Strengths Based Leadership & Leader Spirituality

A Brief Overview of strengths based Leadership + Spirituality

Organizations (for-profit, non-profit, you name it!) heavily influence how individuals and groups navigate through the world and live their lives (Rothausen & Rothausen, 2017). However, there is an impasse in many organizations to develop leaders who embrace self-awareness, reflection, and morality in the decisions they make within their contexts (Rothausen & Rothausen, 2017). To overcome this discrepancy, organizations must not only focus their human resource development initiatives on competency development but also character development. This development, of course, is profoundly connected with an underlying spirituality.

“Higher stages of spiritual development can shift one’s perception of the purpose of life and life’s work, and these stages comprise the highest levels of human development, beyond stages described in models of personality or even moral development. Therefore, spiritual development holds the potential to support and equip business leaders for the moral complexity of the challenges they face in balancing economic profit with higher ends for the common good” (Rothausen & Rothausen, 2017, p. 813).

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Though humanity has practiced different spiritual practices for thousands of years (Roof, Bocarnea & Winston, 2017), the study of leadership + spirituality is a relatively new area of research in modern scholarship (Rothausen & Rothausen, 2017). Historically, spiritual practices were “motivated by religious obligation, tradition, habit, or the sincere desire to connect more closely with God” (Roof, Bocarnea & Winston, 2017, p. 216). Spiritual practices can be a means to the end of spiritual engagement (Roof, Bocarnea & Winston, 2017).

“Spiritual engagement practices… strengthen… a person’s intimacy or connection with God, and are intended to refresh by connecting the heart with the head [and] contribute to conscious living and orientation of the self toward God” (Roof, Bocarnea & Winston, 2017, p. 219).

Research continues to become available on spiritual leadership (SL), spiritual intelligence (SI), spiritually intelligence leadership (SIL), and more. Important for organizations and leaders to recognize is that spirituality can serve as the basis for development and engagement within a context (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018). One general definition offered by scholars includes that “Spiritual intelligence in leadership is uniquely positioned to be a calming, strong, and stable force while allowing the leader to remain flexible and present during times of internal or external change” (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018, p. 2). Another perspective on spirituality highlights the interconnection among a higher power, humanity, and the natural environment. (Gotsis & Grimani , 2017). Though there are many definitions and nuances, spirituality serves as a foundation and area of development for leaders seeking to engage both competency and character — for themselves and others within their context (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018).

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There is a connection between an individual’s spirituality and their wellbeing or purpose (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018). This connection is important for leaders as they seek to develop teams that are efficient and productive. Tapping into an individual’s wellbeing or purpose within their context not only allows an individual to flourish but also the organization. Other research suggests that spirituality is a means and way-maker for individuals to engage other forms of academic and emotional intelligence (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018).

  • Consider the impact SI may have on an individual finding meaning in their work (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018).
  • Consider the impact SI may have on an individual handling complex challenges associated with modern living (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018).
  • Consider the impact SI may have on an individual acting in good character (Newstead et al., 2019).
  • Consider the impact SI may have on an individual creating a positive impact (Newstead et al., 2019).
  • Consider the impact SI may have on an individual bettering society (Newstead et al., 2019).
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Leadership Practice of Strengths-Based Relationships

One perspective of good leadership is of a leader who cultivates relationships and influences “others to do something in a way that is moral/ethical and effective” (Newstead et al., 2019, p. 4). To lead, individuals must engage in building trust and cultivating relationships with others over time (Watson, Kuofie & Dool, 2018). While curating these relationships, strengths awareness is a powerful tool available to assist in developing trusting relationships.

Regardless of which strengths identification tool used (CliftonStrengthsVIA, or others), leveraging strengths within a relationship and context is helpful. A leader must becomes aware of strengths — both their own and those of the individuals on their team. By doing so, the leader and individual can forge a partnership that allows for growth, celebration, use, recognition, and motivation toward strengths application within the context. These strengths-based relationships are then formed over time. An essential aspect of strengths-based relationships is the inclusive basis that is programmed into the relationships. Inclusion calls for the “collaborative and respectful relational practice that enables individuals and collectives to be fully part of the whole, such that they are directed, aligned, and committed toward shared outcomes, for the common good of all, while retaining a sense of authenticity and uniqueness” (Gotsis & Grimani, 2017, p. 911). Strengths-based thinking recognizes that all individuals have value and are gifted in specific areas. A strengths-based leader relies on the rationale of inclusion as they foster these individualized relationships.

Spiritual Practice of Meditation

There are six spiritual practices recognized across the major world religions. Meditation is one of those six spiritual practices, also including prayer, reading sacred texts, fasting, worship, and spiritual rest (Roof, Bocarnea & Winston, 2017). The benefits of meditation include (Roof, Bocarnea & Winston, 2017):

  • Burnout Reduction
  • Positive Mental Health
  • Spiritual Improvement
  • Anxiety Reduction
  • Stress Reduction
  • Overall Development
  • Self-Awareness
  • Moral Development
  • Emotional Stability
  • Positive Change Agent
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What do you think?

  • What connections do you see between leadership + spirituality?
  • How do you practice strengths-based relationships?
  • How do you practice meditation?
  • What leadership + spirituality concepts are you wrestling with today?

What about your organization?

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References

Gotsis, G., & Grimani, K. (2017). The role of spiritual leadership in fostering inclusive workplaces. Personnel Review, 46(5), 908–935. doi:10.1108/PR-11–2015–0286

Newstead, T., Dawkins, S., Macklin, R., & Martin, A. (2019). We don’t need more leaders — we need more good leaders. advancing a virtues-based approach to leader(ship) development. The Leadership Quarterly, , 101312. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2019.101312

Roof, R. A., Bocarnea, M. C., & Winston, B. E. (2017). The spiritual engagement instrument. Asian Journal of Business Ethics, 6(2), 215–232. doi:10.1007/s13520–017–0073-y

Rothausen, T. J., & Rothausen, T. J. (2017). Integrating leadership development with ignatian spirituality: A model for designing a spiritual leader development practice. Journal of Business Ethics, 145(4), 811–829. doi:10.1007/s10551–016–3241–4

Gotsis, G., & Grimani, K. (2017). The role of spiritual leadership in fostering inclusive workplaces. Personnel Review, 46(5), 908–935. doi:10.1108/PR-11–2015–0286

Newstead, T., Dawkins, S., Macklin, R., & Martin, A. (2019). We don’t need more leaders — we need more good leaders. advancing a virtues-based approach to leader(ship) development. The Leadership Quarterly, , 101312. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2019.101312

Roof, R. A., Bocarnea, M. C., & Winston, B. E. (2017). The spiritual engagement instrument. Asian Journal of Business Ethics, 6(2), 215–232. doi:10.1007/s13520–017–0073-y

Rothausen, T. J., & Rothausen, T. J. (2017). Integrating leadership development with ignatian spirituality: A model for designing a spiritual leader development practice. Journal of Business Ethics, 145(4), 811–829. doi:10.1007/s10551–016–3241–4

Watson, M., Kuofie, M., & Dool, R. (2018). Relationship between spiritually intelligent leadership and employee engagement. Journal of Marketing and Management, 9(2), 1–24.