Capturing the Heart of Leadership: Spirituality and Community in the New American Workplace

By Gilbert W. Fairholm | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
Defining Spiritual Leadership

There is a crisis of meaning in America. People are searching for significance in what they do, the products they produce, and the services they offer. The community within which we work is becoming our most significant community. Work defines the "real world" for many people. The work organization, where we spend most of our waking hours, provides a focus for life, a measure of personal success. For some, it is replacing family, friendship circles, church, and other social groups.

We Americans have become obsessed with work. Yet in 1994 only 25 percent of workers were extremely satisfied with their work compared to 40 percent in 1973. According to John Renesch, more than forty million people in the United States are seeking a more "intrinsically valued" lifestyle, and the numbers are growing ( Renesch May/June, 1994b). The vast majority of workers responding to his international survey claimed their values and the values of the organization were in conflict.

These numbers suggest that while our work has value in helping secure economic well-being, it is not meeting its human obligations. Now, as in the past, our work has rarely provided us with the opportunity to grow personally and fully express ourselves ( Renesch 1992). Our jobs act to restrain us, perpetuating our insecurities and fears. The organization, the environment, fads and fashions, and the groups with which we affiliate, now provide the norms for most of our behavior. This kind of situation leaves us vulnerable to the propagandist, mass selling techniques, and mass manipulation of ideas, ideals, and mores. And, worse, the tendency is toward mediocrity.

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