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

Head vs. Heart…the delicate balance

Written by: on January 31, 2019

At times, it seems like a minefield when navigating cultural nuances in my own American context, much less those present when working with global stakeholders. Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map is an excellent tool for anyone desiring to increase cross-cultural effectiveness. She sets out to help leaders address this challenge. Meyer provides an eight-part framework for understanding cultural issues:[1]

  • Communicating: Low-context v. High-context
  • Evaluating: Direct vs. Indirect
  • Persuading: Principles first vs. Application first
  • Leading: Egalitarian vs. Hierarchical
  • Deciding: Consensual vs. Top-down
  • Trusting: Task-based vs. Relationship-based
  • Disagreeing: Confrontational vs. Avoiding
  • Scheduling: Linear time vs. Flexible time

She gives helpful insights and supports her research from psychologists and anthropologists with practical examples of success and failure in building global business connections. Meyer provides answers to real-life questions that can make or break negotiations such as, “Should I ask them again if they would like something to eat?” or “How much time should I spend talking about their favorite sports team before we get to the contract?” Even though these questions can seem insignificant, they have a radical impact on how we navigate organizational relationships. Above all, Meyer advocates that leaders be culturally aware. Diversity can be a great strength but only comes through intentional development.


I found chapter Six, The Head or the Heart, particularly interesting. Meyer discusses two types of trust: cognitive trust, which is more task-based; and affective trust, which is based on relationships.[2] She explains that Cognitive trust is based on how confident you are in another person’s ability and skill. This trust comes from the head. Affective trust is based on feelings of closeness or friendship. This trust comes from the heart. On the scale presented in the book, the United States Is on the far-end of cognitive trust, where countries such as China and Brazil are on the far-end of affective trust.[3]


Recently, I have been in many cross-departmental discussions at the university where I work. We have experienced growth and expansion in the past decade, which introduced a need for more robust systems. An unfortunate byproduct of this increase in efficiency has been what we perceive as a potential devaluing of the individual student. We realized that the complicated automation of communication and the ease of online platforms was no replacement for personal care and experience. As a leadership team, we became concerned that students could rely on us for the successful processing of their admission and records, but they didn’t necessarily trust us for their personal development. We had been looking at the student’s college readiness but neglecting to examine whether, as a University, we were “student-ready.” We are now looking at ways to increase our affective trust with students and other stakeholders.


As Christian leaders, especially in the American church, it seems Meyer’s cultural awareness has value beyond global networking. Perhaps we could use greater awareness regarding our own organizations. Are we not concerned with the transformation of the heart? Could it be that our evolution toward more complex organizations has created an unintentional value of the mechanics of ministry over the personal connection? Meyer has given us a lot to think about in terms of a holistic look at building trust, from both the head and the heart.


[1] Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures. New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2015.

[2] Ibid, 167.

[3] Ibid, 171.

About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

5 responses to “Head vs. Heart…the delicate balance”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Great point Rhonda . . . sometimes the people who may be best for a job aren’t the most trustworthy, and vice versa. Thanks!

  2. Karen Rouggly says:

    I think this is a very intuitive post, Rhonda. I appreciate you sharing from your personal experience, and I can relate to it! I think the trusting scale was interesting as well. I think about it too, in relation to those I work alongside. I think we all have both within us, but we do lean towards one or the other. As I was reading this chapter, I realized I don’t have a ton of trust in my boss because I feel like I don’t really know him personally all that well. He has very strict personal and professional boundaries. As the boss, I think we have a strong responsibility to navigate the personal and professional well. What are your thoughts? Have you seen that done well?

  3. Jenn Burnett says:

    I found this chapter particular pertinent to ministry as well Rhonda. It’s interesting to me how in the North American workplace for example we would frown on what we would understand as nepotism, but this would be the circle we would have the most affective trust in. And yet in ministries, we often see ‘in house’ hiring normalised over task based competence. There seems to be a tension between the church and the rest of culture in that respect. Do you find that? How does how your University work compare to other University’s that don’t identify as Christian? I also really love what you are working to do to care for your students! Well done!

  4. Mary Mims says:

    Rhonda, you make a valid point about trust within our organizations. I think that is one of the biggest issues in organizations today. Feeling devalued by management reduces productivity; I can only imagine what it does in a Christian University. Maybe if the church does better, other organizations will follow.

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