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

The Possibilities are Endless

Written by: on March 16, 2022

If you know me at all, you know I appreciate the practical applications. Peter Northouse’s Leadership: Theory & Practice has immediately become one of my new favorite books on leadership – one that I know I will be utilizing for years to come. Northouse, an academic with extensive experience in the field of communication, has been providing information and guidance in the realm of leadership for three decades. Leadership is classified within the social sciences and offers not only a robust understanding of the types of leadership but also provides short assessments that can be utilized at the end of each chapter.

Northouse provides a historical context for how the definition of leadership has developed over the last century and states that scholars today can agree that “they can’t come up with a common definition for leadership” as global and generational differences develop complexities when approaching this subject.[1] I found Northouse’s reference to Zaleznick very insightful, stating that in 1977 he,

“…suggested that leaders…are emotionally active and involved. They seek to shape ideas instead of responding to them and act to expand the available options to solve long-standing problems. Leaders change the way people think about what is possible.”[2]

For me, this statement has distilled much of what we have been discussing over the course of this year. From the historical works on evangelicalism and capitalism, to being self-differentiated, to how our brain chemistry impacts every part of our functioning, all these works have been about people who were not afraid to look at the world differently and offer alternative possibilities to the societal norms of their time. I can envision utilizing Northouse’s book in several ways: to grow my own understanding of leadership theory and self-assessment; to have the teams I lead take the assessments for further personal and professional development opportunities; to implement the material within the undergraduate courses I teach for scholars’ students; and to incorporating the team and inclusive leadership chapters into my NPO prototype.

In the chapter on servant leadership, I appreciated his underscore of the paradoxical nature of the phrase as they are generally opposing terms.  I did find the characteristics and model very helpful, especially within the context of us as Christ followers leaning into what it means to lead with a global perspective. As Northouse states, “servant leadership does not occur in a vacuum but occurs within a give organizational context and a particular culture.”[3] As someone who works on mobilizing students, faculty, and staff into study and service opportunities around the country and world, I cannot begin to emphasize the significance of context when I lead pre-departure trainings. There is so much to know about power, authority within the culture, social norms, gender understandings, and communication if you want to approach from a posture of humility and truly servant hearted.

Reflecting on this reading, I feel more confident in the non-traditional solutions I have found to problems, in the way I communicate with my supervisors and colleagues, and in how I’ve been equipped for the work that the Lord has given me. At the same time, I’m equally confident that someone else can be equipped to do completely different work, approach leadership in an opposite manner to me, and still be effective in the area they’ve been given to focus on. While Northouse will be one I refer to many times as I move forward in my leadership journey, I am most excited about the potential it has for me to empower others to truly embrace who they are and grow in specific areas of leadership that they need to succeed in whatever realm they find themselves being planted in.

[1] Northouse, 5.

[2] Ibid., 18.

[3] Ibid., 260.

About the Author

Kayli Hillebrand

Associate Dean of International and Experiential Education

11 responses to “The Possibilities are Endless”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Kayli: I focused on the idea of servant leadership, too. It makes so much sense to approach a leadership role with that frame of mind. We are here to help, to point the way, to demonstrate the work ethic and the characteristics that are needed to be accomplish the task at hand. Even the secular world, at least my experience int he business world recognizes the wisdom in this. What is the most practical lesson from this book that you think you will be able to put immediately into practice?

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      I think for me, the most practical tool is constantly examining and defining leadership in the given context I’m in. Taking in the needs of the organization, those I have influence with, and the specific tasks to be completed will need a leadership approach that is flexible enough to adjust when needed and not just hold tight to a definition that may be outdated for the time or season.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Kayli, it sounds like you got quite a bit from this book. I got to read this book for the class on my NPO and also believe this will be a “go to” book for years to come. Of the different models of leadership, do you most align with the Servant Leadership you describe in your post? If not, is there one dominant style for you? Does you school have a dominant style? I ask that last question because I’m curious to know if an organization needs to have one dominant style or if it can be a mixture of styles.

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      I would say that I most align with Transformational Leadership in the given season I’m in. While the primary functions of my role/office would fall more so under Servant Leadership, I see how I lead within in that to be much more of a transformational process for my students. As for my institution, I’d have to go with Adaptive Leadership as our dominant theme.

  3. mm Jonathan Lee says:

    Ty Kayli for your synthesis and applications to opportunities in your writing. You mentioned, “As someone who works on mobilizing students, faculty, and staff into study and service opportunities around the country and world” What are some leadership principals that was useful in mobilization of people to join and do good works and international mission opportunities?

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Jonathan: For me, I emphasize the training with students. I like to model a lot while in pre-departure training and on the field as I feel it helps them most capture what we are trying to teach. I heavily emphasize the reinforcement of dignity, empowerment, and relationship when it comes to engaging students in missional programming. Even from the planning & development phase, I will never ask a partner if we can do some specific project — it always starts with what their current need is and then we go from there.

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Kayli, as per usual, great post. Always fun to read. This quote you highlight is spot-on:

    “…suggested that leaders…are emotionally active and involved. They seek to shape ideas instead of responding to them and act to expand the available options to solve long-standing problems. Leaders change the way people think about what is possible.”

    Changing the way people think about what is possible. I LOVE the practical approach you have taken all year long with this course work in your context and faith journey. I can just imagine the ways in which you are already becoming more well-informed and an even more exceptional leader.

    Remind me, your NPO prototype is what exactly? I think what you and I are working on is very similar… we should compare notes sometime.

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Eric: I’m working on embedding project-based internationalization into higher-ed curriculum. In essence, it’s how to utilize education in real-time to meet real-world needs around the country and globe, turning the theoretical assignment into something of substance and connected to a real person/organization. For example, how can I utilize Business students to connect with entrepreneurs in Tanzania to develop a basic business plan that would help them succeed in their given context.

  5. mm Henry Gwani says:

    Kayli, as always, an excellent analysis of this week’s reading. I especially appreciate your outline of how you hope to utilize Northouse’s book. You highlight servant leadership as one of the points that stand out for you. Given your extensive interaction with international students, do you envision the international community growing in the understanding of this term and applying it in their contexts?

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Henry: What a great question. One of the challenges of COVID has been the limited interaction with our international student population as there has been little need for many of them to be in the US during the season of forced online education. I feel a bit out of touch if I’m honest.

      But if I were to go back to a pre-COVID perspective, I think the most significant challenge is how much the definition and understanding of what servant leadership is can vary by people group, culture, and nation. A decade ago, more of our students wanted to study in the US in order to take their learnings back home to improve their own communities. Now, most of them do not wish to return to their home country, but stay and work in the US which then makes the conversation that much more interesting to navigate in light of servant leadership.

  6. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Kayli, a very insightful post. I particularly appreciate your reference to your work in preparing others for cross cultural service. I curious to know more about your “non-traditional solutions”? How you came to those solutions? How were they received by more traditional leaders?

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