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Gyertson Takes a New Look at Leadership

By Rachel Judy | May 12, 2011

Dr. David Gyertson
Photo courtesy of University Marketing

He has decades of experience in leadership within higher education and Christian nonprofits. And, one of the overarching principles that Dr. David Gyertson has learned is that leadership is all about the heart.

Last week, the Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) released Nonprofit Leadership in a For-Profit World, a volume of leadership reflections edited by Gyertson, distinguished professor of leadership formation and renewal at Regent University. Gyertson is also senior fellow for CLA, an organization dedicated to the support of Christian leaders.

The book is a compilation of reflections on Christian leadership from a number of successful practitioners. Chapter authors include Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; Steve Douglas, president of Campus Crusade for Christ; Jerry White, international president emeritus for The Navigators; and Elisa Morgan, president emeritus of Mothers of Preschoolers International.

This book is the first in a series that will provide practical leadership advice for nonprofit, faith-based leadership; however, this first volume isn't about the "how-to." This volume was designed as a "last lecture" of sorts—a letter to the next generation.

"I wanted it to be quite personal; I wanted it to be more of an internal 'Here's what I discovered that transformed my life as a leader,' and 'Here are some things that I did that I felt were effective,'" Gyertson explained. "There was a lot less of the what, when, where and how of Christian leadership and significant emphasis on the who and why—character and motivation as the most important skills sets for successful Christian leadership."

While each chapter was written apart from the others, Gyertson was pleasantly surprised at the cohesive themes that emerged in the book. "I think we're caught up in a lot of leadership theory," Gyertson said of current leadership focus. "What the followers—particularly of Christians and Christian leaders and organizations—want to know is the heart. What is the heart of this person? What is it that motivates them? What are their values?"

The idea for the book was inspired by Dr. Ted Engstrom, the former head of World Vision who was passionate about building leadership in Christian organizations. "Part of what Ted was known for was his passion for improving the operational effectiveness of faith-based nonprofit organizations," said Gyertson, who considered Engstrom a mentor and friend. "[He used to say] 'The minute you lose your integrity, you've really lost your right to lead.'"

Engstrom died in 2006, but Gyertson is confident that this book and the principles it sets forth continue the legacy he began.

"For Jesus, leadership was not about the leader, it was about the led," Gyertson said. "So much of what's in Christian literature focuses on the leader—who you are as a leader in terms of how you lead effectively. But the real motivation is centered in this idea of being like Jesus or servant leadership that's modeled on Jesus."

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Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

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