From 2004 to 2008 I went back to get my PhD in Leadership. Here is my perspective on why I did so and why all of us are undercover agents for the public good!
“Nice to meet you, and what do you do?” I’ve always been uncomfortable introducing myself at parties. It seems so superficial telling others what I do, without revealing why I do it. For over two decades I’ve earned my living through a variety of jobs: college counselor, magazine editor, business consultant, and now cyber-educator. But none of these jobs fully reveal my vocation, my sense of self, or my life mission.
I guess if I was completely transparent at parties I would tell them I was an undercover agent for the kingdom of God! That says nothing about my personal piety, but everything about my cause orientation. I don’t claim to carry this card exclusively. I believe everyone is put here on earth to do God’s work, to leave this world better-off than we found it. I have carried this sense of mission as a person of faith since I started college.
Two years ago I surprised myself, my family and friends. Despite my action orientation, I enrolled in a PhD in Organizational Leadership at Regent University. This might seem like a counterintuitive step to take at mid-age. With the war on terrorism, and much of the world in agony from both natural and man-made disasters, it might seem oxymoronic to enter a PhD in Organizational Leadership, especially one focused on theory. Thomas Caryle, however, once wrote, “There are times of chaos in the life of nations when simply creating understanding is the highest service” (as cited in Wishard, 2000, p. 17).
At this three-quarters point in my studies, I’d like to share how this improbable journey has changed my mind about my vocation as a leader. Based on self-assessment, I’ll share:
1. What kind of leadership style I employ,
2. How I build organizational synergy,
3. Where I seek to leverage my impact, and
4. Why paradigm change in theory is important.
This essay will unfold in four sections, unpacking my views and understandings on (a) leadership, (b) organizations, (c) consulting, and (d) research. A fifth and final section will return to our opening theme of serving as an undercover agent of the kingdom. I’ll explore how nurturing the life of the mind can bring both personal and organizational transformation, and call forth a new generation of post-conventional leaders. At the end of the day, understanding your vocation and improving your discipline might be your highest service to humanity in this age of change.
How do you define leadership? Do you consider yourself a leader? How has the desire to influence others shaped your work life, your family, and your public life in your community? I have always thought of myself as a self-starter, a problem-solver, a change agent and a leader. I was elected president of my student body in elementary school. I played sports in high school and led my student Christian fellowship in college. While there, I studied management, and soaked in how to rationally plan, organize, staff and control organizations according to the industrial model.
Yet when I started my career, I found myself having to contend with bureaucracies. To me, management became a synonym for intransigence. Not wanting to be locked into routine, I found ways to break out of the company mold. Before I got into my mid-30s, I was helping lead a group of 25 staff in a start-up magazine. By that point I stopped reading Business Week and management theory. It was too codified and control oriented for my entrepreneurial tastes. So in 2004 when I entered my PhD I was hoping against hope that the study of leadership was not just a reflection of the technocratic, male-dominated industrial paradigm, but could offer me clues on creating what Bell (1976) called the “post-industrial” society.
Leadership versus Management
I was not disappointed. While I had been immersed in my work in the ’80s and ’90s, the study of leadership had likewise been struggling, attempting to emerge as a butterfly from its industrial chrysalis, leaving behind a caterpillar history. In reading between semesters I discovered the work of Rost (1991). He helped me distinguish between management and leadership.
Rost claims management is built around authority relationships, while leadership is built around influence relationships. Management concerns managers and subordinates, while leadership deals with leaders and followers. Management exists to produce and sell goods, while “leaders and followers intend real change that reflect their mutual purposes” (p. 102). While Rost is not universally accepted in the field, he helped me realize that leadership was about influence relationships, not merely positional power. Unlike command and control relationships, influence is non-coercive and multidirectional. Leaders and followers influence each other mutually. Leaders persuade followers. In turn, followers persuade leaders. Depending on the situation, they may change places. Teams may even practice self-organizing leadership.
Transformational vs.Transactional Leadership
I quickly discovered that one of the new breed of influence-based leadership theories is transformational leadership. Proposed by Burns (1978) and developed by Bass (1985, 1996) and Avolio (1991), transformational leadership explores how leaders raise the motivation of others by helping them transcend their self-interest for the enhancement of the group, organization or community. This is in contrast to transactional leaders, who lead using carrots and sticks. Transformation leaders express confidence in their followers, articulate clear and powerful visions and lead by example (Yukl, 2002).
As I began my PhD program I took the Bass and Avolio’s MLQ, or Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, based both on self and direct reports from those I led. On the transformational – transactional scale I scored +12, to a -11. I clearly lean toward transformational leadership. As I have thought more about the leadership versus management distinction, the entire process of categorization breaks down. The aim is not to boost the self-esteem of some people as strategic leaders, and the self-esteem of others as mere tactical managers. The aim, in keeping with transformational practice, is to elevate the leadership of all managers by releasing their inner capacity to listen to and influence others.
Breadth of Leadership Theory
One thing you learn right away in studying for your PhD is how little you know. Transformational leadership is one of seventeen major theories of leadership that have garnered attention in the past thirty years (Yammarinoa et al, 2005). Other theories are: contingency, participative, charismatic, leader-member exchange, self-leadership, multilevel/leaderplex, path-goal and vertical dyad linage. If that makes your head spin, you are not alone. One lesson I’ve learned about leadership since starting my PhD is that the research base is immense. Rather than aim to master everything, I must get a bird’s eye view of the field and trust my own instincts and questions to go deeper in my research.
The Role of Leadership Style
In addition to the importance of defining leadership as influence relationships and coming to grip with its broad theoretical base, I now realize my view of leadership is influenced by my cognitive style. Finkelstein and Hambrick (1996) claim that an executive’s field of vision and interpretation of events is anchored in what they know, or their cognitive maps. For strategic leaders, they claim this encompasses their: (a) cognitive content, (b) cognitive structure, and (c) cognitive style. What you know and how you structure it therefore is influenced by your cognitive style. Cognitive style “refers to how a person’s mind works-how he or she gathers and processes information” (Finkelstein & Hambrick, p. 64). One approach to measuring a leader’s style preference is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), based on the work of Carl Jung.
The MBTI® identifies two style dimensions style: perception and judgment. Perception refers to how we gather information, while judgment refers to how we process information. On perception I prefer to gather my information more by intuition (N) or introspection, rather than sensation (S) or observation. In judgment I process my thoughts more by thinking (T) than feeling (F). That makes me an “NT”, a strategist, over an NF visionary, an ST administrator or an SF coach. According to Schnells’ (2005) custom leadership report, I am an INTP, or what Keirsey (1998) calls an architect. Schnell’s report elaborates:
You may be most comfortable in the role of Definer. In this role, you are interested in developing guidelines and principles for organizations. You enjoy the conceptual aspects of projects and commit your mind to understanding the core aspects of problems and projects (p. 9).
Taken in terms of a wide angle lens, the INTP or Definer leads by providing ideas about what needs doing. The Definer develops strategies by logical thinking and builds models for the long term by fostering debate on challenging issues.
This explains why I am drawn to strategic leadership (Boal & Hooijberg, 2000) rather than just supervisory leadership theories. It explains why I am more interested in leadership beyond just influencing followers or small groups. It explains why I am drawn to understanding organizational change and transformation, in the context of whole industry innovation.
What are your aspirations to leadership? What is your leadership style? Where do you get your energy? How do you process your information? At what level do you most effectively lead? Schnell reminds us that one leadership style is not better than another, but by identifying our style we can recognize our strengths and possible blind spots. This in turn will help us be more flexible with others.
What is your theory of organizations? How do you leverage your leadership within them? Before I entered a PhD program I thought a lot about organizational outcomes, but in comparison very little about organizations as a whole. Before 2004, I could easily lecture on corporate responsibility or ethics, but I was not clear on how organizations maintained their vital systems as a living collective.
Part of this myopia to organizations came from my work experience. While I served for nearly two decades as an organizational consultant, most of my experience has come from under girding the work of executives on corporate strategy, or how to keep competitive in the marketplace. Fortunately, in the past two years, I have made up for lost time in learning more specifically about organizational behavior, organizational culture and organizational adaptability. Rather than focus just on the external realities of organizations, these fields deal with the interiors of organizations, and strive to improve their health.
Levels of Analysis
In studying organizations you quickly learn that there are different levels of health, cohesion, and analysis in organizations (Yukl, 2002). There is the level of individuals. Most organizations empower their HR department to insure that individuals are properly hired, trained and compensated. There is the level of groups, teams, or departments, led by middle management (Stewart, Manz & Sims, 1999). These units are made up of individuals that carry a different dynamic as collectives. Then there is the level of the organization as a whole, whether in one locality or distributed as a national or global brand. This level of divisional leadership is the focus of top managers, or the upper echelon (Hambrick & Mason, 1984). Then, depending on where you draw the line, there is the level of industry, which can restrict the parameters for organizational decision-making (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978). Sometimes we can overemphasize the power of leadership to boost organizational performance, when often changes in their industry limit their latitude. The study of organizations, therefore, embraces all levels of analysis.
Another way to talk about organizations is via configuration theory. Miller (1987) outlines four imperatives that shape organizational expression: strategy, structure, leadership and environment. Each influence or imperative plays a role in how an organization is developed and functions. Often one influence is dominant in the organization’s life-cycle. The founding CEO or charismatic leader may shape an organization during its start-up years. The organization will grow or not, depending on the environment-its engagement with its market. How an organization structures itself can be especially determinative during its maturing years. Finally, corporate strategy may become the imperative to bring about its revival, after it has run the gamut of its first adaptive cycle (Miles & Snow, 1978). Given these theories and realities about organizations, how can we adapt our interaction to insure we develop a dynamic leadership style, across all levels and functional imperatives?
Measuring Interpersonal Influence
A lot has been written lately about emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995), reminding us that our ability to influence others upwards or sideways depends on something far more than our intelligence quotient. One tool which helps leaders understand their leadership with respect to teams is the FIRO-B™ Instrument. This tool measures three types of interactions (Delta Associates, 2002, para. 7):
1. Inclusion: How much you generally include other people in your life and how much attention, contact, and recognition you want from others.
2. Control: How much influence and responsibility do you need, and how much you want others to lead and establish procedures and policies.
3. Affection: How close and warm you are with others and to what extent you want others to show warmth and support to you.
The FIRO-B tool also measures how much one initiates these behaviors and how much one expects others to reciprocate. Taken together my overall FIRO-B interpersonal need score is 18, in the medium-low range (Schnell, 2005). This means I enjoy working with others when the objectives are focused. Absent that, I prefer to work alone. This could easily reflect the “I” in my INTP style, of introvert. I prefer to get recharged from internal, rather than external sources.
Among the three FIRO-B scales, I score highest on Affection. This means I will focus on a few close relationships in an organization, rather than achieve prominence to meet my Affection needs. My need for Inclusion and Control is less than Affection, meaning I am less concerned about “fitting in, making new connections, becoming known” (Schnell, p. 6). My FIRO-B score suggests that, overall, I am an “Individualist” in organizations, and see most meetings as unnecessary and distracting! This is often true of mature workers or engineers, who have developed a craft of service. Their organizational commitment may be high, but they shouldn’t be counted on being the most active team player (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2001). On the other hand, my FIRO-B score suggests I am also a “Situationalist,” with respect to teams, and I change my role from follower to leader depending on the content. As a Situationalist, I also make a good Encourager.
The act of leadership is inherently social. Knowing your emotional and social IQ can go a long way to sharpening your leadership style, and moving from transactional to transformational leadership. Over the years I’ve found that I do best by leading through the force of my ideas. I carefully pick and choose my opportunities to change an organization, so as to preserve my political capital. Your interactive style might be different. You might throw yourself into the fray at every opportunity.
Whatever our interaction style, we need to understand that leadership is about managing upwards and sideways in organizations, not just downwards. Learning more about organizational theory and its functions can help us extend and align our leadership style to these dynamic arenas.
After considering leadership and organizations, the third area I’d like to examine is consulting. How does consulting figure into your work philosophy? For two decades now I’ve earned my living by being a consultant. I’ve served as an outside-insider, finding ways to intervene in organizations with leverage. I’ve specialized in the process of helping clients become learning organizations, launch strategic alliances, and reinvent their business models. Due to my undergraduate studies in management, I’ve always been able to carry on conversations with strategic leaders, in practically any industry. My PhD studies, therefore, did not release me into this area, but they have given me a way to redefine my role as a consultant related to the development and transformation of my client’s organization.
Modes of Consulting
Osula (2004) speaks of three consulting modes toward organizations: (a) expert, (b) pair of hands, and (c) collaborative. The ‘expert’ works independently to spot problems and develop solutions. They are assertive, decisive and unilateral in presenting solutions. The ‘pair of hands’ consultant provides technical solutions to the client and is energetic and organized. While not employed, they carry a contingent worker mindset. The ‘collaborative’ consultant involves the client and client team in the process. They listen to ideas and act as a sounding board. They strive to collaboratively develop solutions. As a result of my PhD studies I am more geared to work collaboratively, rather than just technically or as a ‘pair of hands’ for my clients. This has come about through applied assignments, where I engaged in broad-level organizational diagnosis and development with client organizations.
Organizational development (OD) is the field that uses behavioral science principles to help organizations change and increase their effectiveness. Pioneered in the 1930s and ’40s by Kurt Lewin, OD practitioners aim to help organizations “unfreeze”, “move” and “refreeze” (Weisbord, 2000). At the heart of the change process is identifying the gap between what is being said and what is being done, or between espoused and theory-in-use (Argyris, 2000). The change strategy of unfreezing is begun by third party consultants, moved along by both client and consultant, and then refreezing or stabilized. At the heart of this strategy is learning “to do things with others, not to them or for them” (Weisbord, p. 70). The client team must own this gap, this incongruity, and be committed to the cultural and technical changes needed to raise their game. Like an auto mechanic, the consultant may conduct the diagnosis, collect the data, provide the reports and facilitate the discussions, but the aim is course correction by the car’s owner, and ultimately empowerment of whole work teams.
Competing Values Framework
One exemplary tool I’ve discovered in my PhD studies, to both diagnose organizations and help executives change their culture, is the Competing Values Framework (CVF). The CVF provides consultants and change agents with a framework, a sense-making tool, and a set of steps to analyze and change organizational culture (Quinn, 1988). The CVF examines organizations from two dimensions: (a) internal versus external, and (b) control versus flexibility.
The internal versus external dimension examines, in terms of work practices, how internal effectiveness, employee satisfaction, and relationships are balanced with external effectiveness measures such as customer service, market share and profitability. The control versus flexibility dimension examines the policy and systems that maintain stability and consistency over and against those practices that enable people to adapt and learn about the external environment. Taken together, the two dimensions of the CVF produces four quadrants: Clan, Adhocracy, Hierarchy and Market culture. The Clan culture is a family oriented organization and values employee participation. The Adhocracy culture values risk taking, experimentation and innovation. The focus is on adaptation and learning in response to external changes. The Hierarchy culture is a formalized and structured place to work. The aim is stability and rules and regulations to enforce smooth operations. The Market culture values results. It is driven by success, reputation, time-management and winning (Cameron & Quinn, 2006).
The CVF survey, known as the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), allows an organization to profile what quadrant they are strongest in and to decide if they would be better off by cultivating strengths in another quadrant. For example, I have a client that is very strong in the Adhocracy quadrant, due to the dynamic leadership of its CEO. While they have unfrozen themselves from Hierarchy culture, in the process they have lost some of the consistency they need to consolidate their market share. Meanwhile, another start-up organization has used online technology to build a web-based online Clan culture, which is less learning oriented, but more empowering in building community among younger workers. By overemphasizing an Adhocracy culture at the expense of Hierarchy and consistency, my client risks losing their market share, as the second-mover Clan culture gains organizational strength in other quadrants. CVF research shows that organizations who can balance their competing values by growing strength in each quadrant tend to outperform other organizations over the long-term (Denison & Mishra, 1995).
In short, the CVF and OCAI allow a consultant to help an organization assess its existing culture, compare that to a vision of its desired culture, determine what steps should be taken to change its culture, and provide measurements down the road to see whether that culture change has taken place (Hooijberg & Petrock, 1993). By its nature the CVF models the collaborative consulting mode I now seek to emulate.
Beyond leadership, organizations and consulting, the fourth plank in my philosophy of leadership is research. If leadership has to do with taking initiative, if organizations have to do with interpersonal influence, if consulting has to do with empowering internal change agents, then research has to do with improving the theory we use to diagnose and address problems. What is your theory of action and learning? Do you consider your workplace a learning organization? What value do you place on knowledge building? Do you belong to any professional or scholarly societies?
According to Schnell (2005), INTP’s like myself: (a) value long-range perspectives, (b) approach problems intellectually and theoretically, and (c) value updating skills. We all build mental frameworks, mind-maps, schemas, or knowledge structures. These are cognitive houses of theory. These structures or theories help us explain personal, organizational and societal change. Some of these theories we can explicitly articulate, others run in our minds, like embedded operating systems on our computer. Both espoused theories, plus theories-in-use, guide our actions (Argyris, 2000).
Connecting Foresight to Strategic Leadership
For nearly twenty years I have been a practicing futurist. Most of my early consulting work was in operations research and strategy, beyond my client’s immediate annual planning cycle. This led me in the early 1990s to join the World Future Society. Foresight professionals use various methods and tools to help organizations recognize and adapt to change, including information scanning, identifying trends and forecasting business variables.
As I began my PhD I was interested in what larger theories of learning, action, communication or social change had shaped these futures tools. Therefore, a key question that guided my reading and research during my first year was, “What theories under gird the practice of strategic foresight?”
Foresight is an everyday capacity that we use to think about what’s coming up, from the next day to the next decade (Slaughter, 1995). Collectively we also use foresight as groups, organizations or communities to anticipate changes on the horizon and respond appropriately to create a better future (Hamel & Prahalad, 1994).
One of the early assignments I had to complete was a “Review of Literature” in a field relating to leadership. Some of my colleagues did reviews of servant leadership, self-efficacy, or transformational leadership. I was curious at how leadership related to creating the future. How did leadership theory talk about the forward thinking and action of leaders? Was foresight a capacity like someone’s IQ, built up by reason or even intuition, such that it could be measured?
One early step I took was to write three key academics that taught futures. One, Dr. Wendell Bell, a sociologist from Yale, wrote me back a five-page letter, expanding on the theoretical base of futures studies, beyond what he had written in his seminal graduate textbook (Bell, 1996). This was very helpful. I began to see that leadership overlapped considerably with futures studies, even though most leadership texts did not have a chapter on how to create the future!
Instead, organizational sciences had focused on individual and group decision-making theories. Sociology had broadened these cybernetic decision theories in the context of social change. Psychologists and educators had focused on action learning theories. Managerial theory had considered motivation, expectancy, and goal-setting related to accomplishment. Some streams of leadership theory had taken a page from the life sciences and started talking about leadership in contexts of chaos and creativity (Wheatley, 1999). But the greatest theoretical connection to the future, from an organizational standpoint, came when I began tracing strategic leadership theory (Finkelstein & Hambrick 1996).
This theory examines how leaders think, act and influence others in order to improve their organization’s long-range competitive advantage (Hughes & Beatty, 2005). One of the appeals to me about this theory is that it encompasses all aspects of leadership effectiveness in relation to organizational performance. It combines the newer leadership theories, such as transformational and charismatic leadership, with the more recent theories, such as multilevel and leaderplex (Boal & Hooijberg, 2000). In terms of research, strategic leadership theory can be examined in individuals, in groups, in organizations, or in industries. Beyond this the field is relatively young, coming of age in the 1990s, leaving room for further work in this area.
Creating the Hybrids
I began to think of my PhD work akin to redesigning the automobile. Since Henry Ford, we have driven cars with the same engine. Yet looming oil shortages and environmental impacts challenge the conventional car paradigm. Enter the research engineers in the Japanese, American and Chinese auto industries. The challenge: how to create a more fuel and environmentally efficient car, adaptable to current and emerging technology. The answer: hybrids.
Research in leadership is a lot like creating the next generation of cars, which use battery and gas power now and in a decade could be powered by hydrogen. Theories in research start with new ideas, become operational in testable models, and finally after proving themselves in a variety of “driving” conditions and validated tests, they become reliable for organizational use.
This follows Kurt Lewin’s famous dictum, that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory” (1951, p. 169). But how could I make a contribution to leadership theory, an enterprise as diverse and distributed as the automobile industry? It took me over a year to be able to wade through all the fluff in leadership studies, as it has attracted dozens of fads, trends and entrepreneurial terms.
My PhD professors encouraged me to trust my instincts in research. I am slowly learning how to read research studies and critique them, whether in terms of logic or in terms of statistical analysis. Perhaps the biggest change I have experienced since beginning my PhD has been getting in touch with this primary research or scholarly literature. Before 2004, when I wanted to trace an idea, I was consigned to buy a popular book or search down a title via inter-library loan. Now I have access to hundreds of applied and scholarly journals and can trace the lineage of a leadership theory across various disciplines, from psychology, organizational behavior, education, sociology or management. In reading this quality research I’ve begun to see how theory is developed either through quantitative or qualitative research (Creswell, 2002).
Both Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Quantitative studies in the social sciences most closely parallel the scientific method. They use observation and measurement, gathered thorough surveys or controlled experiments to examine whether a hypothesis can be validated through a test’s results. The aim of quantitative studies in the empirical and deductive mode is to improve theory by testing models, built up from variables, on the basis of data. Quantitative studies are done in “objective” 3rd person language.
By contrast, qualitative studies explore 1st and 2nd person realities. They use inductive methods to interpret subjective and interpersonal viewpoints. Qualitative studies are usually undertaken in areas where theory has not been established. They help in the theory building phase, more so than in the theory testing phase of creating knowledge. Rather than start with defined variables, qualitative studies gather data through open-ended interviews, observations and documents. Unlike quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis of a domain includes reflection on participant viewpoints, the researcher’s viewpoints and the reading audience’s perspectives (Patton, 2002). Hard and soft research, or quantitative and qualitative methods have their limits. Both should be used to enhance sense making activities, improve our theoretical base of leadership, and expand our knowledge structure of leadership, organizations and consulting.
Long-Live the Revolution!
One of the key experiences of a PhD is residencies. In my program they come once a year for two weeks. We practically study year-round online, except for December and April, but residencies gather all students in the PhD program in one location. At Regent this numbers up to 140, with about 35 in my cohort that started in 2004. In August of 2005 we gathered for our second residency. During a faculty panel, Dr. Mihai Bocârnea, spoke briefly on knowledge revolutions. With passion and a Romanian accent, Dr. Bocârnea described Popper’s (1959) logic of scientific discovery and Kuhn’s (1962) paradigm theory of knowledge.
Bocârnea explained how all research and innovation emerge in the boundaries of paradigms. These paradigms are patterns, models or conventions of thinking, that for a time provide communities with solutions to problems. Those who research according to these well trod paths engage in “normal science.” But Bocârnea explained how a crisis can then emerge in natural or social science. Anomalies begin piling up because established theory doesn’t explain the reality at hand. If we do research in this period on alternative paradigms it could become “revolutionary science.” Bocârnea lived through the revolution of 1989 that released Romania from Soviet rule. In echoing that freedom, he concluded, “We are here to engage, to prepare, to bring in that revolution. We study existing theory in leadership science only to the degree that we might improve it. Long live the revolution!” (Bocârnea, 2005, p. 2-3).
There was much more that Bocârnea taught about statistics and quantitative analysis that I did not fully absorb. But I clearly understood his call for substantial change at the deep levels of society, work and leadership. My aim as a PhD will be to spur on research to improve and perhaps revolutionize theory in strategic leadership. In the coming two years I will focus my research on what is inside the box, as well as what is outside. Only in this way can I join with my colleagues from virtually all countries and all languages to insure that leaders in the generations to come will have accurate and applicable theory.
Research is not just done in an ivory tower, but also through applied science. There has been a considerable emphasis on learning organizations over the past fifteen years (Senge, 1990). Organizational theorists refer to this type of focused knowledge creation as ‘learning-in-working,’ where learning is part of the social process of working in groups, called “communities of practice” (Lave & Wenger, 1991). One of the cutting edge fields in strategic leadership, therefore, is how knowledge creation can be fostered by empowering self-managed teams to create new ideas, innovations and products. My research will not be done in a vacuum. It will be done in real organizations, which are creating real and better tomorrows.
Toward the Great Work
No one who decides to become a PhD should earn a degree just for themselves. Instead, a PhD is a call to a higher vocation. As President John F. Kennedy, Jr. said at his inauguration, “with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love…knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own” (Kennedy, 1961).
Where do we stand in reference to history? In what way does our generation have a unique task? What is the work of God today that must truly be our own? I recognize that the industrial age has brought extraordinary wealth and comfort to millions, yet its work is not yet done. While millions from China and India will move into the middle class over the next generation, millions more in Africa and Asia will struggle just to survive. At the same time the world system of capital will be tested as we move toward 2050 and 2100 through rising debts, energy shortages and natural disasters (Ayres, 1997).
In speaking of a new revolution of leadership, Pascarella (1999, p. 253) writes, “Business executives and company owners have tried to fit people to organizations. Now, however, we are beginning to struggle with shaping our organizations to fit people.” That is the kind of revolution that is worth giving our lives to. Reclaiming and reframing our knowledge of leadership will be central to this change. But we will need something more. Paul, the apostle of Jesus once wrote, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1, NSRV). We will need to insure that our knowledge becomes the handmaiden of love and service.
I like how Thomas Berry (1999) speaks of this revolution of love as “the Great Work.” Other ages have had their magnum opus. The classical Greek world helped us understand the human mind and create the humanist tradition. The Great Work of Israel was to reveal the divine-human relationship. The Great Work today, Berry claims, is “the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on Earth to a more benign mode of presence” (p. 7). This deals with our human-earth relationship, as much as it does our inter-human relationships.
We will need to recover the value of interiors, of inwardness, of integrity in relating to people and places if we are to create the revolution to reinvent work, organizations and communities. Technology can only take us so far. We will need a new spiritual vision that is not captive to institutional power, nor absolutism or relativism, but open to transcendence. We will need to find the courage to speak truth to power, based on a whole new order of truth-knowing through research.
This is the spiritual formation I will practice as a social scientist. I can do no other in view of the world crisis of the 21st century. My PhD program, therefore, is the fellowship of the ring, the Rivendale (Tolkien, 1954) from which I go forth to raise up a new breed of leadership to create a post-apocalyptic world.
What is your mission? What is your philosophy of life? What is your leadership style? How do you carry that influence into organizations? How does this involve intervention and knowledge creation? What is the specific work you are called to in these early years of the 21st century? As one undercover agent of the kingdom of God to another, I invite you to join me in the mystery of self-reflection, and invent work for a new century, so together we might preserve the future of the world.
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About the Author
Jay Gary is an assistant professor of leadership at Regent University in Virginia Beach. His teaching responsibilities include courses in Social Change, World Futures and Strategic Leadership. His experience has been in global leadership in business, civic and religious contexts for over twenty years. His research interests include organizational, strategic, and authentic leadership. This essay was written as a reflective assignment for his PhD program. It garnered only a marginal grade! For more information on the M.A. in Strategic Foresight he directs, see http://www.regent.edu/leadership/msf