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

Leadership Legacy

Written by: on November 15, 2018

An image that has haunted me, not only from Hong Kong but also from the many temples that I have visited, is of a mother or father that are pushing their child to kneel, incense in hand and bowing before a golden image that is so beautifully decorated, immaculately polished yet unable to provide the answers that these families are looking for. This week I have been thinking about families and the legacies they leave behind. Watching a youtube lecture by author Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries1, he noted that when reviewing a company he doesn’t like to take a 360 view of the company but rather a 720 degree one. What he meant by that was he wanted to interview the family of both the leader and the employee to discover what kind of leader this company had. Obviously this has been met with some resistance. Hearing critique from not only employees and employee’s families, but also from the family of the CEO as well could potentially be embarrassing.

Ancestor worship is truly about bringing honor to the life that was lost but has been taken an extra step to include the spirit world as well. For Asians, family legacy includes those that have past away and the ongoing reputation of those still alive. Honor and shame indeed play a role in this mix. When a family member dies and the family comes together it is traditionally the responsibility of the oldest son to take leadership of the family. Coming before the body in the presence of the whole community is seen as honoring the past, present and future stability of the family. I know it is western of me to ask the question, “Is this truly honoring the family member that died or just a show for the community?” As leaders we find ourselves in situations that we represent the “company” and must act in a way that might be different that how we would normally act in order to honor the denomination, church, or business.


Kret de Vries writes, “To some extent, of course, we are all impostors. We play roles on the stage of life, presenting a public self that differs from the private self we share with intimates and morphing both selves as circumstances demand. Displaying a facade is part and parcel of the human condition. Indeed, one reason the feeling of being an impostor is so widespread is that society places enormous pressure on people to stifle their real selves.”2 He goes on to say, “Fearing discovery of their fraudulence, they burden themselves with too much work to compensate for their lack of self-esteem and identity. Work/life balance is a meaningless concept to them.”3

I can probably make the statement that we have all had moments that we felt like a fraud doing the work that God has called us to. I was 27 when I pastored my first church. I remember after one of the first few board meetings I came home and said to my wife, “can you believe they are asking me for advice about marriage and about finances…they have twice my age and experience.” Who does it honor to pretend to be the one with all the knowledge?

Working cross culturally I have promoted my lack of resources and knowledge as an asset to come humbly into a conversation of leadership. A reviewer of the book Leadership Mystique4 stated, “He addresses issues of multiculturalism and notes how effective leadership naturally allows for this…that is they are true to their vision and values and provide employees the opportunity for self assertion to produce a personal sense of effectiveness and competency.”5

The last thing any of us want is for an “expert” to come and evaluate our ministry, our work, or our leadership. Manfred Ket de Vries’ 720 degree survey of us would be a humbling event. My kids were little I remember them telling people that my wife was a teacher and I didn’t work. I looked at them and telling them I had a job (overcompensating) told them all the things I did in ministry and when finished my daughter, “oh, someone pays you to do that.” Living in China my family of influence has extended to some young men and women that have worked alongside us for many years. Modeling leadership in a country that teaches everyone to follow has had its challenges. The “tell me what I should do today” questions used to drive me crazy. As many of us know, training a leader means walking with them for years, letting them watch you at work and play. Seeing you scold your children and argue with your spouse reminds one of the glass house we sometimes live in. “The leader must thus walk the talk and empower and enable his followers to do likewise.”6 As I lead by what I say and what I do, I hope that those that follow are changed and transformed not by my authoritative words but by my transformational heart. 7


1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VEypCeMCIE accessed November 12, 2018.

2 Manfred F R Kets De Vries. “THE DANGERS OF FEELING LIKE A FAKE.” Harvard Business Review 83, no. 9 (2005): 108-16.

3 Ibid

4 Kets De Vries, Manfred F. R. The Leadership Mystique : Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise. 2nd ed. Harlow, England ; New York: Prentice Hall/Financial Times, 2006.

5 Bryan Love. “Manfred Kets De Vries: The Leadership Mystique – a Users’ Manual for the Human Enterprise. Prentice Hall, Great Britain. 2001.” SA Journal of Industrial Psychology 28, no. 3 (2002): SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 01 October 2002, Vol.28(3).

6 Ibid.

7. At some point I need to admit that I was planning on buying this book on Kindle…but that was not meant to be.  Thanks to many reviewers, videos and quotes sites I believe I was able to understand some of the basis of his thoughts.


About the Author


Greg has a wife and 3 children. He has lived and work in Asia for over 12 years. He is currently the Asia Director of Imanna Laboratories, which tests and inspects marine products seeking US Coast Guard certification. His company Is also involved in teaching and leadership development.

15 responses to “Leadership Legacy”

  1. Greg,

    You stated, “Working cross culturally I have promoted my lack of resources and knowledge as an asset to come humbly into a conversation of leadership.”

    I love this.

    When working in new cultural environments, just like you do, modelling humility and a willingness to learn is the only way that will be fruitful. Your post was replete with examples of this. Thank you.

    • Greg says:

      modeling a sense of awareness of how little I know does always seem as though I am leading 🙂 But I know I have had some great conversations about leadership and style because of it.

  2. Great post Greg, especially considering you were not able to get the book on Kindle (you and many others) and you researched around it. I liked the 720 perspective you highlighted and I enjoyed your sharing of how your kids talked about your work (or lack thereof) 🙂 to others. I think we all wondering how this leadership evaluation would look if our families were interviewed. By the way, I think you would enjoy the book if you end up deciding to buy it.

    • Greg says:

      Jake, it is always humbling and a little scary when the kids are sharing stories…right 🙂 . What I read of this book sounded very practical and worth reading.

  3. This: “As I lead by what I say and what I do, I hope that those that follow are changed and transformed not by my authoritative words but by my transformational heart.” A great hope.

    This: “The last thing any of us want is for an “expert” to come and evaluate our ministry, our work, or our leadership.” SO true. Except it is reall yhard for any of us to get better at what we are doing without such evaluation. I’m pushing for this for missions in my dissertation. I’m pushing for it BECAUSE of the hope you mentioned. If that is to become a reality and not just a hope, we need to be willing to look critically at how we are engaging in mission.

    • Greg says:

      Jenn…I was totally thinking of you with this 720 evaluation and wondered how one get to be honestly evaluated…I know that it might be the last thing we want BUT if done in a way that doesn’t seem judgmental nor cause some to try and pass the “buck” (the problem) off to someone or something else…then it could produce authenticity…in many forms.

  4. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Greg,

    I have the image from Hong Kong of the parent throwing those clay things on the ground, with his daughter smiling, as they burnt the incense and worshipped the no true god, (all little letters was on purpose). The image haunts me, and I can’t let it go. Glad you are broken by the same type images. Makes me feel not alone in my heartbrokenness for those far from Christ. Thanks for the reminder today, and I earnestly pray with you and for your ministry…

    Happy Thanksgiving, a half a world away.

  5. M Webb says:

    Outstanding ethnographic image and discussion on your introduction. Pink approves.
    I was very troubled when we as an LGP entered the BT in HK. I immediately felt tension in my head, frustration in my mind, my eyes squinted, sinuses stuffed up from the incense, and I grieved for those worshiping the foreign g’s. Thinking back to the times when Elijah stood around the prophets and the alter of Baal I am humbled and in a little afraid that we so willingly walked into and around the BT like we did.
    Nevertheless, I think I felt a small example of what Elijah must have felt. I’m sure his sensory and spiritual perceptions were magnified 10-fold, but hey, the same false g thing continues. Thankfully in our 2nd covenant context the destroying fire from G is intentionally being restrained.
    Footnote 7 comment- hey, he has written so many books that are on E-books that you can easily read around this book to figure out his leadership themes.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Greg, I actually convinced the elders to allow me to give an “church-welfare checkup” one Sunday morning. I polled them on the various ministries…including my own. We asked them about the strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes of every ministry we offered. We gave them an avenue to complain about anything they wanted and compliment if willing.

    The results were eye-opening. We all learned a lot about the body we serve! I am happy to say, they were happy with their preacher at that time…but that was about 5 years ago…I was still fairly new…LOL.

    We made changes and started to try and pay closer attention to our congregation. We still have work to do!

    Good job!

    • Greg says:

      that 720 view of our work is necessary but will make all of us a little nervous…I think non of us believe we are doing all we can do but being faithful is the most important aspect.

  7. Jason Turbeville says:

    The first part of your post reminds me of the time I took a group of youth to see a Buddhist temple in Vancouver, 3/4 could not stay in it very long because it depressed them so much to see what you described. How did you feel about the discussion of companies bringing in expats to be on boards because they felt they were not doing a good job on their own, have you seen that in your work in China?


    • Greg says:

      Jason I don’t know what you are talking about….are they bringing expat to foreign places or bringing foreigners to the states to sit on boards? I can see that in a Western county they would want to have “representatives” come and sit on boards to make sure the western understanding of things are represented. This is not always a bad thing if down with grace and humility but I would imagine that this is not how things are done.

  8. Chris Pritchett says:

    Man they asked you for advice when you were 27?! That’s amazing. What did you do? I was nearing 40 and they would hardly let me see the numbers 😉

    I suppose marriage was a different story. We definitely have good juicy stuff to offer there! haha.

    Thanks for these good and helpful words, some of which were quite serious.

    I am pondering this question you raised: “I know it is western of me to ask the question, ‘Is this truly honoring the family member that died or just a show for the community?'” It would seem to me (in my ignorance) that this is in fact truly honoring the family in the best way they know how with the tools at their disposal. In other words, the intent of honor and the tradition that is passed down and then expected within a community, seems at least authentically honoring (or honorable?), as far as honor is concerned. This leads to the question, what is honor? And what is the value, if any, of honor? I would imagine you being the thoughtful theologian in China that you are, you may have developed an articulated Christian theology of honor, which, I would imagine, would reject ancestral worship? What do you think?

    I admit that this is all over the place and I might not be making much sense.

    • Greg says:

      Chris I tracked you just fine….which could mean I am all over the place too. I am a firm believer that forgiveness by God is truly understood (locally) that God is bringing back the honor that was lost by the shame of sin and selfishness. This true restoration of identity (face) creates the wholeness that has been lost. Sorry that was all over the place too…

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