Spirituality and Effective Leadership in Healthcare: Is There a Connection? / Commentaries / Replies

By Strack, Gary; Fottler, Myron D. et al. | Frontiers of Health Services Management, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Spirituality and Effective Leadership in Healthcare: Is There a Connection? / Commentaries / Replies


Strack, Gary, Fottler, Myron D., Wheatley, Margaret J., Sodomka, Patricia, et al., Frontiers of Health Services Management


LEAD ARTICLE

SUMMARY - DOES THE level of a leader's spirituality affect his or her effectiveness as a leader? The existence or nonexistence of a link between leadership and spirituality is an emerging issue in the healthcare leadership and management literature. This article defines effective leadership and spirituality and reviews the literature for both healthcare and other organizations in the discussion of this link. It concludes that healthcare leaders who are more developed in terms of their actualized spirituality simultaneously implement the five practices of effective leaders: challenge the process, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, model the way, and encourage the heart. Moreover, they achieve more positive results for their organizations.

IN THE FOREWORD to Mitroff and Denton's (1999) book, A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America: A Hard Look at Spirituality, Religion and Values in the Workplace, Warren Bennis states, "The authors demonstrate we are all on a spiritual quest for meaning and the underlying cause of organizational dysfunction, ineffectiveness, and all manner of human stress is the lack of a spiritual foundation in the workplace." Mitroff and Denton's research, which is based on both a conceptual and quantitative integration of spirituality in the work environment, provides support for their conclusions that individuals and organizations that perceive themselves as "more spiritual" perform better in the workplace. They conclude that organizational science can no longer avoid analyzing, understanding, and treating organizations as spiritual entities.

A hundred or so years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson bragged to Henry Thoreau, "At Harvard they teach all branches of learning," and Thoreau responded, "Yes, but they don't teach the roots" (Jacobs 1991, 277). Today many outstanding scholars and practitioners believe that the roots of effective leadership are grounded in the spiritual dimension of the individual leader and that we have been studying the wrong variables (i.e., the branches) for too long (Conger 1994; Kanungo and Mendonca 1996; Marcic 1997; Mitroff and Denton 1999).

Hundreds of articles and books about spirituality and the workplace are now appearing, but most are theory-based or anecdotal (Gibbons 1999; Mitroff and Denton 1999). In 1999, two issues of the Journal of Organizational Change Management were devoted to the subject of spirituality in the workplace (Biberman and Whitty 1999a, 1999b). The Academy of Management has established an interest group called Management, Spirituality and Religion. However, very little quantitative and empirical research exists in this subject area (Graber and Johnson 2001; Mitroff and Denton 1999; Neal, Lichtenstein, and Banner 1999).

SPIRITUALITY DEFINED

Beazley's (1997) work, The Meaning and Measurement of Spirituality in Organizational Settings: Development of a Spirituality Assessment Scale(C) was conceptualized, grounded, and operationalized based on the writings and research in the following areas: (a) traditional religions, (b) popular religiousity/spirituality, (c) organizational behavior literature that relates to spirituality, and (d) the psychological literature that relates to meaning, transcendence, and purpose. His research encompassed and analyzed the writings of the great religious and spiritual traditions, as well as the works of noted scholars, theologians, management theorists, and psychologists.

He defines spirituality as a "faith relationship with the Transcendent" (Beazley 1997, 51). A faith relationship is defined as a "trust in, and loyalty to, centers of value that are of ultimate concern to a human being and to the images of power with which that individual aligns himself or herself and upon which he or she acts, in order

to survive in an uncertain world" (Beazley 1997, 52). However, spirituality is much more than just belief Jacobsen 1994, 87) reported that 20 of 21 transformational leaders, individuals who influence and stimulate others and organizations to reach their full potential, agreed with the following statement about spirituality:

Spirituality is a very difficult word to define. …

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