‘Ellen White on Leadership’
Reveals Pioneer’s Insights
Adventist co-founder had surprisingly contemporary views on leadership, author says
BY BONNIE MCLEAN, Adventist Review intern
an the writings of an author born barely 50 years after the United States declared its independence have an impact on leadership issues in the 21st century? If the writer in question is Ellen G. White, then Cindy Tutsch believes the answer is an emphatic “yes.”
Tutsch, associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate in Silver Spring, Maryland, has just published Ellen White on Leadership, a book dedicated to exploring Mrs. White’s counsel to leaders and including principles for leaders to follow. Pacific Press, of Nampa, Idaho, publishes the book.
Unlike earlier compilations that included only citations and passages written by Mrs. White, a pioneering co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Tutsch provides commentary and introductions to guide readers through the principles outlined.
Tutsch said, “I felt that persons would better recognize its relevance to their needs if there were commentary that drew them in and helped them to understand how Ellen White’s leadership counsel could be applied in their daily life.”
To fit this objective, Tutsch plumbed books such as Testimonies to Ministers, Gospel Workers, and Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students to draw attention to these principles and provide context for them.
COUNSEL FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM: The global intererst in the literature of leadership prompted the writing of “Ellen White on Leadership,” a new book outlining the leadership views of a pioneering co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [Pacific Press photo]
Though her research yielded a wealth of material, Tutsch says she streamlined the bulk of information into the principles and citations: “I tried to find as many citations from a variety of books that would deal with leadership principles, because although [Mrs. White] doesn’t precisely define leadership — except by inference — I don’t think it’s difficult to extrapolate a definition from her counsel to leaders, as well as her descriptions of leaders in various biblical narratives.”
Additionally, Dr. Tutsch illustrated these principles from Ellen White’s own life. She gave scenarios and included vignettes of leaders to demonstrate how Mrs. White reacted in certain situations, highlighting the very human nature that Mrs. White embodied.
Tutsch noted, “Discussing how she lived this out in her own life, helps us humanize her [and] helps us recognize that though she was used by God in a very important way, she still struggled with the vicissitudes of humanity.”
In blending commentary and citations with examples from Ellen White’s personal life, Tutsch recognized the need for addressing contemporary issues by Mrs. White, using language people would understand. Tutsch said she outlined the leadership principles “in contemporary language and then left the citations in her language and let people make the connection.” She also realized that “people wanted to know more about Ellen White’s life.”
The book originally took form as a doctoral dissertation. In her studies, Tutsch noticed classmates fascinated with leadership literature, and, encouraged by their enthusiasm, decided to unite her work at the White Estate with study in leadership.
At first, she intended to write for an audience of administrators, but broadened her perspective when her research showed that for Mrs. White, “a leader is anyone who uses his or her influence to promote God’s kingdom with competence, commitment and excellence.” Tutsch said she “wrote with parents, students, and others who want to use their influence for Christ in mind.”
Her classroom reading material included works on spiritual leadership by people such as Henry and Richard Blackaby, Tony Campolo, or John Maxwell, secular works by Jim Collins, Stephen Covey, and Malcolm Gladwell, and works on academic leadership, including Margaret Wheatley. Tutsch then compared these authors’ vision of leadership with the leadership counsel that she found in the works of Ellen White.
Though other authors provided interesting insights, she declared, “The counsel that Ellen White gives on leadership comes from a higher source. I believe that it’s inspired by God himself.” She added, “It has a special importance because of the source of its inspiration.” Thus, her book could have more valuable insights into leadership, because it highlighted and sought this source of inspiration other books lacked.
In her research, Tutsch uncovered surprising attitudes that Mrs. White had expressed in her writing. “Ellen White is unilaterally supportive of all persons’ involvement in ministry,” she explained. “I think that was a surprising discovery from my research.”
Tutsch said, “She really promoted creativity and initiative from workers as well as from management, administrators, visionaries or other kinds of leaders.”
After successfully completing her doctorate and defending her dissertation, Tutsch decided “I wanted to make my dissertation into a book that would be readable by all church members—anyone who wanted to know how their leadership could be effective.” She then made adjustments to the dissertation to tailor the book to a wider audience, and she included an overview of Ellen White’s work and significance to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the introduction.
Ultimately, Tutsch hopes that the book would be read by anyone interested in leadership—regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, or religious preference. She said, “I’m hoping that it will increase understanding in the Seventh-day Adventist Church of the concept that Ellen White espoused or promoted a gender-inclusive, race-inclusive age-inclusive church. She didn’t argue theology as much as she promoted the need of workers for the great task of evangelism.”
Furthermore, Tutsch wants readers who seek God’s will in their lives to “find important principles on how to know God,” recognizing that Ellen White was an instrument used by God to lead people to His word in Scripture.