Religion and Leadership
Core religious and philosophical worldviews have a strong bearing on leadership style and effectiveness. Religious and philosophical worldviews provide the ethical and moral foundations for decision-making, which is a critical component of leadership. Moreover, religious and philosophical worldviews impact the ways leaders guide, teach, and serve others.
Worldview extends beyond religion. Defined loosely as “visions of life,” worldviews encompass the “beliefs, values, and principles” that guide behavior and motivate change (Valk, 2010, p. 83). A worldview is a set of mental constructs that impacts the formation of biases and stereotypes. Biases and stereotypes can come in the way of effective leadership. On the other hand, worldviews are influenced by religious beliefs. Religious beliefs impact the formation of ethical codes that define both individual and organizational behavior. A worldview is a paradigm of life. Although a worldview affects more than leadership effectiveness, there are few areas in which worldviews are less palpable than in a social or organizational context. The worldviews of a leader have the potential to impact a whole organization, community, or even a culture. Worldviews that are materialistic in theory will theoretically lead to decisions that do not take spiritual values into account; whereas worldviews that are spiritual in theory will lead to decisions that are more holistic.
In addition to core religious and philosophical worldviews, psychological stances impact leadership abilities and effectiveness. For instance, inner maturity and emotional intelligence are linked strongly to ethical and effective leadership. Emotional intelligence also neatly complements religious and philosophical integrity. Emotional intelligence, inner maturity, and religious worldviews form a leadership matrix that highlights the interconnectedness of psychological and philosophical concepts.
Describe how a person’s worldview and inner maturity can influence the ability to lead effectively
A person’s worldview and inner maturity will influence the ability to lead effectively. Worldview shapes values, ethics, beliefs, biases, and behaviors. Inner maturity comes from self-awareness, self-honesty, and self-esteem. Although it can be tied to biological age, inner maturity is generally unrelated to either age or actual leadership experience. Rather, inner maturity stems from psychological, social, and spiritual health. A young leader with a solid, confident sense of self is more likely to develop a cohesive leadership vision and plan than a senior with a set of disjointed and conflicting values.
Worldview and inner maturity together influence the ability to lead effectively. One reason why worldview and inner maturity work in tandem is that both encourage strong character development. “People of character who operate in a principle-centered fashion and use highly developed moral reasoning as the basis for ethical decision-making are sometimes also referred to as virtuous,” (Sipe & Frick, 2009, p. 19). Virtuous individuals are defined by their inner maturity. Their decisions and actions reflect personal integrity. A virtuous attitude toward leadership entails both “self-oriented values” and “other-oriented values” that, when combined, makes for a particularly effective leader (Sipe & Frick, 2009, p. 20).
Specific ways in which worldview and inner maturity work together to create not just virtuous character but also effective leadership include the following. First, a leader’s managerial style is influenced by attitudes about issues such as diversity, gender, and environmental ethics. Worldviews will determine whether the input of females and non-whites is valued or under-valued in an organization. A worldview will also determine whether the leader views the environment as disposable and value-neutral, versus the environment as sacred and inherently valuable. Inner maturity determines whether the leader remains true to the core value system that has been established via the formation of worldviews.
Identify and explain two philosophical worldviews and one religious worldview that can support servant leadership.
Servant leadership is an evolving concept rooted in the Christian worldview. Although Christian values and ethics comprise the foundation of servant leadership, servant leaders hail from religious backgrounds other than Christianity. In fact, the concept of servant leadership is rooted in non-denominational religious ethics and universal philosophical morals. In addition to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism also support the concept of servant leadership. As an atheistic religion, Buddhism can easily fall under the rubric of philosophical tradition. Christianity, however, is the fundamental underpinning of servant leadership. Agosto (2005) outlines the mission of Jesus as embodying servant leadership. Thus, a religious worldview with Jesus Christ at its center will draw heavily from gospel tradition and allegory. The gospels will provide the ethical foundation for leadership decisions, and also determine how the leader interacts with others.
Moreover, servant leadership encompasses philosophical worldview. “Philosophy is a system in which the ontology, epistemology and axiology informs and impacts ones view of the world,” (Boyum, 2006, p. 5). When Greenleaf first developed the concept of servant leadership, Christianity might have formed the foundation of the theory. Yet servant leadership extends beyond Christianity to draw on philosophy as well. A servant-leader makes “insightful, ethical, and principle-centered decisions,” (Sipe & Frick, 2009, p. 15). Moreover, “servant leadership was derived through analogical or interpretive reasoning,” (Boyum, 2006, p. 9). A philosophical worldview that values interpretive reasoning is one that supports servant leadership. Philosophical traditions related to the nature of God, human nature, and epistemology all support servant leadership. If an individual believes that service to others is a necessary prerequisite for spiritual harmony, then that individual is a servant-leader. One philosophical worldview that would not be compatible with servant-leadership might be utilitarianism. Utilitarian worldviews can easily denigrate the concept of selfless service.
Describe the importance of inner maturity and awareness such as emotional intelligence and the role they play in enabling the leader to model the capacities or characteristics of servant leadership.
Antonakis, Ashkenasy & Dashborough (2009) found that emotional intelligence can indeed be empirically linked to leadership effectiveness. Servant leadership underscores the importance of emotional intelligence. For this reason, servant leadership can be compared with transformational leadership in that both empower and value the input of others. Rosete & Ciarrochi (2005) found that emotional intelligence is directly linked to performance outcomes in the workplace. Thus, servant leadership can be considered an effective leadership model.
Inner maturity and awareness of emotional intelligence must be applied conscientiously in the workplace. Emotional intelligence enables the leader to model the specific characteristics that are unique to servant leadership such as moral authority. The qualities that define servant leadership include moral authority, which is built on emotional intelligence. A leader that is aware of the social and emotional contexts of the workplace will be more likely to serve well in a position of power. Servant leadership is also a systems model, in that it encompasses strategic thinking and acting (Sipe & Frick, 2009).
Values, beliefs, and behaviors will impact leadership styles and ultimately, the success of an organization. Worldview impacts the way a leader manages teams, ascribes to ethical codes, and deals with the rigors of the global marketplace. When a leader’s worldview is rooted in Christian values or the ethics of a similar religious code, that individual is more likely to apply emotional intelligence to organizational decision-making.
Servant leadership draws from religious and philosophical traditions such as Christianity, epistemology, and ontology. In fact, servant leadership draws on multiple philosophical and religious worldviews that include but are not limited to Christianity. Ethics, morals, and worldviews converge in the servant-leader. Drawing from various philosophical and religious traditions can help inspire a servant-leader perspective: one that values both emotional intelligence and inner maturity. Moreover, the gospel stories of Christ can illuminate the pathways toward developing servant leaders. An attitude of love, compassion, and goodwill towards others are components of service leadership. A leader can use a position of power to affect positive change.
Inner maturity is necessary to develop the unique qualities of servant leadership, which depends on integrity and compassion. Maturity can be measured in behaviors as well as attitudes. Communication skills are also a key component of inner maturity. Yet emotional intelligence also comprises good communication skills. An individual who is emotionally intelligent is likely to also be emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually mature. Regardless of the philosophical or religious tradition from which an individual hails, servant-leadership will ensure organizational success. Research shows that emotional intelligence is linked to measurable results in an organization, which is why servant leadership may also ensure the fulfillment of both personal and organizational goals.
The concept of servant leadership is one that is holistic and multifaceted. Servant leadership and transformational leadership go hand in hand. For this reason also, systems theory and servant leadership go hand in hand. Organizations seeking stronger ethical foundations would be wise to cultivate servant leaders. Regardless of whether an organization is a Christian — or any other type of religious — one, servant leadership will ensure a harmonious, cooperative workplace environment. Supporting team members, inspiring positive change and growth, and developing future leaders through mentoring are all components of servant leadership. Behaviors associated with servant leadership are measurable, too. Future research shall elucidate the concrete ways servant leaders promote organizational success.
Agosto, E. (2005). Servant Leadership. Danvers, MA: Chalice.
Antonakis, J., Ashkanasy, N.M. & Dasborough, M.T. (2009). Does leadership need emotional intelligence? The Leadership Quarterly 20(2): 241-261.
Boyum, G. (2006). The Historical and Philosophical Influences on Greenleaf’s Concept of Servant Leadership. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable. Aug 2006. Retrieved online: http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/sl_proceedings/2006/boyum.pdf
Fry, L.F. (2009). Towards a theory of being-centered leadership: Multiple levels of being as context for effective leadership. Human Relations 62(11):1667-1696
Kamalini, K. (2010). A new culture of leadership: service over self. Journal of Christian Nursing 27(1): 46-50.
Rosete, D. & Ciarochi, J. (2005). Emotional intelligence and its relationship to workplace performance outcomes of leadership effectiveness. Leadership and Organization Development Journal 26(5): 388-399.
Sipe, J.W. & Frick, D.M. (2009). Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership. Mahway, NJ: Paulist.
Valk, J. (2010). Leadership for transformation: The impact of a Christian worldview. Journal of Leadership Studies 4(3):83-86.
Wallace, J.R. (2007). Servant leadership: A worldview perspective. International Journal of Leadership Studies 2(2): 114-132. Retrieved online: http://126.96.36.199/acad/global/publications/ijls/new/vol2iss2/Wallace/WallaceV2Is2.pdf
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