Leadership Values Influencing Decision-Making: An Examination of Nine Islamic, Hindu, and Christian Nonprofit Institutions in the US

Article excerpt

The purpose of the present study is to examine the relationship between decision-making, values, and leadership. The study argues that the values of individual leaders can shape the processes of decision-making. Participant observation, content analysis of institutional archives, and structured interview methods are utilized in nine American nonprofit institutions that represent three major faiths in the country, namely Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. The study indicates there are four major organizational values that can characterize decision-making, namely emphasis on learning, balancing human and organizational interests, mutuality, and self-criticism. The study reports that these values create an organizational culture that dominates the decision-making process, and makes it a cultural phenomenon within the institution. The paper discusses the implications of these findings and their relationship with organizational change.

INTRODUCTION1

One of the major responsibilities that board members in nonprofit institutions perform is decision-making, which is a daily function. However, making decisions is not a mechanic matter, rather, it is a human activity in which people's values are involved. The dynamics between decision-making and decision makers' values gains special importance in nonprofit institutions (or faith-based, interchangeably). This is because the constituents of the institution give a mandate of decision-making to elected officers who make the management board. These officers perform their unpaid, volunteering jobs as leaders. Their leadership stems from their legal status as representatives of their community abiding by the institution's bylaws, as well as from their efficacy and ability to dedicate their time and energy to serve the institution voluntarily and devotedly (see, Yaghi, 2007).

American nonprofit organizations that perform faith-based services, such as Islamic centers (mosques), Hindu temples, and churches represent a major element of the American communitybased institutions. Since the early 1900s, American faith-based institutions continue to serve a growing clientele (constituency) in all states (Zogby, 2000; ISNA, 2004; Eck, 2001). Since the clientele is diverse as well as the scope of services the institutions provide is also diverse, there is a need to understand how things are decided about and who can influence these decisions. Therefore, decision-making becomes a central organizational function, which may influence planning, staffing, budgeting, as well as other organizational aspects. Decisions also affect members of the organization because they are either the ones who make decisions or the ones who are subjected to them. Due to this role of decision-making, some researchers argue that decision-making processes or outcomes can be different when the content of decisions is different. Decisionmaking, however, can also be influenced by other factors, such as organizational culture.

The present study explores the organizational culture within nine nonprofit or faith-based institutions and they include: three Islamic mosques, three Hindu temples, and three Christian protestant churches. All these institutions are in the southeastern region of the US In particular, the study examines the relationship between decision-making and the values carried by board members (including institutions head or chairpersons). In doing so, the present study attempts to explain how the values of leaders can be essential in shaping decision-making processes and outcomes. The study utilizes Bozeman and Pandey's model of decision content as a general framework within which the dynamics of organizational culture-decision making are examined (see, Bozeman and Pandey, 2004). This paper also builds on the findings of a case study by Yaghi (2007), who asserts that organizational culture in Islamic centers in the US is a major determinant of decision-making, in addition to other factors. …