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

Even Kets de Vries agrees…

Written by: on November 15, 2018

I’m pleasantly surprised again this week! Kets de Vries has written a poignant leadership book – Leadership Mystique – full of practical and culturally competent leadership wisdom.  Even better, Kets de Vries is a psychologist and “speaks my [social work] language”.  There are so many parallels to past themes in prior readings in Kets de Vries text…including the importance of emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence (David Livermore), psychoanalytic theory (Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana), systems theory (Friedman), and cognitions (Robert Quinn) in forming a quality leader.  When Kets de Vries started discussing the clinical paradigm of examining your past to understand your future (and subsequently examining problematic behaviors in leaders) I was sold on this book.  It also reinforced the importance of the Personal Leadership Development Plan assignments each semester (rooted in self-reflection and self-evaluation) “This dimension of human action needs attention if one wants to engage in preventive maintenance and successful intervention.”[1]

It was more challenging this week than most to find external resources (book reviews, podcasts, online references) for Leadership Mystique.  I did find a short interview with Manfred Kets de Vries by Workforce Management magazine and learned in this interview that Kets de Vries has a very strong and positive lens on women in leadership:

WM: What do you mean by a more androgynous organization?

Kets de Vries: Basically it’s more gender-free. Despite all the affirmative action, women have not made much progress at the leadership level. And I believe that women at senior positions are much more capable than men. Women are less narcissistic. And women have a more humane, more balanced orientation to life.[2]

WM: What is a different style of leadership needed to regain trust?

Kets de VriesWhen you talk about best places to work, they usually are more women-friendly, and they usually have a more coaching culture. People want to have a voice. They want to be listened to. If you want to get the best out of people, give them a voice. And, unfortunately, that has been too little the case.[3]

When a man is willing to acknowledge the value and worth of a woman in leadership, his support challenges the inherent biases of his peers. The phenomenon of gender bias is prevalent in the secular and Christian culture.  It’s affirming that a leadership expert (Kets de Vries) validates, through thirty years of research and experience, women’s capacity to lead well.

This begs the question, then, ‘why is the Christian community still unable to reconcile its beliefs around women in ministry leadership?’ Typically the response connects back to biblical interpretation…specifically, themes of authority, submission, leadership, and ministry.  “Good interpretation requires that any universal principle be found in the whole of scripture and not just drawn from proof texts that have been taken out of their cultural and literary contexts.”[4]

If you prescribe to the “no women in leadership” biblical interpretation, you essentially negate approximately half of the available church congregants from preaching, serving on council, etc. Instead, you channel women into “ministry roles’ deemed appropriate, ie. teaching Sunday School.  In today’s world, such a policy seems misguided, inequitable, and archaic.

When reading and evaluating New Testament teachings regarding women in the church, I see a very different biblical emphasis.  In the early church, saved women and men ministered together as equals.  They were equally called to go out into the world to make disciples.  There was no distinction based solely on gender in this role. “Such an egalitarian stance impacts how ministry is understood and promulgated. Here there are no second-class believers. Additionally, there are no artificially imposed restrictions on which less esteemed groups, based on humanly contrived, artificial standards, are sequestered to the periphery of church life and ministry.”[5]

How do we move forward, both secularly and most especially in Christianity, from this polarizing gender barrier?  Utilizing Manfred Kets de Vries’ leadership model, men/women need to “open the curtains of their inner theatre” by trying to find the deeper meaning behind their actions (in this case an implicit bias towards women). Because of “unconscious processes they neither see, understand nor accept” the suppression of women in Christianity continues.  As a DMin. student in LGP8, I challenge you to evaluate your own inner theatre. After all, every leader, at whatever level, is to some extent a kind of psychiatric social worker, a “container of the emotions of his or her subordinates”.[6]

As an emerging, growing, and changing leader it’s imperative to heed Kets de Vries observation…it’s all about human behavior. “It’s about understanding the way people and organizations behave, about creating relationships, about building commitment, and about adapting your behavior to lead in a creative and motivating way.”[7] As a woman, Christian, and leader I vow to follow this wise and relevant leadership advice.

[1] de Vries, Manfred F. R. Kets. “The Leadership Mystique.” Academy of Management Executive 8, no. 3 (August 1994)

[2] NARCISSISM IN THE C-SUITE. Workforce Management, 15475565, 12/15/2008, Vol. 87, Issue 20

[3] NARCISSISM IN THE C-SUITE. Workforce Management, 15475565, 12/15/2008, Vol. 87, Issue 20

[4] Brower, Kent & Serreao, Jeanne. “Reclaiming the Radical Story, Part II”.

[5] Lioy, Daniel. New Testament I & II feedback

[6] de Vries, Manfred F. R. Kets. “The Leadership Mystique.” Academy of Management Executive 8, no. 3 (August 1994)


About the Author


Jean Ollis

9 responses to “Even Kets de Vries agrees…”

  1. Jean,

    I loved how you knit all the various streams of thinking from our readings into your opening paragraph, and you even included the PLDP. This reflection work is essential for effective leadership, and while this course requires a PLDP, I hope we continue this sort of routine self-analysis on our ministry and personal life going forward.

    Regarding women in leadership, I am in full agreement with you. In early days of Christianity, and in various historical renewal movements of the Spirit, we witness women rising into prominent positions of leadership. It’s only in the retrenchment into ossified systems that women are then turfed out. We may blame hermeneutics or tradition, but these are both culturally bound and need to be reviewed again today.

  2. Way to go Jean! May I just cut and paste part of your blog into my dissertation? 🙂 I appreciated you including the script from that interview because it confirmed what I already learned that he was very pro women in leadership and I found some powerful quotes that I included in my blog. So glad I am in good company with strong women like yourself who believe the world needs both men and women in EVERY aspect of leadership. Let’s hear it for gender-balanced leadership!!!!

  3. Nice work weaving together many concepts and then zeroing in on women in leadership positions. The struggle is moving this argument from cognitive agreement to practice. Next month I have to present a model for engaging more women in church planting leadership in Europe to some very influential male leaders. They believe they are pro-women, but at their last gather the ratio was 164 men and 6 women. What do you think I shoud encourage these men to do?

  4. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jean,

    Wanted to respond again to last week’s discussion, and let you know I checked into the gun control laws in Australia like you suggested. There are some great ideas there, and we must continue to seek answers.

    I would also hope we bring into the talk not only legislation, but mental health, respect of human life, cultural violence (think video games) and other human dignity issues.

    This video made me think, too.

    Just wanted you to know I am still thinking about it. It isn’t “do our assignments and move on” for me about this. You have made me continue to seek solutions…

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your wonderful family!

  5. mm M Webb says:

    Excellent opening and showing off your use of the previous authors and how they connect to de Vries. I like your quote, “women are less narcissistic.” I bet your husband and I can share some LE experiences and stories that might challenge his conclusion, but in the larger population samples he is probably right!
    You asked the question, “Why is the Christian community still unable to reconcile its beliefs around women in ministry leadership?” Sorry to say that this unresolved conflict is one of the evil ones best schemes used to confuse, divide, disrupt, and destroy Christians and their testimony. I am really working on learning the contextually appropriate language needed to speak about spiritual warfare. Just the topic divides people and they feel unsafe, uncomfortable, vulnerable, and unsure of where they stand on the idea of a real devil influencing their lives, ministries, communities, and world events.
    So, in respect to our egalitarian advocacy I urge all of us to “armor up” and prepare for the spiritual battle. I believe this battle, tearing down the stronghold of gender bias, is best fought through what Paul indirectly refers to as the supernatural offensive weapons of warfare; truth, love, faith, righteousness, and prayer. These 5 weapons, wielded by the Spirit through faithful Christians will overcome, defeat, tear down, diminish, and dissolve strongholds like gender bias. It attacks from all sides, all dimensions, and breaks down prejudice, bias, hate, and ignorance. With God, all things are possible!
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  6. Dave Watermulder says:

    I’m thankful for you and your posts! You know, just as you tuned in when he started using that “clinical” language, those were places where I faded out. So, I’m glad to read your take on this book, and to let it fill in the gaps for me. As always, you’ve applied the reading back to your own research and interest areas. Nice job.

  7. mm Dan Kreiss says:


    I am always captivated by your posts. Even if I don’t always comment – usually because I feel I have nothing to add. Your reading of the text and the interview with De Vries again hits on an important topic for the Church. I struggle with the view that women should have limited place for leadership in the church and believe you are correct that we all miss out of significant opportunities for growth if we dismiss 50% of potential leaders.

    I know in my own struggle to find new employment my race and gender has been an issue as many institutions seek to address the imbalance that has been maintained for generations. While it is frustrating for me I don’t begrudge any of it as I am pleased to see that opportunities are increasing for my daughter and students that I teach.

    Keep up the good work and excellent writing.

  8. Chris Pritchett says:

    I love your breadth of knowledge in your field of social work and psychology, as well as your passion and boldness for justice in so many different areas. It’s hard to believe that this conversation is still alive, because with my PCUSA and Fuller/Princeton background, it’s just not what my colleagues have been talking about (or our congregations concerned about) for thirty or forty years. That said, if you look at the landscape, only now because there has been a new exodus because of LGBTQI issues, only now are women finally starting to fill senior pastor positions at a growing rate. It’s just really sad how slow it takes the implementation of new logic/belief/discovery etc. or anything that challenges the status quo and leads to change. I am energized by your energy!

  9. mm Trisha Welstad says:


    The idea of closing the gender barrier is captivating to me especially with women of color as they are the least represented. I am glad for the resources you found and may utilize them for future bibliographical citations. In particular, your citation with regard to biblical texts – the need to follow universal biblical principals was well done.

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