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

Small Ball?

Written by: on October 23, 2014


It’s World Series time. A time when leadership discussions take place inning to inning let alone game to game. Kansas City Royals. San Francisco Giants. Baseball is much harder than it looks. Getting to the World Series is even tougher.

“Leadership” has never been something that came easily to me, so I decided to become a student of it. I began to devour books and attend conferences that would help me grow in understanding and capacity. However, most of those pages and much of that time felt like it was not being wisely used – something wasn’t sitting right within me.


All I heard about was strategies, qualities, duties, models and techniques. It felt like trying to step up to homeplate and imitating the pre-swing routine, the stance and the swing of a great hitter (insert your favourite here). Doing the “right” things, implementing the “latest” strategies, just didn’t sit well though the temptation to give in to them from peers and parishoners were strong at times. Just swing for the fences; find the right program.

One of the key contributions of Mandred Kets De Vries’ book, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise, is its focus on developing the interior life of those who are in leadership positions. The lasting inference from this reading is that, leadership requires the capacity to examine yourself in order to effectively elevate the people (and organization) around you. Through very practical surveys and comprehensive data, Kets De Vries, provides a wealth of resources to equip anyone who serves in leadership. However, from the outset he is clear that the solution is not as much in strategic structural changes as it is on the interpersonal relationship among those within the organization: “My main objective in studying leadership is to bring the person back into the organization…Far too many organizational specialists give structures and systems precedence over people.” (p.xix)

When it comes to churches, programs and ministries are important to the life of any congregation. However, too often we treat the programs of our churches as though they were eternal and the people as expendable. It is the lives and welfare of people that are of eternal worth. In a strategy-driven culture that seems to continuously demand facts and figures that communicate relevance and success, we can easily lose sight of the importance of people.

Compound those internal organizational issues with the fact that as a culture we regularly default to information in small, rapid fire, doses through digital media; which comes with a promise of making our inter-personal relationships more efficient. Yet there is a growing disconnect in the manner in which many people relate to each other. It seems as though there is almost an inverse relationship between the increase digital connectivity of our relationships and our sense of truly belonging with a purposeful group of people.

Maybe now is the time to remember, people are still people, and not products, who ultimately need to be redeemed and restored in relationship to each other and to God, Our Creator.

The question that comes to my mind is simply this: if the pursuit of knowledge and the increased access to information is leaving us wanting in our social relationships perhaps there is a new yearning: to be known? The road we have travelled in our Canadian context seems to underscore the importance of a renewed emphasis on the inner life of those who serve in leadership. A continual focus on interior development will be necessary to be prepared to engage the rapidly changing culture in the Canadian context. The Good News is not new news, which is in fact Great news: The fields of our Canadian cities are ready for harvest; the culture is ready for intentionally addressing the needs of a people who are looking to be known.

The question of how is a larger more complex issue (which won’t be explored right now, but your input is welcomed). Kets De Vries offers some insight into a key element in the change process when he states: “Effective CEO’s also have to become “chief storytelling officers,” inspiring people through their stories and rallying them behind their vision.” (p.55)

In leadership, therefore, we ought to have a greater awareness of the unseen inner workings of the people we engage, recognizing their desire not simply for answers but for identity.

It is undeniable that there are both visible obstacles (socio-economic diversity) and unseen obstacles (pluralism) that have presented themselves in our communities. These obstacles provide new opportunities for churches and their leaders to engage their communities in a manner that reflects the Incarnational model of Jesus. As this book clearly underscores, active listening (as discussed in last weeks blog) and prioritizing people should be of prime importance for leadership. My contention would be that those qualities should flow from God’s Grace and according to His Truth to first, inform the lives of those who serve in leadership and secondly, affect their outworking among the people with whom they serve.

The change, however, should be gradual. In the big leagues they call it “small ball”, Kansas City Royal style: work the count, bunt, steal bases, hit and run, defensive speed and strong middle relievers. It’s still baseball, maybe not as dramatic, but certainly exciting. Kets De Vries says it this way:

 “When developing the outlines of a change process, the change leaders need to reframe the cultural guidelines that people in the organization have become used to, simultaneously reframing positive aspects of the change effort. They need to create pride in the organization’s history and point out how this pride in tradition can anchor the organization as it moves into the future. By referring to the organization’s past accomplishments while at the same time presenting a new way of doing things, leaders create a sense of hope – a dual approach that garners support for a new beginning.” (p.150)

 For those in ministry leadership in particular, the lasting reward is in the investment of people, which requires a constant willingness to self-examine and a purposeful commitment to appreciate the past, point to the possibilities and tell the God stories along the way.

Who you got: Royals or Giants?


About the Author

Deve Persad

10 responses to “Small Ball?”

  1. Clint Baldwin says:

    Yes. All the theories and etc. must in the end be about building and sustaining/navigating relationship.
    This is what I like about his noting of the relational oriented etymology of “lead” early on in the text and his use of encouraging the development of an “authentizotic” business.

    A peripherally related, but mostly aside musing:
    The Socratic, “know thyself” might have room for a bit of God and others in it if we stretch our understanding a bit of who might be ‘thyself’ and ‘Thyself.’ If so, then we find ourselves in some pretty neat relational space.
    Lead on friend.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Thanks for your input Clint. I would definitely agree that there is room to stretch the “know thyself” idea and that in doing so we would benefit ourselves in our leadership function as we integrate our relational identity in Christ…thanks for pushing these thoughts forward.

  2. John Woodward says:

    Deve, you have given so many great insights here, that I don’t know where to begin. I have always appreciated your focus on people as you do ministry and the work of the church. As you so well state: “too often we treat the programs of our churches as though they were eternal and the people as expendable.” It was greatly frustrating for me as a campus minister for years, because there were always bigger groups, who had more money and could do “BIG” things. They had lots of students attending, but we would occasionally get some of their students who would come into our ministry. The would tell us that they liked our ministry because they had the genuine opportunity to get to know people and make friends. In short, people knew if there were there or not, where they were just one of the crowd in the bigger ministry (part of their program). I learned over the years that it is harder and more challenging to work in a smaller ministry for this very fact, you knew everyone and everyone knows you. I also believe that because of the more intimate the fellowship, real ministry could happen. You could focus on people, or as you state: “people are still people, and not products, who ultimately need to be redeemed and restored in relationship to each other and to God, Our Creator.” It is hard (messy? frustrating?) work, but I too agree, it is the most rewarding work. Great insights…thanks, Deve. (Also, our prayers are with our Canadian friends this week as they process these tragic events in Ottowa.)

    • Deve Persad says:

      John, I appreciate your prayer for our Capital City and our country. Ottawa is my hometown, it’s where I spent most of the first 30 years of my life, I worked for many years within 1 block of all the events that you may have seen on the news.

      Your experience in campus ministry is a true reflection of my own experience in church ministry. One of the challenges continues to be the tension of individuals who in part want to be known and develop in a smaller setting, but gravitate toward larger settings where they can be more anonymous and requires less commitment. Time and personal risk protection often win out in numbers; yet effectiveness in deeper relationships may actually be more significant in the smaller settings….not science, just thoughts…thanks John, have a great week!

  3. Deve…
    Such a rich post with lasting insights. You wrote, “The lasting inference from this reading is that, leadership requires the capacity to examine yourself in order to effectively elevate the people (and organization) around you.” Sometimes a light goes on all and once and sometimes it operates with a dimmer switch to gradually brighten. Either way it was like “of course!” Throughout the book we are called to see all vantage points — to truly see who we are. The mirror rotates no matter where we turn. The transference is that we can then (and maybe only then) effectively lead. The same diligence toward our organizations will help us to “know.” Perhaps that is part of the story that we need to hear and invest in.

    The brilliance of small ball is that is brings all the elements essential to baseball into the game. In fact it honors the game.

    Who do you have in the Series? I’m thinking Kansas City is going to pull it out.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Carol, I grew up in the television market for the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), so small ball was how I learned to love baseball. I’ve got the Royals. And I love your application of small ball. There is no doubt that just as we apply ourselves toward self-awareness and can see benefit and growth, the same could hold true on an organizational level.

  4. Deve, besides being a perennial birthday boy, you are also a great leader. I wish I could clone you and put your heart and mind into some of the leaders I know. You always give me hope, this blog was no exception.

    I agree with you that leadership books and conferences are often a waste of time. That is why I liked De Vries’ book so much; it offered something different, something practical, something real. I especially love the way that he “calls a spade a spade” when he deals with leadership dysfunctionality. I also like the fact that he offers some practical solutions on how to change and that those solutions were not easy steps that. It is all about recognizing our own frailties and our own weaknesses, and personal introspection. And the reality is that any of us can fall victim to our own stupidity and egos. I think it is vital to recognize this.

    Personally, I have been in counseling now for almost 30 years. Why? To guard myself from being blind and unhealthy mentally, emotionally, and relationally. I have seen so much ugliness in my family, in leaders, and in pastors I have worked for that I do not want to repeat the dysfunction I have seen. I want to be a healthy person, a healthy husband and father, and a healthy leader. Leaders have great responsibility, particularly to those with whom they work. In light of this, we who have a heart for leadership must be healthy, lest we raise up those who are not.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Well Professor, your ability to squeeze so much out of our books always impresses me. I learn so much from the way you learn. Thanks for sharing your list of take-aways – I agree there was so much that was beneficial in this book, and of practical use. I look forward to using the tools and ideas in the future, for myself and the teams I’m part of.
      Your drive to be self-aware and to challenge yourself is equally impressive and is what already contributes to the leadership you carry so well.

  5. Ashley Goad says:

    Bill, Carol, Clint, and John have done a fantastic job at responding to your post… As always, it’s a beautiful weave of the text, the Gospel, and practicality. Thus… I will leave you with my pick… GO ROYALS!

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