DMINLGP

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

Pedigree

Written by: on February 4, 2021

It is not uncommon for leaders to display their credentials, tout their educational pedigrees as well as their personal accomplishments.  In some cases, it may be required and advisable. I find it assuring and almost comforting when visiting my rheumatologist’s office, and see his multiple degrees hanging on his wall. It assures me that he has the education required to get a medical license. Saying that, he has never once informed me of his educational pedigree nor felt the need to fill me in on his medical exploits. I have never asked any of the pilots from any of the airlines I have flown on over the years for proof of credentials nor have they offered any. I take it for granted that they are qualified and competent to fly. I find that degrees or personal exploits do not insure one’s level of competency, nor do they guarantee the quality of a leader.

John Wooden held a master’s degree in education and was a three-time college all-American when playing at Purdue. He spent several years playing in the NBL, playing professional basketball for the Indianapolis Kautskys while he taught English in high school and coached basketball. During his time as a pro basketball player, he made 134 consecutive free throws and was voted NBL 1st team.[1] But, “Wooden never used profanity with his players, and he rarely invoked his own pedigree. “He didn’t have to say anything about his reputation as a player. He didn’t boost himself at all to us,” said Ben Stull, a sophomore on Wooden’s first team. Then again, he didn’t have to.  When Wooden didn’t like what his players were doing, he simply showed them what he wanted.”[2] Wooden would use the same philosophy when his players would get overconfident during the season. He would schedule a scrimmage game between his high school team and some of the faculty, including himself. His skills spoke volumes without a single word as he proved to be unstoppable on the court. He believed “it was his job to prepare the team to play. Once the game began it was their responsibility to show what they had learned.”[3] Wooden often looked back to assess his progress as a teacher and coach. He felt that in his years coaching, his biggest fault was expecting far too much from his young players due to his exceptional skill as a player. He should have shown more patience with them during the coaching process[4]

In Wooden’s early years as a teacher and a coach, he designed and taught what he called his Pyramid of success. For Wooden “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self -satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”[5] I find it refreshing to see a definition of success that doesn’t point at position, pedigree, or status. Instead, it lays the responsibility of success at the feet of the pursuer, making them measure their own success against their own abilities. This nicely eliminates the need for competitive comparisons. In Wooden’s mind, everything starts with hard work. The first foundational stone in his pyramid is entitled “INDUSTRIOUS”, which is the idea that hard work and good planning bring about good results.[6] As you proceed across and up the pyramid it becomes obvious that John’s leadership pyramid comes from a holistic approach. Each stone takes into consideration character and ability. The final stone at the top of the pyramid is entitled “COMPETITIVE GREATNESS” which focuses on the leader being their absolute best in times when their best is required.[7] Up the sides and around the top of the pyramid is the mortar that holds the structure together. For Wooden, these are 15-character qualities that each individual needs to display to assure success. On the top, covering the capstone, is faith and patience.[8]

Touting my educational pedigree or personal accomplishments is not something I do. For some reason I have never felt the need, but I know those who do. They tend to lead by decree instead of relationship. I served under a pastor for a time who took very little advice from others because he felt his doctorate made him better that those with a lesser education. Those who lead by pedigree instead of relationship tend to – in my view – show a lesser level of competency than those who are willing to lead alongside their followers, despite their pedigree. There is something about leading through relationships that seems to bring us all onto a level playing field.  During this time of COVID, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that many of the leaders I see, seem to be leading by pedigree. They don’t appear to have a pyramid of leadership in their lives, nor do they have the mortar of character holding it all together. I  believe we can do better!

                  [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wooden

                  [2] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 53.

                  [3] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life, 64.

                  [4] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life, 55

                  [5] John Wooden and Jay Carty, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life (Ventura: Regal Books, 2005), 27

                  [6] John Wooden and Jay Carty, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, 28.

                  [7] John Wooden and Jay Carty, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, 94

                  [8] John Wooden and Jay Carty, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, 27

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

8 responses to “Pedigree”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Greg, I’m reminded of Jesus’s words in the Beatitudes talking about who will inherit the Kingdom of God. It is not the ones with the pedigree who will inherit the earth, but it is the meek, the poor in spirit. Jesus’s warnings against the Pharisees – the ones with the highest pedigree – are the harshest. We cannot rely on our accomplishments or our education; but must lead in a spirit of truth and humility.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      So true! I find it interesting that we often are forced into an educational pedigree in order to be invited to the table. In other words only certain people get the key to the executive washroom. In one way or another we all become professional hoop jumpers in certain areas of life. Thank God for Jesus and the fact that he paid the price for us.

  2. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Greg,
    Thanks for highlighting Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. I’m going to share it with my son:)

    “There is something about leading through relationships that seems to bring us all onto a level playing field.”

    As a dominant culture male, Wooden or yourself would have little need to flash your pedigrees. But as a woman, I am required to have pedigrees. Relationships and actions only carry a woman so far, especially within certain Christian denominations. Shoot, even with pedigrees, I can’t sit at the table of some denominations. While I absolutely agree that character matters and success is dependent in many ways upon each person’s efforts- I think those principles apply primarily and most favorably to dominate culture males, less so to dominant culture females, and even less so to BIPOC or others who do not fit into mainstream paradigms of leadership.

    How does the reality of an un-level playing field factor into your project development or your leadership coaching?

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    First I an sorry for any church that would not utilize your leadership skills. They are missing out. I don’t take lightly the un-level playing field and spent a good deal of energy in the pipeline world making room for women who wanted to be part of that career path.
    Educational pedigrees are often required for all of us as the key to get in the front door. I would agree in many denominations women are not given an even break even with the educational pedigree. It may not make much difference but as a Pentecostal I am not welcome as a leader or preacher in any of the mainline denominations due to my beliefs in the spiritual gifts. Even despite my pedigree my theology disqualifies me from many churches. As far as my project I haven’t given the un-level playing field that much thought when getting people to look at the dichotomy of secular and sacred and how it effects us as individuals to see work as ministry. In coaching I do not focus on positional leadership but leadership as individual influence. As a coach my clients set the agenda and I coach according to what they need. Though I have coached a few female lead pastors in the Assembly of God their focus wasn’t on the the un-level playing field but around vision casting.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Greg,
      Thanks for unpacking that a bit more for me and answering my questions. I appreciate the ways you discern and honor the needs of those around you, those you coach and mentor, and engage accordingly.

  4. mm John McLarty says:

    It’s not an easy transition for a stand-out player to be a coach, though many try. I think Coach’s humility to recognize when his player perspective was hindering his teaching/coaching results was a catalyst to his coaching success. I know I’ve struggled at times to teach new things to my kids, to lay people, and to newer clergy. Just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean I’m good at teaching it. Teaching is another skillset entirely.

  5. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Hi Greg, thinking about some of the coaches I’ve had, and the coach I have been, a little study of this book could have made a difference.

    You opened with a mention of the combination of ‘competency and quality’. Walker’s ‘undefended’ attitude plays into this. A leader is. Like nature is. Like truth is. Competency and quality can add to this ‘isness’ perhaps?

    Pedigree is an interesting word. I had to look it up for definition. Flaunting pedigree, I have seen it happen, without words. True humility can’t be faked, it is a natural thing, despite pedigree. Strategically, flaunting pedigree can sway many people though, it can be a lucrative motion.

    So, what makes someone credible? A person who struts ‘leader’, credible?

    I appreciate this observation, “Those who lead by pedigree instead of relationship tend to – in my view – show a lesser level of competency than those who are willing to lead alongside their followers, despite their pedigree.” I agree with you. There is an uneasiness, a strain. It is not natural. Yet, somehow regardless, ‘they’ continue to prosper.

    Thank you 🙂

  6. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    I mentioned this in class, but pedigree is something I’ve been thinking about throughout the years with Cru’s strategy to reach the fraternity and student body presidents.

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