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Creating University Cultures of Leadership

Marshall K. Christensen A Publication of

CREATING UNIVERSITY CULTURES OF LEADERSHIP Published by Co Serve International P.O. Box 40567 Portland, OR 97240 Copyright © 2012 by Co-Serve International ISBN 978 0 9847161-4-2 Edited by Daniel Ballast Printed in the United States of America by 48HrBooks ( All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher. Cover photos, used with permission, show a group of Warner Pacific College students and staff preparing for a community service project to assist orphans in the Portland, Oregon area.


To the life and example of Dr. J. Daniel Harrison (April 17, 1941—May 18, 2003) and Dr. Margarita Petrovna Dvorzhetskaya



Contents Preface ................................................................................................ 7  Introduction ...................................................................................... 9  My Journey in Higher Education .................................................. 11  Chapter One—The Leadership Crisis: Our Greatest Challenge 17  Chapter Two—From Commander to Team Leader: The Case of Warner Pacific College ................ Error! Bookmark not defined.  Chapter Three—Servant Leadership and the Kazakh-American Free University ............................. Error! Bookmark not defined.  Chapter Four—Finding a Champion for Transformation: The Case of KNLU and BGKU .......... Error! Bookmark not defined.  Chapter Five—Mindoro Bible College: A Story of Transformation into a Servant Leadership Community .....Error! Bookmark not defined.  Chapter Six—Leadership Ready University Graduates .......Error! Bookmark not defined.  Chapter Seven—The Hard Work of Creating a University Culture of Leadership .................. Error! Bookmark not defined.  Chapter Eight—Reliable State University . Error! Bookmark not defined.  Addendum—Borys Grinchenko as a Servant Leader ..........Error! Bookmark not defined.  Notes................................................................................................. 40  4



Preface “Servant leadership” does not translate well.


languages nor cultures adopt or adapt easily to the implied concept of leading by serving. Nevertheless, servant leadership seems to be the best option to the widely acknowledged leadership crisis. In this book we advocate the idea of taking the servant leadership model of leadership to universities, thus preparing a different kind of leader for the future. After an introductory chapter about the leadership crisis, the next four chapters relate to diverse, personal experiences at colleges and universities in the United States, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and the Philippines. In each place, servant leadership principles and practices created a healthier culture of learning. These chapters also introduce Co-Serve International, which Dan Ballast (author of chapter five) and I established in 1996 for the purpose of cooperation with international universities. Chapters six and seven describe the leadership-ready graduate and what universities can do to prepare them, including “Standards for Servant Leadership Certification.”

The final

chapter is a fictional account about how a university might change. The format of this book suggests that it would be beneficial for group study and interaction. Therefore, questions for discussion are included at the conclusion of each chapter. The personal experiences described in this book provide a context and a basis for what I have learned about servant leadership. These experiences, which were sometimes difficult and painful, also establish a foundation for the case for creating 7

cultures of leadership at universities. My intention is not to judge or criticize anyone.

We are all learners. Servant

leadership, as I often explain to students is "counter-intuitive." Real change comes from within. Only when we examine our hearts are we able to change our behavior as leaders. We hope that the idea of servant leadership catches on and universities will accept their implied responsibility for producing leaders whose primary purpose is to serve people.


Introduction In an era when young people around the world fault political, economic and religious institutions as lacking in integrity, university students want to learn how to become leaders. Society needs their ideas, their energy, and their vision for renewal. All too often, however, their universities model detrimental management practices, thus perpetuating what we believe is the world’s leadership crisis. Universities themselves must model the way of effective leadership, thereby producing the leaders society needs. The place to nurture a new generation of leaders is in the world’s universities. Universities, therefore, must create cultures of leadership. We propose that the best hope for producing a new kind of leader is based upon the ancient wisdom of leading by serving others. Paradoxically, the model students often experience, even in the cultures of their universities, is that of leaders who use and abuse power, seeing their position and power as a means of controlling people. People are yearning for authentic leaders. The model that students need is that of the leader who is a servant first. Linking the ancient wisdom of service with the passion of youth is our best hope for overcoming the leadership crisis. In order to model effective leadership, the university itself must provide a culture of leadership.

“Culture, where it is

strong, is community: of norms and ideas and symbols,”1 Robert Nisbet observed. Jean Vanier describes community as a place where people cultivate “interpersonal relationship, a sense of 9

belonging and an orientation of life to a common goal and common witness.”2 Leadership, culture and community must come together in the university. In the process of becoming places where effective leaders are nurtured, universities must become communities that deliberately foster a specific culture. Leaders think and act differently from other people. They are not satisfied with things as they are. Good leaders have visions for better, more productive futures. Their desire is to fix

We propose that the best hope for producing a new kind of  leader  is  based  upon  the  ancient  wisdom  of  leading  by  serving  others.    Paradoxically,  the  model  students  often  experience, even in the cultures of their universities, is that  of  leaders  who  use  and  abuse  power,  seeing  their  position  and power as a means of controlling people. 

what is broken, triumph over evil, pursue excellence, challenge the status quo, embrace change, help people and persuade others to follow on the journey. Good, effective leaders are essential to every level of society. The question is: where do good leaders come from? How does society produce them? This book is about the role of universities in producing effective leaders.


My Journey in Higher Education  When I graduated from high school in 1959 my plan was to bypass a university education. The gentle persuasion of my mother helped me change my mind. That fall I entered the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, only to find that it was a place of barriers to be surmounted. I was on my own, selecting courses without an adviser, attending large classes with almost no personal contact with teachers, and with the university president’s words ringing in my ears:

“Half of the freshman

class will leave the university within one year.” This was not a place that encouraged personal growth, much less leadership development.

I decided not to wait a whole year for the

president’s prediction to come true. At the end of the first semester I transferred to a small college in Portland, Oregon. The environment of Warner Pacific College was radically different and proved to be just what I needed.


professors and even the president were personally accessible and highly supportive of each student. It was there that I began the lifelong process of leadership learning. After a year at the college I took a two year hiatus from higher education, serving in the U.S. Army. The Army accelerated my learning curve by giving me leadership experience, first as a platoon leader during basic training and later as an office manager, assisting an exemplary military base chaplain in Germany. I returned to Warner Pacific College where I was elected to the student council and eventually became president of my senior class. After listening to the graduation address by Oregon Governor Mark O. Hatfield, I 11

delivered the class response at commencement in 1965. The continuation of my education took me to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the University of Oregon, and Heidelberg University in Germany. I was fortunate, finding mentors who encouraged and supported me in countless ways. Unintentionally, they were investing in my perceptions about leadership. Leadership development was never the primary goal of these universities. My subsequent career in higher education, including fifteen years as president of Warner Pacific College, reinforced my conviction that most institutions of higher learning play only a passive role in helping their students develop leadership skills. I am convinced that universities must become active agents of leadership development. My conviction about the role of universities was reinforced during the 1970’s when I began reading the essays by Robert Greenleaf. His book, Servant Leadership, opened my eyes to a new way of practicing leadership. I read his book at a time when I served my alma mater as Academic Vice President. Like so many leaders, the college president with whom I worked was an authoritarian whose personal charisma was a camouflage for devastating actions that undermined the morale of faculty, staff and students.

The conflict between the ideals set forth by

Greenleaf and the reality of the president’s leadership became too great for me and by 1979 I left the college. Two years later I was called back as president. By that time Warner Pacific College was deep in debt, faculty turnover was high, student enrollment was declining, and the public perception was that the College was on the verge of collapse. 12

The chief financial officer told me that just two months before my arrival he and the president had discussed whether the college should close. I decided to adopt the leadership principles Greenleaf advocated in his book. The struggle for survival was long and painful but little by little servant leadership principles began making a difference. Recruiting and retaining excellent faculty and staff became easier, student enrollment increased, our mission was clear, public approval grew and we restored financial stability at this private college. After fifteen years in the president’s office, my career took a dramatic turn. I was invited to become the Provost of East Kazakhstan State University in the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk. The potential of this university in the post-Soviet era was extraordinary. By 1994 Dan Ballast, a young American with an electrical engineering degree from Purdue University, had already helped establish the Kazakh-American College of Business, Humanities and Law as part of EKSU. When I met him, Dan was already the twenty-five year old vice president of this college. We soon noticed that the leadership style of this state university reflected the prevailing Soviet mentality about leadership. Leaders commanded and controlled every aspect of university life. Often, it seemed, faculty and staff were not valued. Almost immediately I recognized the similarity between the leadership practices of my predecessor at Warner Pacific College and the winsome but dictatorial practices of the rector (president) and vice rectors of this university in the new Republic of Kazakhstan. The results of leadership that imposed 13

fear were the same in Oregon as in Kazakhstan. People were intimidated and morale was low. Fortunately, the Rector of East Kazakhstan State University, Dr. Yerezhep A. Mambetkaziyev, desired change. In fact, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had challenged Dr. Mambetkaziyev, his former Minister of Education, with the task of reforming the university and helping it meet world standards. Dan and I and other colleagues from the United States enjoyed the privilege of joining the rector on this journey of university culture change. After many years of progress, the Kazakh-American Free University now meets western







independent institutions of higher learning. Its mission is to produce leaders who are capable of transforming the nation. These and similar stories serve as the basis of our conviction that universities must be purposeful in developing “cultures of leadership.” The need for university cultures of leadership is international in scope.

Therefore, Co-Serve International is

dedicated to helping students learn how to practice servant leadership and assisting universities in modeling the way. Our work has taken us to places as diverse as UstKamenogorsk and Herat, Afghanistan; Kiev, Ukraine and Baguio City, Philippines; Curitiba, Brazil and Mumbai, India. In every culture we find the evidence that the world faces a crisis in leadership. Sadly, we also see that universities often perpetuate the crisis, mimicking styles of leadership that are the cause of woeful societal problems. The need for a different approach to leadership preparation is critically important to nations, 14

businesses, educational institutions, public service agencies, religious organizations and billions of people around the world. We are convinced, therefore, that universities must accept responsibility for leadership development and they must change their cultures to reflect the practices of healthy and effective leadership. A course in leadership in the university curriculum may be helpful, but the goal must be comprehensive university cultural change. Everyone in the university culture must understand and

We are  convinced,  therefore,  that  universities  must  accept  responsibility  for  leadership  development  and  they  must  change their cultures to reflect the practices of healthy and  effective leadership. 

practice the priorities of a healthy leadership culture.


university that accepts the challenge of creating a culture of leadership will produce graduates who are prepared to transform society and restore the dignity and well-being of people.

People around the world are hungry for authentic

leaders, leaders who have a vision for better futures and are ready to serve as their first priority. The case studies cited in this book indicate that fostering cultures of leadership is possible and that the time is right. The university culture of leadership is the best hope civilization has for alleviating the ills of society, raising the standard of living for the vast majority of people, and advancing the process of 15

personal and societal growth and progress. universities to rise to the challenge.



It is time for

Chapter One 

The Leadership Crisis:  Our Greatest Challenge 

When a ruler treats his subjects like grass and dirt, then subjects should treat him as a bandit and an enemy. Mencius, Chinese Philosopher, Fourth Century BCE

There are many competitors for “greatest crisis of our era.” Global warming, social injustice, corruption, disease, economic exploitation, lack of opportunities for young people, “Crony Capitalism” in Washington D.C., drug addictions, deprivation, lawlessness, injustice in the courts, international conflicts and natural disasters are often cited among the greatest challenges of our time. However, these problems pale in comparison with the detrimental impact of bad leadership that touches the vast majority of the world’s seven billion people. All too often the leaders who grab our attention are those whose greed brings down corporations, whose sexual perversions undermine the community, and whose unwarranted ambitions destroy countries. Nevertheless, it is in the daily grind of the workplace, school, and home where humans suffer the most abuse and pain. Many







humiliation from their bosses, outright exploitation in places of work, and rudeness by clerks in the market. People are hungry for authentic, effective and wise leadership. Universities, which 17

have such potential for contributing to the good of society, often perpetuate bad leadership rather than enlightening the way to better principles and practices. The neglect by many universities of their opportunity to develop good leaders is tragic. The difference between a good leader and a bad leader is often very subtle, like the difference between a healthy cell and a cancerous cell.

One leader generates healthy, productive,

resilient teams and the other leader produces deterioration, discouragement and even the death of communities. After more than twenty years of leading one of the universities where Co-Serve International had an active servant leadership program in Ukraine, the rector retired. Shortly after a new rector was appointed, we started hearing disturbing reports about dramatic changes in the administration of this university. The vice rector who had been a strong advocate for leadership programs was dismissed. Department chairs left the university or were removed from their positions. Numerous professors took positions at other universities. Students and alumni of the university began grumbling about what was happening at their university. To the surprise and chagrin of almost everyone, the new rector changed the culture, making the environment unbearable for those who soon found the exit door. confounded




His decisions Long-term

administrative leaders and valued teachers were discouraged, disheartened, or dismissed. Years of service seemed to count for nothing.

Without warning or consultation the new rector

imposed his will, disregarding the impact of his decisions upon 18

people who had poured their lives into the university. Those who departed were informed that they were expendable, easily replaced by new hires. They were not valued or respected. This university example is not isolated. A vice president at a major American university told me that the chancellor’s selfcentered, destructive leadership made him aware of his own vulnerability.

The chancellor demanded all the rights and

privileges of her position and authority.

Anyone who

questioned her decisions was deemed expendable. Moreover, unless this chancellor was the center of attention and the focus of every university news release, she displayed her displeasure. Ultimately, the vice president left the university, thus escaping a highly uncomfortable, demoralizing and volatile situation. The leadership crisis that occurred at this American university illustrates a phenomenon Co-Serve has witnessed in every country and culture where we work.

As part of our

International Servant Leadership Program (ISLP), we ask people to describe an “ineffective leader.� Interestingly, the responses are always the same. Students as well as company employees around the world respond as if they are describing the same leader. They tell us about leaders who make decisions without consultation, who cannot be trusted, who do not listen, who abuse power, who are self-serving and who exploit people as if they were mere commodities. When we ask young people about historical examples, they often cite Hitler, Stalin and other twentieth century dictators. In reality, bad leaders are much closer to home. Their parents are subject to dictators in the workplace. In 1989, during Soviet 19

times in Ukraine, one professor told me: “We are all victims of totalitarian leadership. Orders come from Moscow. The factory manager is required to meet quotas of production and he imposes his will upon workers. The worker goes home and takes out his frustration on his wife. The wife takes out her frustration

A university  administrator  informed  me  that  “unless  we  learn how to train a different kind of leader, our country has  no future.” 

on her child. The child kicks the dog.” The professor’s simple analogy was sadly realistic. For the most part, little has changed since then. Bad leaders cause people to grow weary, lose heart, and cry out for good leadership. Leaders often promise change that never arrives. Once, when I asked students in our class what they hoped for the future, a young man told me, “We have dreams, but no hope.”

In a similar vein, a university

administrator informed me that “unless we learn how to train a different kind of leader, our country has no future.”


leadership crisis may be most evident among highly visible, top leaders, but the crisis is felt most deeply among people whose spirit is crushed in daily encounters with bad leaders. Bad






debilitating personal and social hardship, suffering, loss of productivity, and the erosion of the ethical standards that sustain a healthy society. Warren Bennis, author of Managing 20

People is Like Herding Cats and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California, draws our attention to the problem: The fact is, America and its business community have been managed to the edge of ruin, and now we’re in desperate need of leaders.

Unfortunately, it is

increasingly difficult to find men and women of vision who are willing to stand on principle and make their voices heard. One has to wonder, where have all the leaders gone?3 Regrettably, most organizations have adopted the traditional military model, with the general imposing his or her will upon subordinates in the ranks whose primary responsibility is to obey. This reality reminds me of a time when I asked a group of university professors about the “core values” at their university. After an awkward period of silence, one brave teacher answered for everyone with one word: “Obedience.” In other words, their primary responsibility was to do what they were told to do. Not surprisingly, the atmosphere at that university was grim. Energy, creativity, individual and collective motivation had been stifled. Professors, who have the capacity of great energy and creativity, had lost their natural ability to be champions of change and innovation.

Students do not learn to become

effective leaders in places where the creative energy of their professors is stifled. The priority of obedience carries over to virtually every social organization.

The human toll weighs heavily upon 21

individuals and society at large. I have often witnessed the impact. At a recent committee meeting in my own community, we had no sooner taken our places when a young lady in our group heard her cell phone. After listening to the caller, she promptly excused herself from our meeting. She explained that the owner of the company where she worked had just fired the manager and she was being called in to help the people at the company work through the crisis. Apparently, the feud between owner and manager had erupted many times before; everyone in the office was aware of the conflict.

A return to stability

required immediate action—at a time like this she was called to calm troubled waters. During my early years as a history professor, department chair, and vice president for academic affairs at Warner Pacific College, I was subject to inordinate, ongoing tension created by the president.

This prolonged, uncomfortable atmosphere

proved to be one of my most valuable training grounds for leadership—I learned from a negative example. I loved teaching history.

The challenge of exchanging

information, ideas, and wisdom with students always fascinated me. Knowing that relationships with my students could have a life-long impact upon their character and values, I felt called to this profession. My students consistently reinforced the delight I experienced in the academic environment. The questions they asked, engaging with them in developing a wider view of the world, earning their trust, and receiving their appreciation were, for me, more than adequate compensation for my labor. The college environment itself was part of my growing 22

professional satisfaction.

Daily interaction with colleagues

stimulated and enhanced my desire to become the best that I could be and share with others in creating a rich and rigorous academic community. Therefore, I felt honored as a young teacher when the president invited me to join three other colleagues in drafting a new operations manual for the college. Our task was to write a document that would clearly define and describe the basic management functions of the college, thus clarifying for administration, faculty, and staff how we related and how the college community interacted while fulfilling its tasks. The focus of our assignment ranged from workloads to committee






procedures, hiring practices to institutional policies and faculty and staff responsibilities. Our committee worked for months, gathering information from every member of the community, and spending hundreds of hours compiling a document that, we were convinced, would greatly benefit the entire college community. Upon completion of our assignment, we presented our document to the president of the college, explaining to him how this manual would help individuals and the college as a whole. We did not have to wait long for his response. The next day he informed us that our operations manual was unacceptable. He offered no explanation and no opening for discussion and amendments. It was not far-fetched for our team to jump to the conclusion that the document must have somehow felt like an affront to his authority, though that was miles from our intent. His perception of leadership was that of commander-in-chief. 23

Creating University Cultures of Leadership  
Creating University Cultures of Leadership  

In this book by Marshall Christensen, Marshall shares about the great need and the strategy for changing the leadership cultures at universi...