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

Leading towards community amidst diversity

Written by: on November 9, 2013

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a church planting conference. Not only was it incredibly refreshing to be around other church leaders who aspire to do the same as I do, but who are an inspiration in their faith and leadership. One of the teachings that really stood out to me among best church planting practices for the un-churched is the need to create community. I find it fascinating that whatever kind of context I may be looking at, whether it’s leadership, global perspectives, business coaching, church planting, or good old-fashioned pastoral care, the world is crying out for authentic community and relationships.

Creating community was one of the biggest challenges we faced as a leadership team in the church I served at in Seoul. Our international English-speaking ministry saw much ‘turnover’ both in pastoral leadership and membership, and so creating continuity and community among ministries and relationships was one of the biggest challenges. Yet it was possible to generate it, and sometimes wonderfully so.

One leader I admire is Francis Hesselbein. Francis, now in her nineties, is most well known for turning around Girl Scouts USA while she served as CEO. When she started back in 1976, the Girl Scouts comprised of 335 Girl Scout councils, 650,000 staff members and 2.25 million girls. A huge organization indeed, but back then, one without a sense of oneness and unity. When she left fourteen years later to work as CEO in the former Peter F. Drucker Foundation (now known as the Leader to Leader Institute), they had created the highest membership and greatest ethnic diversity in their entire history, and had become “one great movement”. How did she manage to create such a unified body amidst such diversity?

According to Hesselbein, one of the most important roles of a leader within an organization is to create a sense of oneness through unified mission and purpose. This can be done through creating specific values and executing them well. In other words, defining “why we do what we do; our reason for being.”[1] This, according to Rosabeth Moss Kanter in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, is essential for any organization, especially those working in a global company. In our ever-globalizing world, one of the greatest challenge leaders of any organization faces is the question of creating trust and cohesion in relationships in the midst of increasing diversity, complexity and uncertainty. Kanter writes, “Globalization seemingly detaches organizations from particular societies only to require the internalizing of society and its needs in organizations. Institutional certainty can balance business uncertainty…the meaning that is most important for institutionalizing an organization is a purpose and values that provide a rationale beyond the transactions or activities of the moment.” [2] As former IBM CEO, Sam Palmisano once said, “The values are the connective tissue that has longevity.” [3]

Values, according to Hesselbein, can be easily deciphered through a short mission statement, which she stated, “We not only plaster them on everything; we live them.”[4] Some examples are, “Working for the benefit of society” (Omram), “To make people happy” (Walt Disney), “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, and who make the world a better place” (Girl Scouts) and “To help people save money so they can live better” (Wal-mart). Even Jesus Christ, when asked what the greatest commandment of all was, simply said, “To love the Lord your God”, followed by “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

There’s a lot as ministry leaders we can learn from the world of business. I found it interesting that when Palmisano was CEO of IBM, he spent between 20 and 25% of his time on executive development; planning for future jobs and for successions; developing skills, culture, and climate; and thinking about the personal characteristics associated with leadership.[5] If business leaders are so skilled in creating community, mission and leadership, we need to ask ourselves, What can we learn from these professionals? What is your mission statement? What is mine? As Peter Drucker once said, leadership is a journey. I pray God will grant me the wisdom I need to create community and develop leaders in building His church.

[1] Quoted in an interview with Mark Thompson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ePEErvhIQ8

[2] Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “Leadership Through an Organization Behavior Lens,” in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, eds. Nitin Nohira and Rakesh Khurana (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2010), 577

[3] Kanter, ibid., 580

[4] In the same interview with Mark Thompson above

[5] Handbook, ibid., 593

About the Author

Liz Linssen

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