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

Tornadoes and Inspiration

Written by: on November 15, 2018

My work is in the middle of a tornado. Honestly, I’m expecting a cow to fly by my office window at any second of the day (Twister, anyone?)[1]. At least it feels that way. Every day is a new adventure in learning to lead and be led in the midst of trial. In fact, many of my colleagues at work are so tired of not knowing where we stand. Each day, I go in to work hoping that I find out some news, any news, even if it’s bad for me and my team. Living in a constant state of anxiety and disequilibration has produced more frustration and challenge than actually being told I’m out of a job. (For the record, I don’t think I will loose my job, but you never know). It’s within this context that I’ve picked up this weeks reading, The Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, edited by Nohria and Khurana. I read the first chapter and knew exactly where I wanted to spend the rest of my time in this book.


Part of the reason I chose this DMin program is because in my heart of hearts, I am a practitioner. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the academy and higher education, but what I really love is the work that I get to do in my higher ed context. The ability that I get to speak into students lives about the work that God is doing around the corner and around the world is both a privilege and responsibility I do not take lightly. In fact, it’s because of the programs I now direct for the University, that the entire course of my life was changed. It’s shaped so much of who I am and why I do the work that I do. It’s shaped the foundation of my dissertation, and my field of study. In Simon Sinek’s language, it’s become my “why” for so many things.[2]


“The failure of leadership we should be concerned about is not just the economic collapse of the firms they led, but the moral collapse of these firms, and the attendant confusion and loss of meaning they have engendered.”[3] This has been my semester, in one simple sentence. I feel as though everyone around me has questions, on either side of any issue, about the moral collapse of my University. Whether you are an in the academy or a co-curricular educator, doubt runs deep. Recently, I went for two full weeks straight with at least one student, staff, or faculty member crying in my office. Everyone is questioning not just our financial challenges, but our potential moral collapse as an institution. So much of this semester has been a surprise to all of us, and not how we planned things to go. But I just keep reminding myself that this is not a surprise to God.


In my own thoughts, I’ve questioned more than once how things have gotten to this state at the University. I knew reading the section on the practice of leadership would be most helpful for me, as a practitioner, and it did not disappoint. I feel like I learned a new level of empathy for my institution’s senior leaders. I was reminded that, “The CEO does not always have the best information of the technical ability to make every decision.”[4], which became evident as we navigated our financial challenges. Furthermore, senior leadership teams are “Characterized by an overriding irony: they have everything they could need to facilitate their performance…yet the generally perform less than many far-more-constrained teams.”[5] I feel like I’ve seen that first hand lately. Lastly, “The absence of a wider and more diverse outer circle can also undermine good and timely decisions.”[6] Many of the people in our senior leadership team are white males who have worked together for over 20+ years.


There were so many poignant and relevant nuggets in these chapters that couldn’t have been more applicable to my current University situation. I felt like every chapter I read revealed a new layer to what our Board, President, and administrative team must have been facing over the last four months. As a practitioner in the middle of this storm, I have walked away with directly applicable information for myself as well as those I lead. This weeks reading left me impressed and inspired.


[1] Twister, by Jan de Bont (Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures, 1996). Blu-ray Disc, 1080p HD.

[2] Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2011).

[3] Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khruana, eds., Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2010), 11.

[4] Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, “What is Leadership: The CEO’s Role in Large, Complex Organizations” in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, eds. Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2010), 435.

[5] Ruther Wageman and J. Richard Hackman, “What Makes Teams of Leaders Leadable?” in Nohira and Khurana, 476.

[6] Michael Useem “Decision Making as Leadership Foundation” in Nohira and Khurana, 513

About the Author


Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

6 responses to “Tornadoes and Inspiration”

  1. Hi Karen, I appreciate your transparency and vulnerability. As I’ve shared, I know exactly what you’re going through because my institution went through the exact same process yours is. The best thing to do, and you know this already, is prayer. I wish I can say that it’ll get better soon, but more than likely it’ll get worse before it gets better. Just like you, I learned a lot about leadership during that time.

    Many of the leaders who I thought had this impenetrable moral mail around them revealed kinks and missteps in their decision making process. People got hurt, confused and morale reached its lowest in the 20+ years I’ve been there. The upside was that in the end everything got “put on the table.” Nothing was left undiscussed. And through it all, restoration took place — which included a better financial outlook as a result of the process.

    The silver lining in all of this is that you will learn a ton. A book that was super helpful to me, and I hope you find it helpful as well, is The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifetz et al. It’s published by Harvard Business Review Press, the same one that published the Nohria book we just read. Praying for you.

  2. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    This sounds brutal. While my heart breaks for your everyday tornado, I am heartened for the students who confide and trust in you. They are blessed by your leadership, and maturity, throughout this situation.

    Additionally, I am impressed with your empathy for the leaders of your institution. It seems to me that they are struggling with their own leadership issues . . . empathizing with leaders throughout their disappointments is quite the pastoral trait.

    Take care of yourself throughout this ordeal!

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I am so sorry you are dealing with these challenges. The other smart Harry is so right, you will learn a ton and God will redeem all of these experiences for your leadership development and those you influence. I pray you will daily feel yourself lifted up by his presence and his peace. Praying for you and yours, H

  4. Mario Hood says:

    Karen, please know that I too am praying for you. I have been in a similar situation before and know the stress that can come from it. As others have said thanks for sharing your personal journey with us.

    I keep learning that perspective is everything and empathy is a treasured thing. I remember being a student and being frustrated at one of the admins because they were not getting me the information that I needed. Therefore I was mad at the whole institution because it was letting me down. Come to find out the admin’s boss one of the VP’s was battling cancer and the admin was waiting on something from them but obviously they could not reveal such sensitive a personal thing to everyone yet. I just reminded me that things are happening that we are not aware of and need to “see” leadership success and failure as a human process rather than a mechanical process.

  5. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Karen! Thank you for this – grateful to have a window into your reality and to see how this book met you where you are living. One of my favorite discipleship lines is ‘reality is a friend of intimacy with Christ’. What is real, especially when hard or unpleasant, brings us closer to Christ when we go to Him with it. God works in our reality. I hear this in your post and promise to continue praying for you. Much love!

  6. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Karen, Harry E and I have a lot in common from what I read in his reply. Our organization suffered a tornado in 2009. It took outside practitioners to basically begin a revolution that led to reform. Organizational leaders such as those you reference who have been leading for 20+ years can get blind to the world around them. It usually takes a disruption for reform to take place, which we sometimes don’t even realize we need. This is the very study I am engaging for my research. What is the leadership culture that enables reformation because it can certainly go either way. Praying for you!

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