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

If Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership, Let’s Invest in Leadership Development

Written by: on November 14, 2018

Reading sections of the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice took me back to my MBA studies from 1979 to 1982. During that life period, I was wrestling with pursuing a call to ministry while also pursuing an enhanced vocational education to provide better employment options to support my new bride and an eventual family. I was working full-time for a major industrial engineering and construction company, working part-time as a youth associate pastor, and pursuing three years of part-time MBA studies, while also trying to learn how to be a husband with all of my twenty-something years of life experience. I shake my head now and wonder how God and Glo ever got me and put up with me through it all (including all of my arrogance and self-inflicted failings.)

With a technical undergraduate degree, the attendant MBA was purported to be the golden ticket to fame, fortune, and fulfillment (I added that last one in for alliteration and good measure!) My MBA focus was in organizational leadership since it seemed to be the buzzword of the day. We reviewed seemingly, countless cases and typed (it is true!) both individual and group presentations. Upon completion of our MBA, allegedly we were prepared to become strategic leaders of our respective organizations.

As I flash-forward to today, I reflect upon some forty years of local church leadership and have come to several succinct realizations. First, I was an abysmal leader. I was not only poor at leading, but I was also poor at developing leaders. Second, I was both woefully under-prepared and unprepared to lead a local church. Third, because I love the church today more than ever (despite all of my failings and wounds), I am committed to the development of the local church leaders (pastors) and especially their abilities to develop leaders from within their church communities. That is my own experiences fuel my passion for assisting local church leaders develop their adaptive leadership skills.

Our source points out that, “Leadership development may be one of the most important yet understudied areas in leadership research.”[1] If this is true for non-faith based organizations, how much more needful is it within the church where we have traditionally fled from the consideration of best business practices. If we only considered the question of the unprecedented social transformation taking place within society (including the causes and pace of change), [2] we can surmise the world our local churches are called to serve will necessitate local church leaders with unprecedented adaptive leadership skills.

Additionally, our source states, “Anyone who has ever suffered under an incompetent leader knows the local toll it takes,..” Yes, I confess I was a terrible leader. Unfortunately, I and others also have suffered under terrible leaders. As we consider the impairment caused by “lousy” leadership it seems obvious that it is crucial to invest in developing (and sometimes healing up) leadership talent. With respect, some may view leadership as intuitive or a gift of the Spirit. I prefer to focus on treating the leadership development of current, and prospective pastors seriously. My research will venture to demonstrate how vigorous coaching networks can assist local church pastors to utilize their contextual experiences wisely. The end-game is to partner with those with sufficient dedication and desire to learn the craft of developing leaders (both themselves and others.)[3]

[1] Khurana, Rakesh and Nitin Nohria, eds., Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: An HBS Centennial Colloquium on Advancing Leadership (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2010) 674.

[2] Elliott, Anthony, Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction, rev. ed. (London, UK: Routledge, 2014), 11-15.

[3] Khurana and Nohria, Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, 705.

About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

16 responses to “If Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership, Let’s Invest in Leadership Development”

  1. Harry, this is your wheelhouse. God has gifted you in amazing ways, including the gift of leadership. You are a leader of leaders. There’s a section in our book that talks about how to lead leaders. Have you read that part? I haven’t yet but I’d be interested to know your thoughts on that.

    I agree with you, part of being a successful leader is creating the structure for others to succeed. A leader like this doesn’t have to be the extrovert, flamboyant charismatic we often see on the stage. It could be the shy introverted woman or man behind the scenes that makes this happen. This goes against the popular views culture tells us how a leader ought to think and behave. I’m excited to read and learn more about your contribution to the discipline of leadership as we journey together in this program.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Harry, thanks for your great insights and questions. Harry, you have hit upon one of the many misconceptions of great leadership. “In fact, the signature difference between a transforming leader and one described as charismatic was the focus on developing or transforming followers into leaders.” (741) Great leadership is not being “charismatic” but instead being transformative within ones circles of influence. That is, transforming others into leaders for the benefit of the kingdom rather than transforming others into leaders for the benefit of the “charismatic” leader. I view the beautiful fusion of coaching, as a Holy Spirit infused leadership development tool. I am so excited to get to pursue this area of research along with our LGP9 cohort! Blessings, H

  2. Karen Rouggly says:

    I appreciated your honesty and vulnerability in this post. It takes a lot to say I was a crappy leader. I think we’ve all felt that on our leadership journey too. I often feel like as painful as failures are, and I’ve had a few stingers, if I can learn from them, they’re more valuable a teacher in the end. I know you’ve mentioned some of your challenges both as a leader and working under challenging leaders. In what ways have you learned from yours or someone else’s failures?

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Karen, Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I think the greatest takeaway from one’s failures, is to see how God redeems our failures/pain by turning them into the fuel and passion to help others learn from our mistakes. While we often talk about risk and faith, rarely are we encouraged to discuss our failures openly. Leadership development is not a set of clever techniques to be mastered, instead it is a Holy Spirit process to redeem our failures to help others in their own development. Thanks again for the questions, H

  4. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Your wisdom shines through Harry. The church is blessed to have you . . . as are all the different people you coach.

    Karen asks a great question about how have you learned from others failures. I wonder, is it possible to weave that insight into your coaching?

  5. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks and I fondly remember Jenn also talking Glo and I to the adventure with you and Sean. While my spirit was willing, truly my body was weak! You ask a great question. Our failures are always formational experiences. I have elected to allow the Holy Spirit redeem these failures and they are truly apart of all I do. Whatever insights I have, they have been germinated and fueled by the passion I feel to assist others in their leadership development. That is, I walk with a limp as I serve others with the insights God has birthed in me. Blessings on dear friend, H

  6. Mary Mims says:

    Harry, although you feel you were not a good leader, I think you embodied the Identity-based leadership described in the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice. You have truly grown into the role of a leader as you have taken on the role and continued to pursue and learn about leadership. It’s not how you start, but how you are finishing that matters. Press on my brother!

  7. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mary, thanks so much for your wise words. Your statement, “It’s not how you start, but how you are finishing that matters.” encapsulates another profound, yet subtle truth. Since leadership development is a life-long process filled with mistakes and failures, we must press on in order to realize the Lord’s fulfillment. I like to say, we need to stay in the boat with Jesus during the storms of life and leadership so that we may see the other side. Thank you dear sister, for your challenge and admonition! H

  8. Jenn Burnett says:

    So spoiled to have you in our cohort Harry! I love learning from you 🙂 I think it is so key that we have space to recognize that we all start out so imperfectly (then mostly just learn to acknoweldge we are still so imperfect). I also think it is critical that we figure out how to keep (make?) the church a safe place to be that struggling beginner, because the alternative is that we send people out to non-church places to learn to be leaders. I also wonder if we might need better strategies at teaching people how to be better followers. I hear recently of a congregation who were unhappy with their minister and asked that the governing body to replace him. The wise representatives of the governing body came, said yes it didn’t seem to be going well, but told the congregation that until they learned to treat their minister better that they weren’t getting a new one! It is awkward indeed for a minister hired by the church, to instruct a congregation on how to follow better. So how might we do this well? Bless you my friend!

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Jenn, Always so good to hear your thoughts and insights! You have struck an essential chord in congregational leadership, that is, pastors are not the only leaders. What about the non-clergy leaders within the local church? While I can not speak to denominations that are led by bishops, most autonomous congregations depend upon the senior pastor to solely develop the congregational leaders. Very few senior pastors I have ever know have done this well without significant outside resources, therefore, (with no judgement) very few I have ever known have done this well. How do we develop the adaptive leadership skills of both the pastors and the core team leaders? I wonder, if I should attempt to broach this in my research? Blessings, H

  9. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hey there Harry. I laughed out loud when you declared yourself to have been, “an abysmal leader”. If you think you have been bad, I can tell you stories of my own rampant ego driven stupidity that would make your skin crawl. We’ve all got chapters of our ministry leadership that we would rather went unpublished. When honest though, it’s not just the visible stuff we did that may have been cringeworthy, it’s often the stuff that we got away with but we know we shouldn’t have. I often reflect on things I have done that looked successful, but my motives were hardly pure, and I used people as means and not ends in themselves. If self awareness is the beginning of wisdom, you’re wel on your way. As uncomfortable as it might seem, when I teach pastoral leadership, I tell all my terrible stories of ego driven messy failure. I figure if it’s OK for the Bible to remind us of leadership stupidity for all time, I might as well join the ranks of dumb saints who have done great things in the hands of a benevolent God. I just hope there is a little bit of greatness to be seen. Otherwise I’ll be exhibit ‘A’ in history’s examples of “what not to do”. 🙂

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Digby, I would imagine you are a brilliant and effective teacher and trainer of pastoral leadership. Your church community is fortunate to have someone with your fusion of scholarship and practical experience. I am especially struck by your allusions to things that worked, but should not have because of your selfish ego. That is, just because it “worked” does not mean God was pleased or his kingdom expanded. Along with you I am a dumb saint in the hands of a benevolent God expecting him to do great things through my broken efforts. Blessings, H

  10. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Harry, I appreciate your vulnerability. All of us who have led for any length of time can look back at some painful failures. I often wish we could go back and apologize to the first church we pastored. Gratefully, God is gracious and gives us opportunity to grow through those moments which you have obviously done. It is also what gives us passion to develop others to hopefully be better than we were. This is one reason I connect with Clinton’s Leadership Emergence Theory, it is the making of a leader over a lifetime and connects to every aspect of experience holistically.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Tammy, I respect your leadership context so much as a leader of pastors and congregations for a significant span of time. Yes, we are truly blessed to be given time and grace to not only learn from our past mistakes but to leverage our painful pasts to help other developing leaders. Thank you so much for your endorsement of Clinton, I really must dig into his Leadership Emergence Theory. Blessings and peace for you and yours, H

  11. Sean Dean says:

    Harry, I have no doubt that you had bad moments as a leader – and they may have been truly terrible – but I tend to think the very ability to recognize that means you’re much better than you think. That being said, I think you make an excellent point that leadership development needs to be stressed much more highly for the leaders of our churches than it has been in the past. I think of churches that appoint someone as pastor based entirely upon their charisma. A few months or years down the road and the lack of leadership training has resulted in a train wreck. Thank you for shining the light on this area, both here and in your forthcoming dissertation.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Sean, thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement. Unfortunately, the church (both inside and outside the local congregation) has been guilty for using the “Saul” card. That is, leaders are appointed because they look and sound good (I suppose they would be perceived to be “charismatic”.) Honestly, it is much more challenging and messier to get beyond public persona to know the real person, the real leader. I wonder how we can learn from these train wrecks to develop better prepared, humble adaptive leaders? Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! H

Leave a Reply