DBU Alum Dr. Cheryl Goodwin: Leading Relationship Workers in the Fourth Industrial Age


"Working for a global technology company, I am facing changes in the work environment by the impact of automation and machine learning. As I seek to lead a team who is focused on the relevant relationships in our business, both interpersonal dynamics as well as in system and processes, I want to help my company understand how we are responding."

This was both the subject of Dr. Cheryl Goodwin's dissertation as a recent graduate of DBU's Ph.D. in Leadership Studies program and her current passion as Business Unit Director in the Healthcare division of the manufacturing solutions provider, Jabil. With a background in biomedical engineering and while pursuing an MBA, she developed a passion for the business side of the industry, which eventually led her to DBU to continue her study of how to lead ethically and effectively in the industry.

In one of her seminars in DBU's doctoral program, "Technology and Leadership," Goodwin wrote an analytical paper on the book Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin. "In the book, Colvin explains that our technology and business environments are not focused solely on the knowledge workers of the third industrial age any longer but propelled into a more relational point of view by people's need and ability to focus on what machines will not take over."

This later developed into her focused dissertation research and a case study that reveals how Jabil's business leaders are currently embracing a relational point of view. "They understand how technology is creating a faster-paced, flexible work environment, and they are adapting their communication and team development to empower their employees in the new workplace. Our business leaders are active listeners who push for diversity of their teams and thought processes, they think broadly about the systems within which they work, and they do not disconnect the health of their personal lives from the success of their business."

Goodwin hopes that her research of one such multi-billion-dollar, global company's approach to leading relationship workers will contribute to a much larger conversation on leadership challenges and opportunities in a society steadily moving toward greater automation and machine learning in the fourth industrial age. With regard to Jabil, Goodwin's research was stimulated by her organizational environment and has contributed to its continual learning and improvement. "I have already had the opportunity to share my point of view on leading relationship workers in the fourth industrial age as I have been conducting my research through a blog article and team training, and I have been invited to participate in the organizational design of programs to implement learning from my final research."

Goodwin was drawn to study leadership at DBU because of the sustained relationships empowered within its unique interdisciplinary cohort model, which provided a deeper level of learning. "My engineering and business background was regularly challenged in perspective by my cohort mates who were lawyers, pastors, and educators. They saw leadership from a different point of view, and once we both saw leadership through the lens of global, mission-oriented, and servant-based, we were able to more deeply engage a shared perspective enhanced by our own backgrounds."

During her studies, she was challenged to grow intellectually while being cared for by the faculty on a personal and professional level. "The professors hold high the standard of academic rigor and prodded us to raise our standards for leadership in our respective environments. In addition, they expressed a love for us that was uncommon to my previous university experience. The professors and faculty were ready to support and encourage, while they challenged our experience of learning and leading. I graduated from the program fortunate to have learned from and among passionate, engaged, and committed leaders."

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is the Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.