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

Fear Change? There’s a Guide for That

Written by: on May 10, 2018

When I worked for the government, our Executive Director asked each manager on her team to read Robert Quinn’s Deep Change. In my undergrad church ministry class, we were assigned the same book. In one of my MDiv classes, once again Deep Change was on the syllabus. Now, here I am in my final semester of coursework for my doctorate, and Quinn’s Deep Change is part of our menu, this time in the form of the Deep Change Field Guide that Quinn published in 2012 to help walk individual leaders through the process of deep change. I have returned to Quinn time and again – even when it wasn’t assigned – to look for wisdom and help me discern where chaos is calling me to change. I will return to this Field Guide again, once the pace of life post-doc shifts, to work my way slowly through the questions and journaling assignments as I assess the next phase of change.


Honestly, the best part of this Field Guide is the invitation to view and dissect some of the greatest movies of my life (yes, even Money Ball, don’t @ me). Seriously, he starts with Norma Rae and rolls on through to Dead Poets Society posing questions I had not really considered about the characters and the influences framing change and leadership in the stories. I fully intend to spend a week or so binge-watching these movies and considering Quinn’s questions and viewing the stories in a new way (after graduation, of course). I’m so impacted by the way Quinn has used movies to look at leadership and change, that I caught myself evaluating characters in a Netflix series I’m watching to see where the portrayed leaders, change-makers and transformational mentors embraced deep change or continued to fall back on ineffective systems. (And in case you were wondering, yes, this does make me annoying to watch with.)


It’s pretty obvious that the essence of Deep Change applies to multiple systems, from families to finance companies to churches and denominations. It’s not purely academic. Quinn’s initial book and this Field Guide show readers how to apply these principles, where to notice roadblocks, and the importance of recognizing and challenge internalized assumptions. Dealing with roadblocks and assumptions is crucial to deep change. We see this in design innovation thinking, which is shaping the way businesses work and embrace a new normal.[1]  Our assumptions, left unrecognized and unchecked, can lead us to reject innovation and deny blind spots in our thinking and processes. Simply put, we fail to adapt.


Every time I have read Quinn’s work, I have been faced with the fact that fear paralyzes us. At the root of our failure to change, our denial of the need for change, and our insistence on setting the parameters of “normal” or acceptable in our culture is a deep fear. Somehow, we think if we make room for change or for a broader view of acceptability, we will lose control. The problem is, we don’t really have control in the first place. When a leader hangs on tightly to false assumptions and rejects ideas for innovation, not only is the leader NOT maintaining the control she or he seeks, but is setting in motion events that will eventually rip all control from her or his grasp. At every reference to this in the book, I noted in the margins places in my career or life where I or someone else had tried to control a situation or process and ended up watching it spiral out of control. Some of the most poignant instances of this were when I tried to parent through control rather than collaboration. It didn’t happen very often because of an agreement my husband and I made when our kids were young, but in those places where I exerted control or denied a need for change the results ranged from disappointing to disastrous. Some I can laugh about now, but others still sting because I see the results of my ego taking over. Learning is rough, right?


If you have been reading this blog over the past two years (!) you probably know that I like to pull quotes from our books and put them above my desk as a reminder for the future. The only exception in this book is that I found so many to choose from that it took me several days of looking over the quotes to decide which one will go on my board next to De Pree, Friedman, Li, Cavanaugh, and the others who continue to speak to me. I finally settled on this:

“The deep change process involves taking risks and learning how to live in new ways.”[2]

Taking risks and learning to live in new ways has been rocking my world in this past (almost) decade I have spent in grad school. There have been some really awful moments where I wondered if it was all a mistake but, as Quinn notes, deep change begins with self-change[3] and I committed to that early on in this entire process. Self-change is really messy. It causes us to shift directions and that disrupts relationships. It asks us to reconsider assumptions and attitudes, and that disrupts our lives. It may even lead us to uproot ourselves from just about every seemingly solid piece of ground and plant new roots elsewhere. Like I said, messy.

I wish I could end this on a happy platitude or a winky emoji, but instead I think I will end with a question:

     Where is deep-change calling you to messy, self-changing work? What’s your answer to that call?



                  [1]. There are many design innovation programs and companies, one of the forerunners being Stanford University’s “D.School” program. (https://dschool.stanford.edu/) Programs such as Stanford’s offer people from CEO’s to University administrators the opportunity to learn new ways to do business through the design innovation process. Companies such as Chick-Fil-A employ directors of design innovation to continually look at current processes and products as well as to design them for the future.

                  [2]. Robert E. Quinn, The Deep Change Field Guide: A Personal Course to Discovering the Leader Within, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012), 39.

                  [3]. Quinn, 39.

About the Author

Kristin Hamilton

7 responses to “Fear Change? There’s a Guide for That”

  1. Lynda Gittens says:

    Thank you for your views on this book. I was drawn to your comment ‘parent through control rather than collaboration’.
    During my childhood that was the rule – children have not viewpoint. I had so much to express but I was limited in my opportunities. When I became a mother, I didn’t want my children to be stifled in their thoughts but to explore and learn the boundaries of life guided by the wisdom God bestowed on me.

    When we invite collaboration into our parenting, we learn so much about our children and we realize that they are okay.

  2. Mary says:

    Gosh, Kristin are we soul mates are what. My family is really getting tired of me dissecting movies. I don’t suppose the two of us could be in the same room together! On the other hand think of the way we could start re-scripting everything!
    Yes, I enjoyed watching a movie again and doing the exercise in the book. And like you I will work my way through the rest as time goes on. What a great tool to use with our kids too!
    I really appreciate your observations about self change. I will reflect as you suggest on your ‘call’. Especially, how much does fear play into my hesitation to change?

  3. Katy Drage Lines says:

    “When a leader hangs on tightly to false assumptions and rejects ideas for innovation, not only is the leader NOT maintaining the control she or he seeks, but is setting in motion events that will eventually rip all control from her or his grasp.” Remind me to tell you of the “adventure” this very issue has led to with my attempt at my field experience. Sigh.

    At some point, I’d love for you to share a compilation of all your quotes in your office. What a great way for them to stick with you!

    Finally, I’ll just make a connection between your recognition of the messiness of self-change, and the messiness of life together in a relationship-oriented church. Life is messy anyway; why not embrace the messiness and let it affect positive change rather than chaos.

    Okay, one more question– what Netflix series are you watching?

  4. “The deep change process involves taking risks and learning how to live in new ways.”

    But I don’t want to! I really, really would prefer everything to just be the same always and forever. Is that really too much to ask?

    And yes, I know it is too much to ask, but a guy can dream

    Seriously though, Kristen, the quote you pulled out gets to the heart of the matter: if you as a leader aren’t learning new things, changing what you do (and dare I say who you are) based on the new learning and taking risks both based on what you have already learned and so that you can continue to learn and grow, then there really isn’t any chance of becoming a real leader and/or leading deep change

  5. Jim Sabella says:

    Kristen, thanks again for another great post. You highlighted the influence of fear when it comes to change. Fear is a powerful force! I wonder if it’s possible to face self-change without facing fear. They seem to go hand in hand. Where there is change there is fear and where there is fear there is often little change. It seems like a vicious cycle. Your admonition to address the fear goes right to the heart of change. If we can address the fear, change can happen. Thanks for an excellent post. Can you believe we’re in our last semester?

  6. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “Self-change is really messy.”

    Worse, self change can be painful. As I reflect on some of the most significant opportunities I have had to change internally, they have been anything but comfortable. Yet, as I once heard, they never write books about people who led stress-free lives.

  7. Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Truest line on change: “I have been faced with the fact that fear paralyzes us.” In my personal life and in the life of my clients I feel like eliminating fear and managing fear is one of my greatest tasks. Since this is an impossible task, I have found introducing love concepts as replacements to fear is powerful. Love of God, self, and others overcome fear and all its’ companions of fear such as shame, victimization, and despair. How have you overcome fear so you can accomplish change?

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