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

Do more leadership research. Find the gaps. Fill the gaps. Repeat.

Written by: on December 7, 2017

I developed and direct The Leadership Center, a network empowering new leaders and growing local ministries through internships, mentoring and scholarship. This leadership network began when I surveyed the up-and-coming leaders in my own denominational region over a ten-year period and found only two percent were being equipped and placed in positions within the churches of the area. The rest either opted out or were not placed because there was nowhere for them to serve. Thus, our region had no vision for future leaders and so we had no need to train those who sensed a call into ministry. To me this was backward thinking. Through initiating The Leadership Center I began to create a pipeline of low-risk high reward opportunities by offering mentoring and internship opportunities to new leaders while giving our local church ministers a glimpse at what could be if they were willing to mentor the young leaders in their midst. I had a leadership theory and was given the space to put it into practice.

After reading the above, one could easily conclude being given an assigned text on leadership theory and practice is exciting to me. Developing young leaders is my thing. I have worked inside and outside my denomination as well as with the academy to identify, train and place potential leaders with existing leaders. As I read Nohria and Khurana’s introductory chapter to Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice I found myself in out-loud agreement to statements such as “there is little serious scholarship and research on leadership” in higher education[1] and “the world is crying out for better leadership.”[2] In my experience, their statements are not only true for business and organizational leadership fields but also to religious non-profits, especially the church.

Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana have compiled twenty-six chapters of presented research submitted by colleagues on varying aspects of organizational leadership. As concisely and aptly reviewed, “The premise of this book, based on the HBS Centennial Colloquium, ‘Leadership: Advancing an Intellectual Discipline,’ is that while there is an abundance of written works on the subject of leadership, there is very little systematic empirical research on leadership as an intellectual discipline.” Within the five sections of their text; the impact of leadership, the theory of leadership, the variability of leadership, the practice of leadership, and the development of leaders, topics are examined with an academic focus from fourty-four experts in the field “each of which is conceptually sound and intellectually rigorous while drawing practical implications for researchers.”[3]

What’s important to know about Nohria and Khurana’s edited volume is, while it may be over 800 pages in length, the experts are just beginning the research on leadership with many remaining gaps to be filled and depths plumbed. The definition of leadership is not certain from chapter to chapter and the methods for success in the varying definitions also waver. This may seem overwhelming and disappointing to some but their purpose is to begin the work of determining leadership. The handbook is opening up a conversation and revealing areas of leadership to be further researched and developed beyond the popular perspective that prevail in bookstores and conferences. The text is not religiously focused, leaving additional space for the church to have a voice into the foundations for meaning making in leadership and the process of its development.

Within the important aspects of the text rise its limitations. Leadership Handbook is not the final work on leadership. As mentioned above, the research is an initiative toward continued scholarship. One particular instance Nohria admits to limitation is, “Although none of the papers in section [five] focuses in depth on how role models, mentors, coaches, and other relationships can influence the development of leaders, the importance of these relationships cannot be overstated” (from section five on leadership development).[4]

Because of my work with the Leadership Center in focusing on developing future leaders for the kingdom, I found the final section on ‘Developing Leaders’ of particular interest. The primary focus of section five is the knowing, being and doing of leadership and the leader’s growth over time. Although no base definition for the character or outcomes of leaders was given in any of the four chapters in the section, each anchored their work in the reality that leaders possess a particular identity, a set of life experiences with educational outcomes, and have navigated significant leadership transitions. From chapter 26 titled ‘Adult Development and Organizational Leadership’, the author notes an important missing link in leadership development practice:

“Is it possible that the field of “leadership development” has over-attended to leadership and under attended to development? An endless stream of books declares one or another characteristic crucial to leadership success, and then sets out to help you master it. The various attributes called for in a leader make claims on cognitive,
emotional, and interpersonal regulation. Meanwhile, the underlying “operating system” itself—which sets the terms on mastery; which shapes our thinking, feeling, and social relating—goes unaddressed.”[5]

Here authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey sum up a major reason for my choosing to do a doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives: to research the operating system, or the development, which makes a leader a leader and then to put into practice methods to grow and reproduce leaders. I intend to research and find at least a few answers to the major gaps in development in leadership in the church toward helping fill them for the current and especially next generation of leaders.


[1] Nohria, Nitin and Rakesh Khurana, eds., Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: an Hbs Centennial Colloquium On Advancing Leadership. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2010, Location 85.

[2] Nohria and Khurana, Kindle Loc 355-356.

[3] Safferstone, MJ. Review of Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: A Harvard Business School Colloquium. Choice; Middletown Vol. 48, Iss. 1, (Sep 2010),147.

[4] Nohria and Khurana, Kindle Loc 332-333.

[5] Ibid, 9661-9664.

About the Author


Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

4 responses to “Do more leadership research. Find the gaps. Fill the gaps. Repeat.”

  1. mm M Webb says:


    Thanks for sharing your involvement in the Leadership Center. Low-risk opportunities with chances to succeed is a great model to build up future leaders, especially in ministry and missions. Yes, there is a huge need to train future leaders in the mission and church areas. The problem I have seen over the past 20 years is that mission and church organizations have neither identified nor accepted the problem, or just do not have the resources to implement. Too may times I have seen leaders made because they were in the right place at the right time and the organization needed a leadership post filled. This is particularly true in foreign missions.

    I suggest we put the pursuit of leadership into perspective. If Solomon, the wisest person, and leader divinely empowered by God still fell prey to the schemes of the devil, then his leadership was not so great after all. If the leader our authors are trying to create cannot keep their own character, values, and qualities at the highest level possible in a sin filled world, then why do we search for such perfection in the leadership model. I suggest a little “wax on, wax off” into our leadership gap filling pursuits.

    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  2. Shawn Hart says:

    Great post Trisha. I am intrigued by all that you have accomplished and am curious if you use the obstacles you had to overcome as teaching tools for those that you now have the opportunity to influence? The reason for asking is similar to what Mike responded to in your post in regard to leaders of convenience versus leaders that were trained. I have seen some amazing leaders erupt with virtually no training and yet great success; furthermore, I have seen people with way too many degrees on the wall who thought they were the most qualified person in the world that I would rather just give the job of mopping floors to. In your own experience, how much do you see leadership as a gift, and how how much do you see it as something that could be taught?

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Trish,

    Thanks for highlighting the quote, “the world is crying out for better leadership” and further saying the church is doing the same. In my new job, I will be looking to hire new leaders. I look forward to hearing what you find out through your studies. Well done, Trish.

  4. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great job Trish. I keep being surprised by how similar our jobs are. Instead of “The leadership center” our program is called Pathway, and its’s vision is to see a new generation of pastors, missionaries, and evangelists launched into full-time ministry. Our denomination too has suffered a leadership pipeline drought, especially since the closure of our California University, Bethany University. Your comments about the leadership gap is great. Is there any non-academic resource, (lol) you would reccomend for this?

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