DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Be the Change

Written by: on May 10, 2018

David Livermore, author of Cultural Intelligence, The Real Secret to Success cites empirical evidence which indicates that “a diverse workforce, whose members have developed their cultural intelligence, is a more productive workforce—and a diverse team with high cultural intelligence will outperform homogeneous teams.”[1]  The research finally validates what the field of social work has always championed – that diversity is value added.    In addition to the workforce, it’s important to acknowledge that there is value in a diverse church, diverse school, diverse community, and diverse country.

One of the most controversial issues in the United States in regards to diversity is affirmative action.  Affirmative action was originated in 1961 by Executive Order:

On March 6, 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which included a provision that government contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” The intent of this executive order was to affirm the government’s commitment to equal opportunity for all qualified persons, and to take positive action to strengthen efforts to realize true equal opportunity for all. 

The original 1961 executive order of affirmative action has been frequently revised and updated through the years to more fully capture the spirit of equality and opportunity and to ensure protection of certain populations in the United States. [2]  President Johnson made an impactful graduation speech in 1965 in which he emphasized the importance of affirmative action with this statement – “Freedom is not enough. … You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “You are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.”[3]  Keep this in mind as the importance of cultural intelligence is explored in relation to the current political attack on affirmative action.

There has been an undercurrent of negative affirmative action rhetoric in the United States from white citizens since its inception. However the government has continually supported its intent. That is until August 2017 when policy information from the Justice department leaked to the news media “the Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.”[4]  This proposal, which essentially suggests “reverse discrimination” is occurring at universities is short-sighted. There is a frequent and pervasive effort from people to position America as a “force for good” without accurately accepting/portraying history. “Everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.”[5]  It’s challenging for people to recognize the ways in which white supremacy was built into this country.  “It’s in the law, it’s in businesses, it’s in educational canons, what you have to study, who you have to study. It’s in the so-called justice system. It’s just so baked in. And then on top of that, white people have fought to maintain that in so many ways through so many periods of history, including now. It’s miraculous that it’s even controversial to bring this up.”[6]  If the United States would incorporate the values and teaching of cultural intelligence in our K-12 schools (which incidentally is also a Biblical principle “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28) perhaps we could reap the benefit of systemic societal transformation.  This transformation would impact our views and attitudes towards people who are different – ethnically, race, religion, nationality – which ultimately impact relationships and behaviors.

Not only is cultural intelligence important for dealing with diversity of our own citizens in the United States, it’s also essential for understanding and accepting immigrants and refugees.  Livermore has developed a four stage program – drive, knowledge, strategy, and action – which is highly acclaimed and rarely criticized. Gary Yuhl, author of Leadership in Organizations does extrapolate the following unanswered questions/areas of concerns with Livermore’s theory:

  1. How does the behavior of leaders differ across cross-cultural value clusters and for different countries?
  2. How are the leaders values and behavior jointly influenced by personality (and developmental experiences), company culture and national culture?
  3. How useful is the distinction between leadership and patterns of leadership behavior?
  4. How difficult is it to change organization’s cultural values when they are not consistent with the societal values where the organizations facilities are located?
  5. How fast are cultural values changing, and what are the primary determinants of culture changes that are relevant for leadership?
  6. What types of leadership traits, skills, and development experiences are most useful to prepare someone for a leadership assignment in a different culture?[7]

While Yuhl offers valuable feedback and concerns, Livermore’s theory and research resonates with me personally, professionally, and academically. I challenge each of you to examine your own cultural intelligence – are you too comfortable in your whiteness that you fail to see the benefit of/and ensure the inclusion of diversity?  Be the change you want to see in this world. Ghandi









About the Author


Jean Ollis

9 responses to “Be the Change”

  1. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Thanks Jean. Challenge accepted. As you point out, the problem goes deep. For example, I really want to include research/authors of multiple ethnic backgrounds in my research, but it’s hard to find published, peer-reviewed research on missions by people other than white westerners. I could just content myself with the resrearch that is easy to find and in english, or I can do the hard work to go beyond that so that my research reflects more diversity. Is anyone else having trouble with this? Is everyone else paying attention to this? If you look through your bibliography, how many non-european and/or female authors are you reading?

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jean,

    I have to admit that my home county is way out of whack diversity wise (95%+ white). My home state is also maligned at 90% white and 7% Native American. I struggle with my whiteness, and trust me I know I am privileged simply because of the color of my skin, but I am trying to figure out how to squeeze diversity out of my local setting, seeing how we are so overwhelmingly un-diverse.

    Is MVNU ethnically diverse in it’s student body? The college I worked at gave international students large scholarships so that we could introduce ethnic diversity. Without those scholarships, we would have been way out of alignment.

    Is your denomination and local church diverse? I thought I remembered you went to church somewhere near Mansfield. At least when I was in Ohio, that part of the state was mostly white…until you got a little farther north. Maybe it has changed?

  3. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean, I believe the problem you discuss hits so many pitfalls because of the methodology that usually seeks to remedy. Though I dare not argue with the concept of diversity (after all, my dissertation is pleading the need for spiritual diversity), I do believe that more often than not, the approach to achieve it is flawed. For instance, if a college offers and large quantity of special scholarships for minority applicants, then is that still being equal? I understand the object is to bring balance, but it is done through tipping the scales. There are comments made such as the one you made about being “too comfortable in your whiteness,” that I personally find offensive. The fact is, God made me white…so I’m very comfortable in my whiteness. I do not regret it nor do I hide from it. However, I also do not horde it over someone who is not white. The beauty of diversity means that we all find our value in who we are, but I fear that these days, the “white” “man” is always under attack for being something that God made him. There has to be a better method of lifting up those with less without knee-capping those with more. I guess that it one of the things I liked about this reading, it encourages the reader to not resent themselves, but rather to recognize those around them for who they are, and find value in them for it.

  4. Great blog to start the summer quarter Jean! This phrase hit me the most…”are you too comfortable in your whiteness that you fail to see the benefit of/and ensure the inclusion of diversity? Be the change you want to see in this world.” I know I have much to learn about how my whiteness affects my ability to the cultural diversity around me, and I definitely want to be the change to the best of my ability. You inspire me as well in the way you love people.

  5. Greg says:

    Hey Jean.
    Appreciate you reminding us to consider those less fortunate than ourselves. If such a broken world it does seem as though we sometimes can make a difference. Thanks again for the challenge and reminder to see the “other”, as Trisha talks about, in a way that makes us part of the solution.

  6. I think there’s a lot of good that can come from affirmative action and encouraging/promoting diversity. But we can’t get away from our propensity to sin, and there comes a tipping point when the minority becomes the majority and begins oppressing those who formerly oppressed.

  7. Chris Pritchett says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to you Jean! That was very interesting to learn of the Executive Order from JFK for Affirmative Action. Our history is so rich with lessons for today.

  8. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Love your quote from President Johnson. That is a powerful analogy.

    A couple of weeks ago at a Youth Pastor brunch of about 100 youth pastors, I hosted an icebreaker for the crowd. I grabbed three volunteers, an old YP, a young YP, and new YP to our district. I was very disappointed in myself that I had accidentally chosen all white men to come up! I did not realize until their names had already been called. There were a handful of Female YPs (granted I know all of them and they all would have all hated going up in front everyone) and there was a lot of other races represented that I could have brought up. I think the event was fine, all things considered, because our speaker was Indian and our last few District Youth Director have been non-white. But I was frustrated by how easy it is to draw from the color of 50%+ of the room. IDK maybe it was coincidence, or maybe I know the white men more than I know the other YPs in the room. ouch.

    In light of your challenge to us, I would like to challenge you on your comment “are you too comfortable in your whiteness”, I dont think it comes across how you are intending it to.

    Lets bring some diversity to that statement.

    Are you too comfortable in your brownness?
    Are you too comfortable in your asian’ness?
    Are you too comfortable in your hispanic skin?

    I hope you are comfortable being white Jean.

    great post.

  9. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hi Jean,
    Aha! Now I see where your affirmative action comment on my post originated– with your own work! Nice tie-in. You are right out there on the front line– I admire your forthright speech on these topics. I think for your research, you have such a heart for refugees and those coming from different backgrounds, that you will not only care deeply about the subject matter, but also have a personal report with those with whom you work. You’re making clear connections for your dissertation in this blog. nice work.

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