Monday, October 09, 2006

Research Avenues in Spirituality and Leadership

Until recently, there has been a large gap in the literature and research that explore the spirituality of leadership. One exception is the theory of spiritual leadership developed by Fry (2003). One reason for the gap lies in the lack of consensus on the definition and description of the dynamics of spiritual formation as it relates to effective leadership development. A further concern is that the majority of curricula that deal with spirituality and leadership formation are based on non-Christian, or thoroughly secular philosophies and worldviews and as so do not provide much of an avenue for Christians to explore the integration of their faith within a leadership context. It is my conviction that the time has come to address and explore the desperate need for an orthodox, Biblically-based understanding of the nature and dynamics of spiritual formation as it relates to leadership development.

Current research in spirituality, characterized by multi-disciplinary, post-patriarchal, telluric and post-structuralist approaches, locates the phenomena of “spirit” in the ontology of values (see the work of Kees Waaijman for a broader treatment of this). Thus defined, spirituality is seen as the “ultimate” or “inner” values that provide meaning in life. This broad, defining approach provides a platform for scholars to examine a wide variety of spiritualities, ranging from religious to non-religious orientations. Current approaches in spirituality research advocates a “dialogical-phenomenological” research approach making use of the analytical, hermeneutic, mystagogic, form-descriptive, and systematic tools of theology, sociology and psychology.

Contemporary phenomenological investigations in spirituality research, distinguish three basic forms of spirituality (see the ground-breaking work of Kourie and Waaijman in this field): (a) established schools of spirituality, (b) primordial spiritualities, and (c) counter-spirituality. Descriptions of established schools of spirituality describe movements that have its origin in specific historical and socio-cultural settings that over time give rise to discernable schools or ways of the “spirit”. Research of these established schools/ways are marked by investigations of the source-experience, the formation of pedagogical systems, the socio-historical context, the emergence of a values system, the formation of the consistent whole and accessibility of others to the school/way. Primordial spirituality attempts to locate spiritualities that are not closely connected with any school or way, but imbedded in ordinary human experiences such as birth, marriage, having children, experiencing death and suffering. Investigations in primordial spiritualities centers around descriptions of everyday spirituality developed in the context of community, forms of indigenous spiritualities and aspects of secular spirituality. Counter movements in spirituality describes approaches offers alternate solutions to existing social and religious power structures and in research in these fields follows descriptions of systems of liminality, inferiority and marginality.

The surge of interest and development in spirituality research offers new and promising avenues for leadership scholars and practitioners to engage, test and critique the current models and theories of spiritual leadership.

Fry, L W 2003. Towards a Theory of Spiritual Leadership. Leadership Quaterly, Volume 14, Issue 6, pages 693-727.
Kourie, C 2004. Spirituality: Forms, Foundations. Methods. Journal of Empirical Theology 17 no 2, pages 292-293.
Waaijman, K 2002. Spirituality: Forms, Foundations, Methods. Leuven: Peeters.