an organization and it’s environment.[4]

I realize having experienced failure I lived into a prevention mode trying to avoid failure.  In the past I focused on security, certainty, and fulfilling responsibilities.[5]  There is not anything wrong with that, except I struggled to voice what I would like to do and who I wanted to be. Rather than focus on performance where I (or others) must have certain qualities or be recognized by others as is so often modeled, there is the possibility to embrace and facilitate learning goals.  Recognizing both strengths and weakness to serve common goals.[6]  A convergence is beginning to happen.

[1] Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana, eds. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: A Harvard Business School Centennial Colloquium. (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2010), 7.

[2] Ibid.,  5.

[3]  Ibid., 666.

[4]  Ibid., 446.

[5] Ibid., 396.

[6] Ibid., 398.

About the Author

Carol McLaughlin

Carol walks this DMin journey from her locale in Gig Harbor, WA (USA). She is preparing for pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), as well as teaches in the Online Learning Community programs at GFES. Part of the DMin Leadership & Global Perspectives 4 cohort (dminlgp4) her research and dissertation focus is exploring why baby boomers leave the church and what it means for their faith development. The views expressed here are her own.

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