Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two Papers Accepted for ILA Conference

I received a notice that two of my presentation proposals have been accepted for the International Leadership Association's International Conference, taking place this November in Los Angeles.

Here are the descriptions of the two presentations:

Towards an Indigenous, Values-based Leadership Approach in Southern Africa

Description: Recent studies have highlighted the desperate need for indigenous, innovative, values-based leadership approaches in Southern Africa. This new, emerging, post-industrial paradigm of leadership has helped South Africans to start to think of leadership as something that is done in community instead of the acts of one privileged individual.

Abstract: The South African Nguni word ubuntu, from the aphorism; “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu – A person is a person because/through others”; can be described as the capacity in African culture to express compassion, reciprocity, solidarity, dignity, humanity and mutuality in the interest of building and maintaining communities with justice and mutual caring. More than a descriptor of African values, ubuntu should be seen as a social philosophy and a spirituality that is deeply embedded in African culture and can thus be describes as the primary foundation of a South African religious worldview. Even though ubuntu finds its semantic origins in Southern Africa the concept is endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Southern African social practice of affective community, as in ubuntu, is not a concept that is easily distilled by methodological scrutiny. Superficial and expedient adoption of the construct by corporate South Africa has not helped to foster a deeper appreciation of its inherent values of interconnectedness, foundational humanity and responsibility to all. A correct way of thinking about ubuntu is to consider it as a basic approach to Southern African spirituality that is manifested in mutuality, solidarity with all and communal enterprise. It is part of the very fabric of indigenous Southern African spiritual and intellectual identity.

Ubuntu, seen in the spirit of participatory humanism, has the power to effect a revitalized commitment in South Africans in the reconstruction of organizations marked by integrity and mutuality. Leaders with the inherent values of ubuntu, as it might relate to business, have been described as, (a) people-centered, (b) humble, (c) ready to enter into dialogue, (d) caring, (e) polite, (f) tolerant, (g) considerate, (h) hospitable and (i) as having an attitude of mutual acceptance or mutuality, amongst other descriptors. An ubuntu–inspired approach to leadership sees community rather that self-determination as the essential aspect of personhood. Thus the accomplishments of the individual (leader) are the accomplishments of the community (organization). South African leaders inspired by ubuntu see their inclusive approach to leadership and business as part of their larger quest for identity. It is in reference to the community that an African person is defined. The South African Venda saying, “Muthu u bebelwa munwe – A person is born for the other”, captures the spirit of this approach of interdependence between self and community. This is more than mere interdependence, the identity of the “self” is defined in finding the “other” in community. It is in locating, entering into honest dialogue and takes steps to relocate the “self” in mutuality with the “other” that the “self” is enriched, formed and defined. This relocation of the “self” in mutuality with the “others” is more than just social, it includes economic and familial decisions.

The value and practice of mutuality in ubuntu is defined paradoxically by the differences found in the “other”. Accommodation and respect for the differences in the “other” flow from a recognition of the common humanity of the “self” and the “other” that in turns facilitates an interior transformation that allows for the radical decisions of mutuality that some South Africans business leaders have made.

The spirituality of mutuality in ubuntu, as it has influenced South African business leaders, allows for the breaking down of the superficial and artificial barriers between the individuals in the community and allows them to see the “other”, discover their mutual humanity and in doing so foster the construction of a caring community that allows for the respectful tolerance of social, cultural, economic and philosophical differences.

The Turn to Spirituality and Historic Understandings of Spiritual Leadership

Description: Contemporary research in spirituality, characterized by multi-disciplinary, post-patriarchal, telluric and post-structuralist approaches, locates the phenomena of “spirit” in the ontology of values (Kourie, 2006). 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 secular orientations. This trend in spirituality research is thus not limited to religious contexts and has also been observed in the fields of business, commerce and lately in organizational leadership studies (Winston, 2007). Current approaches in spirituality research advocate a “dialogical-phenomenological” research approach making use of the analytical, hermeneutic, mystagogic, form-descriptive, and systematic tools of theology, sociology and psychology (Kourie, 2006). This is a rich ground to explore the spiritualities that could motivate, energize and sustain the possibility of alternative, current, and sustainable models of spiritual leadership.

Abstract: Current phenomenological investigations in spirituality research distinguish three basic forms of spirituality (Waaijman, 2006): a) established schools of spirituality, (b) primordial spiritualities, and (c) counter-spirituality. Descriptions of established schools of spirituality (Waaijman, 2002) 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 value system, the formation of the consistent whole and accessibility of others to the school/way. Primordial spirituality (Waaijman, 2002) 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 center around descriptions of everyday spirituality developed in the context of community, forms of indigenous spiritualities and aspects of secular spirituality. Counter movements in spirituality (Waaijman, 2002) describe approaches that offer alternate solutions to existing social and religious power structures and the research in these fields follows descriptions of systems of liminality, inferiority and marginality.

This proposal makes use of Waaijman’s (2006) matrix for defining spirituality to explore and discuss examples of spiritualities that include leadership as part of its “inner” values. The discussions are not comprehensive of the phenomena, but limited in example and brief in overview, with the intention to illustrate the link between the current turn to spirituality and the emerging field of spiritual leadership studies. Two established schools of spirituality, as it relates to spiritual leadership, are discussed: the asceticism of early Egyptian monasticism and the kenotic mysticism of St. Francis of Assisi. In exploring primordial spiritualities, the example of the participatory mutuality of the South African philosophy of ubuntu is explored. Finally one example of a counter-movement in spirituality and the implications for an understanding of spiritual leadership is presented: the witness of the Puritan and Quaker Christian traditions.

The presentation concludes with an overview and critique on past theories and models of Spiritual leadership.

Proposal References:
Kourie, C.E.T. (2006). The “Turn” to Spirituality. Acta Theologica Supplementum 8, 19-38.

Waaijman, K. (2002). Spirituality: Forms, Foundations, Methods. Leuven: Peeters.

Winston, B.E. (2007). Spirituality at workplace: Changing Management Paradigm, in Sing-Sengupta, S. and Fields, D. Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership. Delhi: Macmillan.