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

The Power of Place

Written by: on February 26, 2023

The place where your feet meet the ground matters. In an age where a large part of our communication and information appears on digital screens from all over the world, it’s easy to forget the importance of the geographical environment in our daily lives. Two books that remind us of the power of place are The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester and Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall.

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

Tim Marshall’s book about ten maps that explain everything about the world will now forever be a reach away on my bookshelf. As he described the geographic features of ten key areas of the world, my eyes opened to the significance that weather, rivers, oceans, mountains and prairies have had in the development of countries throughout the world. I never before linked the war in the Ukraine to Russia’s need for warm water access to an ocean or considered the global importance of the United States being flanked by two oceans. Marshall sums up this helpful book by saying that “geography, and the history of how nations have established themselves within that geography, remains crucial to our understanding of the world today and to our future.”[1]

The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester

While Marshall provides a macro view of the major geo-political regions of the world, Simon Winchester dives deep into the micro experience of one man, William Smith, and paints a lively picture of how Smith’s life at the just the right place and time propelled him to spend 22 years creating the first geographical map of England. [2]

It is in Smith’s story that we see elements of how England was primed for a scientific revolution in the late 1700’s when capitalism was also picking up speed. Knowledge was now available to all economic classes and there were great advances in areas such as the arts, philosophy and applied science. However, Marshall also notes an important barrier that existed during this time. “There was still a terrible hesitation about humans’ understanding of the most fundamental questions of why they were where they were, who had placed them there, what was the point, what were their origins, what was their fate?” [3] He goes on to say to ask such questions was viewed a heresy to the largely Protestant population. Indeed, Smith’s discoveries about the age of the earth are still at odds with Biblical purists and Christians throughout the world. Yet, Smith prevailed in creating an accurate map that described the geology of England’s land. Something that would prove to be immensely useful for ages to come.

Impact of Place in Leadership Today

So what’s the impact of all of this on leadership today? Both Marshall and Winchester show in different ways that the physical landscape of a place matters. Whether you are a leader of your family, a leader of an organization or a leader of your community, it’s critical to have an awareness of the landscape, earth and natural resources in your area both to understand the past and to plan for the future. It makes me think of the importance of SWOT analysis in any leader’s tool kit.

SWOT (an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a framework that is credited to Albert Humphrey, who developed the approach at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) back in the 1960s and early 1970s.[4]  The primary objective of a SWOT analysis is to help leaders develop a full awareness of all the factors involved in making decisions. A strengths and weaknesses assessment is geared toward the internal factors that impact success and the opportunities and threats are external factors that may influence the future.  In both categories, I can now see the importance of recognizing geographical factors, especially as  opportunities or threats since they are things one cannot control.

It is impossible to accurately map out a small business’s future without first evaluating it from all angles, which includes an exhaustive look at all internal and external resources and threats,” Bonnie Taylor, chief marketing officer at CCS Innovations, told Business News Daily. “A SWOT accomplishes this in four straightforward steps that even rookie business owners can understand and embrace. [5]


The physical place in which a leader finds herself can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s important to understand those realities and plan accordingly


[1]  Marshall, Tim. “Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World.” New York, NY: Scribner, 2016, 7.

[2] Winchester, Simon. “The Map That Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science.” London, England ; Viking, 2001.

[3] Winchester, 23.

[4] The British Library. “What Is SWOT Analysis?” The British Library. Accessed February 26, 2023. https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/articles/what-is-swot-analysis.

[5] Business News Daily. “How SWOT Analysis Can Help Grow Your Business.” Accessed February 26, 2023. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4245-swot-analysis.html.

About the Author


Laura Fleetwood

Laura Fleetwood is a Christian creative, certified Enneagram Coach, doctoral student at Portland Seminary and Creative Director at her home church, Messiah St. Charles. As a published author, national faith speaker, podcaster and self-described anxiety warrior, Laura uses storytelling to teach you how to seek the S T I L L in the midst of your chaotic life. Find Laura at www.seekingthestill.com

10 responses to “The Power of Place”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Laura,

    I am amazed you brought in the SWOT analysis so seamlessly to our reading of Marshall and Winchester. How is this informing your place of leadership?

    • David – I had SWOT analysis on my mind because I’m considering starting a non-profit related to my portfolio project. As part of organization plan, I’ve been thinking about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to it. It’s a good practice to do a SWOT for any area of leadership at least annually. Have you ever done one for your ministry?

  2. Audrey Robinson says:

    Your summaries of each book and finding a common theme was insightful and creative.

    Any personal insights from the readings?

    • Yes, actually! Thanks for asking, Audrey. My oldest daughter is taking a gap year next fall instead of going right into college and she is traveling to both Europe and South America. It was helpful to read the geographic histories in Ten Maps to have a better idea of the landscape she’ll be traveling and the conditions there.

  3. Laura,

    What a great post. I have struggled at times with being in a rural church setting. Often I have tried to implement past successful ministries that worked in the urban churches, but failed miserably in a rural church.

    • Greg – I’m sure it’s a completely different approach! What’s one thing you’ve found that works in rural ministry that didn’t work in the urban setting?

      • I have found in a rural church, events center around the church, especially meals. While in a urban setting, fellowship can happen outside of the church such as restaurants, cafe’s, and other activities.

        For example, on our advances in our program, we get to experience one another through activities and not just academic. I believe this helps strengthens the fellowship in the program.

  4. mm Becca Hald says:

    Laura, great analysis and comparison of both books. I appreciate how you discussed the impact of place in today’s leadership. Understanding how geography impacts our ministry is imperative to have an impact on your community. What have you discovered about how your geography impacts your ministry?

  5. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Agreed, the SWOT analysis is a great tool. In leadership in both business and an be used personally to discover areas that need further work.

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