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

Thriving in the Age of VUCA

Written by: on March 7, 2019

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) are widespread, according to Garvey Berger (Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, 2013) and Johnston. Garvey Berger and Johnston cover accepted leadership practices, such as obtaining feedback, skilled listening, and expressing a clear vision, but their unique value added is how they broaden the discussion. When the authors speak to listening, for example, they suggest most people think good listening answers the question of “What does this message mean to me?” However, excellent listeners should be asking, “What is this person’s purpose, intent, hope in delivering this message? What does this message mean to them?” Such distinctions differentiate this book from typical leadership works. In the end, the authors impart excellent advice without oversimplifying the application process, because “being a leader under conditions of complexity is dripping with paradox.”[1] This book exemplifies the approach of the authors and the team which comprises Cultivating Leadership. Cultivating Leadership provides leadership development programming,  coaching, strategic facilitation, and speaking on the topics of leadership and complexity. Their clients span the globe in both the for-profit as well as non-profit realms.[2]

This text challenges us to “get our heads around” what is possible rather than what is probably going to happen. This key distinction highlights the possibility of what can happen rather than the probability of what has happened before. In essence, the challenge is developing, leadership for what is needed looking and moving forward rather than analyzing the present given past experiences. What is needed is to grow more able to handle complexity through the simple habits of the mind to stretch one’s thinking.[3]

The authors outline the deceptively simple habits of the mind as asking different questions, taking multiple perspectives, and seeing systems. Asking different questions enables someone to shift their mindset. Taking multiple perspectives enables one to learn from the other’s perspective and utilize this newfound power to resolve the contextual dilemma (rather than to be weaponized against the other). Seeing systems (what is happening) trumps cause-and-effect analysis. That is seeing systems allows reality to emerge rather than one’s constructed predetermined effect based on perceived causes.[4]

While the authors utilize slightly different language, their approach takes advantage of advanced coaching competencies to assist the client (as an individual or a group of individuals) in gaining clarity, to become unstuck from their current conundrum, and discover new approaches, goals, and action steps. I appreciate Dr. Jason Clarke serving up this text as another prime candidate to be included in my research on developing global coaching networks for church planting organizations. Not only is this text helpful, but the authors strategic coaching and consulting organization, Cultivating Leadership, will be a viable source.

Perhaps my greatest takeaway from this source is that growing as leaders and developing leaders of organizations in these times is incredibly difficult. It is difficult for “mighty” for-profit organizations like Microsoft and KPMG as well as non-profits like YMCA and Greenpeace. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (i.e., VUCA) are very real contextual factors globally for everyone, including the Church. This source affirms my experience and passion for the application of competent coaching skills throughout the global church, to grow and develop leaders (pastors and church planters) to not only survive but thrive in the age of VUCA.

[1] Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2015

[2] Cultivating Leadership, accessed 03/07/2019, https://www.cultivatingleadership.co.nz/

[3] Garvey Berger, Jennifer and Keith Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders ( Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015), 11-12

[4] Garvey Berger and Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times, 16-27.

About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

5 responses to “Thriving in the Age of VUCA”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Harry –
    Congrats on being the first blog post of the week. You are amazing! So glad this one will help with your research. I too loved the section about seeing systems – this is such an important skill for leaders, but especially congregational ones.

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Jacob, I will be out next week and thought I should crank out two posts. I am now chagrined that it can be done! Many blessings on you as you lead yourself and others to see systems for what they are rather than what we think they should be.

  3. Tammy Dunahoo says:


    I appreciate your title giving hope for thriving in VUCA times. One huge takeaway for leaders and coaches was a point you highlighted regarding what we are listening for. What does the message mean to the speaker versus what does it mean for me? That alone can open up doors of possibility and strengthen relationship through building trust. Trust being the foundational principle for healthy organizations which is Patrick Lencioni’s premise in The Table Group. Your dissertation and research will be valuable to us in Foursquare too!

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Tammy, Thanks so much for your insight and encouragement. One of my “dreams” in pursuing this research is forming connections with like-minded coaching and church planting persons within other tribes of the Church. I look forward to connecting with and learning from the Foursquare tribe! Thanks so much for your friendship and many blessings on your research.

  5. Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Since I already responded to your preview of Newport’s book, I thought I might as well respond to your review of Berger’s book. LOL. Actually, I truly appreciated your post, Harry. Your reflection on listening was spot on. Instead of questioning: “What does this message mean to me?” a better question would be “What is this person’s purpose, intent, hope in delivering this message? What does this message mean to them?” I also liked your reflection on grasping the concept of ‘the possibility of what can happen rather than the probability of what has happened before.’ Thanks for sharing a very enlightening post, Harry.

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