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

Leaning into Leadership

Written by: on February 15, 2023

Unlike some in my cohort, I was looking forward to digging into Leader-Smithing, by Eve Poole . While I have been in Pastoral leadership for the past 27 years, I have not done any significant reading or studying on the topic of leadership. By God’s grace, a decent intuition, and a great community of mentors and co-workers, I have managed to lead relatively well and avoid any significant disasters in my Pastoral career. However, over the past few years I have also been increasingly aware that my ‘leadership-by-gut’ methodology has taken me as far as it can—I had hit a ceiling and the gaps in my leadership knowledge and practice were becoming more obvious and required some intentional learning.

Enter the Doctor of Leadership program at George Fox University.

With that context, you can likely appreciate my increased interest in some of the upcoming books that are directly speaking to the topic of leadership. While I can appreciate the necessity of some of our previous readings as it relates to our research, THIS was the topic I wanted to learn most about.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from the book:

First, the list of ‘Critical Incidents’ in chapter one was appreciated as it clearly articulated some of the key skills necessary to lead well. This gives me something to reflect on as it relates to my own leadership:

What am I doing well? (Managing Ambiguity, Listening to Staff, Work-Life Balance)
Where do I need to Improve? (Dealing with Poor Performance, Giving (negative) feedback, Motivating and Influencing others)

Yet in this first chapter, the most interesting comment related to my NPO was the leaders response to a 2003 survey asking, “What do you know now as a leader that you wish you with you had known ten years ago?” Poole reflects on the answers given, saying: “We were surprised that, unprompted, they all said they wished they had known more about themselves.”

From my perspective, this lack of self-awareness—particularly in our emotional life—is a key contributor to the current leadership crisis among Christian leaders.

After exploring the importance of emotional intelligence for Ignatius of Loyola, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, theologian Gordon Smith makes the bold statement, “We only mature as Christians as we mature emotionally. People who are out of touch with their emotions are out of touch with God.” If this is true, we currently have a lot of Christian leaders and Pastors who are disconnected from the vine as they seek to live out their calling to lead.

Second, I appreciate that Poole has an entire chapter dedicated to the importance of character in leadership. She states that, “Character is not about doing but about being.” This again leads us into the inner world of the leader. ‘Being’ is developed slowly over time and isn’t as immediately noticeable to those we lead. How much of our current leadership crisis is based on too much ‘external action/performance’ and not enough inner development within leaders? One mentor of mine relayed a quote to me that I won’t soon forget: “If the light upon you (i.e. The attention and accolades) is greater than the light within you (i.e. Our identity as Christ’s beloved and our depth of character), then the light upon you will destroy you.” Is it fair to say that the current leadership crisis within the North American church is a ‘character crisis’?

Finally, and clearly related to the first two points, is the concept of ‘Leadersmithing’ —the kind of learning done by an apprentice with a master. This begins to address not only the content of our learning as Christian leaders but the construct of our learning. What we learn is important. How we go about learning it is equally important. Growing in character and increasing our emotional health is both a slow and personal journey—one that most often cannot be facilitated in the classroom over four months by one teacher. In this respect, I believe the trades have an advantage over the classical 4-year Bachelor’s degree program from a Bible School (often including/requiring a 4 month required internship in a church). As I look at the future of ministry preparation for our Church leaders of the future, I see an inevitable shift from the current model of four years of academic preparation with minimum church engagement, to a work (in church)-study rhythm that more resembles the trades. Perhaps such leadersmithing will create Christian leaders who can both parse a Greek verb and parse their own souls as well, and we will see less leadership attrition in the church as a result.

[1] Poole, Eve. Leader-Smithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership.  Bloomsbury Publishing, London. 2017

[2] Poole, 10-32

[3] Poole, 10

[4] Poole, 10

[5] Smith, Gordon. In a lecture at Regent College for a class entitled: Divine Guidance and Spiritual Discernment. 2000

[6] John 15

[7] Poole, 49

[7] Buhler, Brian. In our mentor conversations

[8] Poole, 57

About the Author

Scott Dickie

9 responses to “Leaning into Leadership”

  1. Kally Elliott says:

    I appreciated her section on character and how she talked about doing something for the extrinsic vs instrumental rewards. It made me think about the different things I do and wonder about the things I do for accolades vs what I do because it’s life-giving. The way your mentor said it preaches.

    • Scott Dickie says:

      Hi Kally,

      Yes…It would be an interesting sociological study to consider how the increasingly interconnected world and internet have shaped the way we view the role of Pastoral leadership. How many young leaders are entering into Pastoral leadership with the unexamined assumption that if they are ‘successful Pastors’ then they will end up with a book (hopefully a best-seller), a podcast with lots of followers, or invitations to the conference world? All very ‘external’ rewards that are now magnified in the North American Evangelical Christian culture. Would previous generations of Pastoral leaders have more altruistic grids of what ‘success’ looks like (helping others, journeying with their congregants through grief/loss, marriage, dedicating children, faithfully presenting the Eucharist, etc…)? I’m not totally sure…the desire to be ‘great’ is resident in every human heart…so I’m sure it manifested itself in previous generations in other ways…but it seems like the internet pours ‘fuel on the fire’ of our desire for recognition. What do you think?

  2. Travis Vaughn says:

    Scott, in addition to the “work (in church)-study rhythm that more resembles the trades” you referenced in your post, do you see new/younger leaders in your tribe operating with a side hustle or actual trade outside of traditional “vocational ministry”… perhaps something they are developing WHILE they pursue theological / pastoral training?

    Also, you are spot on with your assessment of the character crisis among leaders in ministry right now. I agree that we need to do a much better job addressing the inner development of the leader during a time where so much weight is/has been place on external performance or action. I do think this is changing to some degree. I believe the master/apprentice approach would seem to be part of the solution here, with greater attention to the process.

    • Scott Dickie says:

      Hi Travis,

      There is certainly talk about the tent-making option, but it seems the theory of it runs against the current needs of the traditional institutional church model that continues to be the primary model of church in our tribe…so not a lot of actual examples of this. My current speculation is that we are entering into a 10-30 year window where the current model of church is going to be radically changed–decentralized, de-programmed, de-professionalized, and more substantially focussed on being in a local community for the sake of that community. Churches that can make this switch over the next number of decades will be a part of the new community of Christ in the decades ahead, and those that continue with the current model will centralize, get bigger for a while as churches continue to close…only to eventually become irrelevant and disappear. That’s no prophetic announcement! Just some wonderings as we wade through this season of increasing dissonance. Tent-making would certainly be much more common in what I see as the future model of church. What do you think the future of church looks like?

  3. mm Pam Lau says:

    Scott, You write: “As I look at the future of ministry preparation for our Church leaders of the future, I see an inevitable shift from the current model of four years of academic preparation with minimum church engagement, to a work (in church)-study rhythm that more resembles the trades. Perhaps such leadersmithing will create Christian leaders who can both parse a Greek verb and parse their own souls as well, and we will see less leadership attrition in the church as a result.”

    I cannot agree enough except to say might this be a model for all spiritual leadership, not just the church?

  4. Scott Dickie says:

    Totally Pam…and I would even expand it beyond ‘spiritual leadership’ to ‘all leadership’. Whether people hold Christian beliefs, other spiritual convictions, or are humanists…the need to understand our woundedness and shadow motivations and fears/anxieties, etc… is an essential characteristic for any leader and it requires more than just Bachelor degress in the Bible or MBA’s…but a longer-term, meaningful, vulnerable and trusting relationships with ‘masters’ who can guide and grow us.

  5. GREAT SCOTT!!! You have not done any significant reading in the area of leadership? OH! MY! And yet you are a phenomenal leader. Therefore, what is the main reason you have not read or given much time to reading or studying leadership? This curious mind wants to know. And it’s okay, not to be humble in your response!

  6. Scott Dickie says:

    Good question Todd…even if it’s attached to a bit of an assumption (me being a great leader). I can’t say I totally know the answer. I originally framed my lack of reading most non-fiction as Masters degree burn out (my program was notorious for lots of reading)…so I just went to fiction, which I enjoy. But I finished that degree a long time ago now…so I think I am coming to a bit of humbling realization that I got a bit content in not being a ‘learner’ and I could make it by with what I had in my ‘toolbox’. I’m a bit surprised by this realization because I would have always named myself as someone who loves to learn. So…I’ve already learned something important in this program! And getting back in the learning habit has been good for me.

  7. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    I feel blessed while reading your writing. Thank you for showing how important it is for people (and leaders) to have emotional intelligence and to exercise the mind so that they really have a deeper knowledge of themselves. The current phenomenon shows that many Christians only stop at religion but lack spirituality. Many only emphasize ritual ceremonies but lose the ability to organize their own minds and hearts. The advice of one of your mentors is right. It reminds me of the importance of having the character of a friend and Christ’s beloved in my ministry/
    Thankyou Scott for this very enlightening write-up.

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