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

Integrative leadership

Written by: on December 7, 2017

The weighty tome of the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana, weighed down my bag as I boarded my flight to Toronto for my last work trip of the year.  Grazing through the articles, I quickly realized my last blog post this year must necessarily focus on a specific theme. I am married to a woman who grinded through her MA in Leadership by focusing on the Project GLOBE study (chapter 13) and applying it to contextual leadership development for women NGO leaders in Cambodia. This meant I already had vicariously experienced and assimilated this chapter; I quickly jumped ahead ignoring that trauma.

Prolific leadership guru Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s article (chapter 20) on “Leadership in a Globalizing World” arrested me.  Harvard professor Kanter’s lifetime of writing on leadership from the 1960s to the 2010s meant her article would consolidate current thoughts in the complex context of globalization. Largely based on her book, Supercorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good, the sociologist Kanter’s article naturally examines context as the driver for change in leadership approaches and strategies. Among them are the challenges of uncertainty, complexity, and diversity.  How should one lead amid these variables?  This post takes one variable – the complexity – and explores how the professor suggests adaptations for productive leadership when so much data and the deluge and intensity of multiple voices overwhelm us.

Globalization means that complexity is only increasing.  The task of a leader is to bring integration to the complexities to allow for greater productivity and mission fulfillment.  In the past we had stability with clear boundaries, structure with clear chains of authority, homogeneity with dominant majorities, and control over information resulting in privacy and secrecy.[1]  As our societies globalize, we experience instability with fuzzy edges, confusing matrices of relationship, diversity with no clear majority, and the diffusion of information and increasing transparency.

Stefan Stern interprets Kanter in the Financial Times: “Vanguard companies understand that the early 21st century is characterised by uncertainty, volatility and complexity, Kanter says. They have grasped the need for diversity in their organisations….”Humanistic values and attention to societal needs are a starting point for smart strategy in the global information age,” Kanter says.[2]

Kanter counters this overwhelming environment by simply stating, “To deal with complexity, we need integrative work.”[3] She suggests that to begin the process of integration, we must consider letting go. In typical leadership paradigms, we command-and-control our way to getting the job done. The author, in contrast, suggests surrendering power and energizing others to advance an agenda.  She states, “Informal, self-organizing, shape-changing, and temporary networks are more flexible and can make connections or connect bundles of resources more quickly.”[4]  She continues, “They must enable more people to make more connections… As they do so, they must let go of full control – so that self-organizing can take place, or decisions can be made by integrators connecting across boundaries.”[5]

Professor Kanter was describing my work. One term for what I do could be “ministry broker” – I am a connector between viable ministries and the resources from my philanthropic clients. And yet in my work, I must make the connection, then get out of the way for transformation to occur.  Once this happens, we discern a beautiful outcome: “The driving force for self-organized groups is curiosity and interest on the part of the people themselves, if left free to conduct the dialogue.”[6]

This week we launched our latest round of grants focused on bringing together various stakeholders in a complex network of relationship, for the purpose of empowering next generation leaders to create and implement projects for social good for the marginalized and most vulnerable. The Spark Initiative connects two denominations (Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec, and Be in Christ Canada), a university (St Stephen’s University), and eight funding partners (from British Columbia to New Brunswick) to support Canadian millennial social innovators to advance their ministry dreams of having a relevant impact in their communities.

The uniqueness of this round is a risky and unusual endeavour – I want to raise the money from millennial givers who are typically second-generation inheritors from wealthy families. The plan is to bring together millennial givers together with millennial social innovators into one learning cohort. The us/them distinctives will be erased between givers/receivers; we are gathered around one mission of social change in Jesus’ name, and will learn together through three retreats over the course of 2018-19. This is the path of integration.

The Canadian context is markedly distinct from the American. We are a small country (in population) though with immense geography, strung along the northern US border like pearls, in distinct regions that are only tenuously connected. Evangelicals (and we all are looking for a better descriptor) represent perhaps 8% of the population. One of our realities is we have learned (and continue to learn as a marginalized group) is that we must work together if we want to have impact. Our context has determined collaboration is the only way to influence for Christian life and light. Barriers, even between the so-called haves and have nots, must disintegrate if we are to bear fruit.

To bring these diverse and multiple players to the table, and to advance an integrated model, Kanter dropped the mic. She stated, “The money often comes from multiple budgets and the people from many different groups,… so leaders must be beggars and borrowers.  Project leaders knock on doors for resources, stop to see many people, …. In general, integrative efforts get support because they meet two tests: they are strategic to the business (which attracts capital) and motivational to the individual (which attracts talent).”[7]

For this new round of the Spark Initiative, we believe the business strategy of combining resources to advance social good is attractive to donors. Eight millennial givers have already signed up, and there are several more asks in the hopper but only four more available positions. But talent is necessary for the project to flourish. We attract talent to this project through offering millennials solid mentoring by Christian business leaders and community-building retreats over the year.

P.D. Tolchinsky reviews Kanter’s approach in the Organizational Development Journal, and points us toward this flattening context: “Kanter argues for fewer rules, regulations, and bureaucracy…. [We need] simple and yet powerful guidelines and allow for individual freedom and flexibility in operationalizing these visions, principle and values.”[8]  Surely this includes coming together in unity despite diversity for the advance of God’s kingdom.



[1] Moss Kanter, Rosabeth. “Leadership in a Globalizing World” in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice. Edited by Nitin Nohria, and Rakesh Khurana.  (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2010), 573.

[2] Stern, Stefan. “Taking the responsible route to success.” Financial Times, August 27, 2009, 12. Academic OneFile (accessed December 7, 2017). http://link.galegroup.com.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A206648177/AONE?u=newb64238&sid=AONE&xid=d048d699.

[3] Moss Kanter, 575.

[4] Moss Kanter, 588.

[5] Moss Kanter, 588.

[6] Moss Kanter, 591.

[7] Moss Kanter, 595.

[8] Tolchinsky, P. D., PhD. (2015). Accelerating change: New ways of thinking about engaging the whole system. Organization Development Journal, 33(4), 45-63. Retrieved from https://georgefox.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/docview/1792210809?accountid=11085

About the Author

Mark Petersen

Mark Petersen is the CEO of Stronger Philanthropy, a Canadian firm specializing in maximizing family philanthropy. He leads a diverse group of visionary individuals, foundations and organizations to collaborate in leveraging wealth for charitable impact.

5 responses to “Integrative leadership”

  1. M Webb says:


    Thanks for taking on leadership in a globalized context. Integration of skills, styles, theories, traits, and qualities is necessary for the type of adaptation needed for effective and efficient leadership. You cited Kanter who says to “let go” in order to achieve integrative work. I have found that “giving away” leadership is also very effective, depending on the situation and the context. There are so many unwritten and undefined skills, traits, and contexts, that even a book like this, is still only scratching the surface on what makes successful leadership. Since we are a sin laden society, filled with the daily need to resist the schemes of the devil, leadership needs supernatural help to make a difference in this world.

    I lead and work in many contexts. Sometimes straight-line vertical leadership is required while at other times horizontal give-away leadership works. What cannot be given away is the ultimate responsibility and stewardship role that God gives the leader. Too often, I see leaders back away, delegate, and ignore their responsibility when someone needs to be accountable.
    Best of luck and prayer for your philanthropy grant prospects.

    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Thanks Mike for posting a comment. I agree that different types of leadership is required for different circumstances.

      I’d appreciate your prayers as we see this round of grants roll out and as I undertake mentoring with this new cohort of millennial givers.

  2. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Mark,

    I have to admit that I did not read every chapter in our most recent book. However, after reading your blog, I felt like I had now read the chapters you highlighted. Well done, Mark! Thank you for your specialized insights and for your high standards.

  3. Greg says:

    Thanks for continuing to help me see the world from other perspectives. I knew you were relating the quotes from Professor Kanter to business, but I kept thinking they related to the changing world of ministry. Finding ways to be more flexible, letting go when needed, informal connections….I felt as if she was talking about the ebbs and flow of ministry where we work. I appreciate how you continue to help me remember that money is something that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about. Finding ways for people to share and help using the resources they have is a struggle that I have had. Never wanting to make someone feel guilty or manipulated into giving as me sometimes not asking and probably missing a blessing for both the giver and the potential recipient. On this journey with you and appreciate you conviction to the truth and the Word.

  4. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hey Mark,
    Thanks for your post– looks like we were interested in focusing on the same article! I liked the way you focused on the “integrative leadership” aspect here. It sounds like this is exactly what you are doing with your Spark initiative, in helping leaders, thinkers, givers, etc to bring various disparate aspects of themselves into a coherent whole in how they approach life. Thank you for finding the outside sources and feedback on Kanter, and the way that her work is seen in the wider world. It seems like she is pretty well established in working with corporate or business cultures, and you are stretching this out into your world with philanthropy and the ministry that is related. Nice job!

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