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

What Does the Creek Say

Written by: on September 15, 2022


This week we found ourselves in the waters of Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr as a response to an open letter by 8 white Christian Pastors, A Call to Unity , that was published in the Birmingham News.  A Call to Unity was an attempt to reign in the protests that were raging against the social injustices toward African Americans.  MLK, having been arrested for his participation in the protests, argued that there are important times and reasons for civil disobedience, and that the white pastors ought to be engaged in the fight against the injustices, that lip service was not authentic as people of faith.

In those same waters we tackled chapter 17, 20, and 21-24 in Global Leadership Perspectives:  Insights and Analysis.  Global Leadership Perspectives that was edited by Simon Western and Eric-Jean Garcia, have assembled insights from 40 different contributors from 20 countries who offer perspectives on leadership structures from around the world.  Global Leadership Perspectives is divided into two parts.  Part one is a compilation of variations of leadership embodied in each contributor’s country.  Part two offers Western and Gracia’s analysis of the contributors by outlining key themes and issues.

In reading the chapter on South Africa I found authors Mnguni and De Klerk recounting issues in DNA and leadership that seem like the US.  For instance, they say, “One finds a situation whereby a number of white South Africans feel, ‘done to’ by reversed discrimination.”[1]  As the United States continues to have war over the same issues MLK writes about in his Letter, many whites’ recoil at a designation of “white privilege”.  They also reveal, “For political leaders, leadership has become confused with narcissistic entitlement and hierarchical rights and privileges, rather than the actual leadership role with accountability to serve and deliver.”[2]  We see this playing out in the US’ polarizing political theatre.

Authors Green and Getz share their perspective on leadership in the US in chapter 20. Although I am intrigued by their claim of the “American Identity Crisis” that is due to the loss of the American dream[3], I am not convinced of their argument.  It seems more likely that Americans loss of safety and freedom embodied on 911 is the culprit of the identity crisis.  Green and Getz cite Donald Trump’s “messianic leadership” resonates with those struggling with this identity crises.  Perhaps a better image for those who gravitate to Trumps “clarion call”[4]would be that a number of Americans would prefer a snow globe nation; where safety is offered because no danger can invade.

This week I have been in Acadia National Park hiking the magnificent trails. The other day I sat next to Jordan Stream.  As I listened to the stream and took in the details of the rocks and water moving I began reflect on Western and Garcia’s analysis and their 4 discourses of leadership.[5]  Here are my journal reflections:

“These boulders tell a story – a story of obstacles?  Or a story of

tenacity? What does the water say?  Allow yourself to be reshaped?

Be a force for transformation in others lives?  What does the stream

say about leadership?  It takes multiple things to create beauty  —

strength, fluidity, offering places for other to grow.  The steam

offers imagery of what eco-leadership should be.  But it also offers

imagery that leadership is an interweaving of eco-messiah-therapist

for sure.  How or what does this stream reveal for the church and its

needs for that interweaving of leadership discourses?”

MLK found his voice in a jail.  I find mine in the water.

[1] Western, Simon, and Éric-Jean Garcia. Global Leadership Perspectives: Insights and Analysis. 1st edition. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2018. Page 148.

[2] Ibid. Page 149.

[3] Ibid. Page 172.

[4] Ibid. Page 173.

[5] Ibid. Pages 192-200.

About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

13 responses to “What Does the Creek Say”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Nice summary of both books. King’s letter was short but it is such a powerful polemic. I had never read it before; glad I had the opportunity this week. Global Leadership Perspectives was very different but so informative about leadership on the global level. A unique pairing of readings this week. The view matters from where you sit, no matter if it is in a jail, an ivory tower, or sitting by a stream.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Nicole, such a rich post. I was intrigued by your take on the melancholy of American leadership being tied to 9/11 and not the loss of the American Dream. Do you see them as disconnected issues? Why or why not? I’ll also turn the tables on you this time: What would Friedman say to an anxious system that fear vulnerability after 9/11? Finally, I bet you’re going to be in the waters of South Africa!

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Roy…I had written my response and then the website kicked me off…..now I don’t remember what I said.

      But thank you.

      And yes I do think that the loss of the American Dream is different than 9/11…..we can talk about it in SA!

  3. mm Eric Basye says:

    Nicole, nice job. I too see similarities between the US and South Africa. It will be interesting to see if that is true next week as we are there together. And, I love the reflections at the end. Really powerful and full of awoken imagination. Thanks for sharing.

  4. mm Jonathan Lee says:

    Nicole, thank you for your integration of readings and your reflections. As I read through your post, I wished to venture out and be renewed in Acadia National Park one day. But, in the mean time I look forward to listening to the Living Stream during the upcoming South Africa trip.

  5. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Thank you for including us in your thoughts and contemplative impression of water. Being a “Big Water” person, I can relate to its voice.
    I agree with you on that the American identity crisis is more complex. I will be pondering your questions for a while.

  6. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Nicole: I love how you sit in a place of curiosity regardless of the context. It is such a beautiful leadership quality.

  7. Elmarie Parker says:

    Nicole, thank you so very much for your post and reflections. I very much appreciated your summary of both books and your engagement with the US context and the source of our identity crisis. I agree that 9/11 increased our collective anxiety level in a significant way. Which of the leadership discourses (or combination) do you believe most necessary at this time in the USA from those in national and state-level leadership?

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