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


Written by: on October 22, 2015

“Liquid Modernity.”  That phrase by Zygmunt Bauman is emblazoned in my mind as, perhaps, the most spot-on accurate description of the world in which we all now live and lead.  Fluid, ever-changing, morphing, these are words I find myself using a lot when helping leaders understand the nature of the world surrounding their organization, the world in which their enterprise is seeking to make an impact.  One question that continues to frame my conversations with leaders is: “What type of organization will thrive and make an impact in the strangeness of this cultural landscape?  Who will persist and be remembered as change-makers beyond their own generation?”  I guess that’s actually two questions, but you get the point(s)…  What kind of organization should we be striving for?

Brafman and Beckstrom say an organizationally “flat,” “leaderless” enterprise, organized by “catalysts” more so than autocrats is powerful.1  Guys like Maxwell and Covey would probably say that the fate of an organization is held primarily in the hands of its pinnacle-located leader (what Denning refers to as the “look-up-and-yell-down” style of leadership).2  It seems that Charlene Li would contend for a middle ground, one where there are clearly recognized leaders but those leaders make it their goal to create open, collaborative space where information flows multi-directionally.  It is hard to argue against such an organization when we assess the realities of the world in which we live.

To say things move quickly now is akin to saying that the Grand Canyon is a little hole out there in the desert.  I had a funny conversation with a high schooler Tuesday night at the coffee shop.  They were finding us for the first time due to the one-act play we were hosting on behalf of the High School drama club.  I was pointing out that they could “find us on Facebook” and keep up with the latest happenings and menu changes… blah blah blah… when he looked a bit perplexed.  It was in that moment that I realized all of the hours of engagement and effort to build a loyal Facebook following was only hitting the 30-something and older crowd.  A few youngsters (mostly out of pity for me) are a part of our FB community but when I said to the young man “I guess we have to find our way onto Instagram and Twitter for you to keep up with us, huh?”  He said “yeah but we’ll probably move off of those as soon as you folks (his nice way of saying “old people”) get there.”  This reality is further highlighted by the fact that Charlene Li’s own bio page on altimetergroup.com is celebrating that “[h]er next book “The Engaged Leaderwill publish in March 2015 (See http://www.altimetergroup.com/about-us/our-company/our-team/charlene-li/).”  Ummm… What month is it?

it seems to me that an orientation towards openness is the only way that a leader can hope to be effective in this current climate where change is the only constant.  I, for one, am not trying to “get a handle” on things any more, not trying to get the system down…  I’m just trying to be open.  Open in my conversations; open in my questions; open in my doubts, open to new ideas that might seem nuts; open to those who I am leading…  I’ve tried autocratic, it stresses me out.  I’ve tried flat/leaderless, it results in a whole lot of nothing getting done.  I think Open is better…  AND I need to go update my website


  1. Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. The Starfish and the Spider.  (New York: Penguin Group,2006.)
  2. Stephen Denning. The Secret Language of Leadership. (San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007.) 7.


About the Author

Jon Spellman

Jon is a husband, father, coach, author, missional-thinker, and most of all, a follower of Jesus.

15 responses to “Open”

  1. Dave Young says:

    Jon, It seems like your recent step out of ‘official’ leadership and over into more ‘organizationless’ (is that a word) leadership really suits you. Do you think the freedom you express in your thinking would be constrained if you stepped back into the ‘official’ role? That might not be the best question to even ask. What I’m getting at is I appreciate your freedom, it’s aligned well with your research topic on listening to the fringe but is it even possible from the inside?

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Dave, I’m not sure really… I like to think the answer would be “no” but until faced with the temptations of the power-center, I don’t really know what I would do.


  2. Mary Pandiani says:

    I recall when my daughter said, “mom, you know what FB means, don’t you?” “No,” I don’t. “Well, it’s face-butt book because you sit on your butt all day…something that old people do.” Yikes! And I thought I was being so tech-savvy. I agree the speed of change is hyper-change. I’m not sure I can keep up (mainly because, I guess, I’m one of those old people), so I’m going to see how I can help younger folks recognize the value of relationships, presence, taking time to live in the moment rather than on a screen. All the while, I hope I stay open 🙂
    Your insight about Li’s middle ground helps…I also think she is quite practical with what she offers versus some leadership folks who are like the owl in the tree speaking to the frog.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      I think the principle of openness in leadership transcends technology. It’s not just about the latest social media space, really it’s about a fundamental orientation towards power, information and the stewardship of such…


  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Jon, The “strangeness of this cultural landscape” is a great phrase. I can’t think of a day when reading the headlines of any newspaper would lead to any other conclusion. Because of media and communication we know too much all the time. It is all always in front of us and to get a sense of bearings in the strangeness is a constant challenge. Love the way you pulled in the other sources for depth. Great connections, great post!

    • Brian Yost says:

      When I was in school, we were encouraged to watch the news and read the paper so we could be informed. Now we need to tell people to stop reading/watching the news on tv/ computers/radio/cellphones…because many people suffer from intense media overload.

      • Jon Spellman says:

        I read a study once some years back that measured real data in terms of children’s safety in the present vs. the 1970s. It demonstrated that real violence and crimes against kids is down but parents’ perceptions of safety is that today, the world is a much more violent place. This is due entirely to the proliferation of information from every corner of the world, available in almost real-time.

        The net result is that parents won’t let their kids out of their sight so no riding bikes around town, running through the park playing ball with the neighborhood kids… So, a generation of overweight, unhealthy kids who can’t self-govern is the result as well. Another result is prolonged adolescence, etc etc etc…

        All of this can be traced (even if indirectly) to the perception of an unsafe world…


  4. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Hence your social media strategy begins… great understanding of Li’s book.

    Our strategy should be about exerting influence and spreading the news of Christ in whatever venue is effective. At one time, there were church leaders that resisted allowing ‘common people’ to read the Bible. I would imagine that church leaders resisted websites for a long time too. Now they are resisting social media. 100 years from now it will be something else. Li’s point wasn’t that every leader should embrace Facebook. Her point was that we must be open and transparent. This means adopting a mindset of using communication tools in a strategic way, measuring the effectiveness, and adjusting our approach. Why is it that the church is so, so, so resistant to digital media? The answer…they can’t control it and people can say things that they perceive as a challenge to authority. Hmmmmm…..

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Right! Openness is the point, not social media. That’s just the latest venue in which the conversation can take place. Good point about the availability of scripture only to the professional clergy. Fear of being challenged underpins all of that don’t you think?


  5. Brian Yost says:

    “I, for one, am not trying to “get a handle” on things any more, not trying to get the system down… I’m just trying to be open. “

    Loved the post. This one sentence removes the stress of always trying to keep up. Yes, we need to use socials media & technology, but ultimately, there needs to be a “realness” that is timeless and never becomes obsolete.

  6. Travis Biglow says:

    Jon i guess i feel that way too. I am not trying too many things other than the ones that i can handle now. I kind of never do everything i hear or everything that works for others. I kind of try to be real to myself and what i believe sometimes in open leadership we have to deal with what we are comfortable with. I don’t think we should strive for everything everybody likes as much as we should follow our convictions and what fits us! Blessings

  7. Nick Martineau says:

    Great Post Jon…And from the role you find yourself in I was curious to see where you would run with your approach. You gave some great everyday examples. I think it could be easy to read Li’s book and think we need to jump all into technology but you were able to highlight her real point about being open. Thanks Jon.

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