Search for Meaning
For many leaders, spirituality is “spooky” and “smacks” of religion. Something we were told to avoid, along with politics, in polite conversation. Yet, the search for meaning and purpose is “hard-wired” into us. Note, for our purposes here, religion requires spirituality, but spirituality does not require religion. There is a growing interest in servant leadership, and recent research suggests that it is a desirable and effective approach for all generations. But what exactly is spiritual leadership, and why should I care?
What is Spiritual Leadership?
According to Fry (2003), spiritual leadership is “the values, attitudes, and behaviors that are necessary to intrinsically motivate oneself and others so that they have a sense of spiritual survival through calling and membership” (p. 694–695). In my CEO Study a few years ago, the successful leaders of organization transformation demonstrated individual characteristics, behaviors, and activities that are found in transformational, servant, and spiritual leadership approaches (Latham, 2013). To test the connection between spiritual leadership and organizational excellence, my colleagues, Louis “Jody” Fry (Texas A&M), Sharon Clinebell, and Keiko Krahnke (University of Northern Colorado), and I conducted a quantitative study of Baldrige Award recipient organizations.
The purpose of this research was to extend the research on spiritual leadership and leading transformation by testing the dynamic relationship between spiritual leadership and spiritual well-being (i.e., a sense of calling and membership) and key organizational outcomes in a sample of Baldrige recipient organizations. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), results revealed a positive and statistically significant relationship between spiritual leadership and organizational commitment, unit productivity, and life satisfaction. These relationships were explained or mediated by spiritual well-being. Implications for research and practice are discussed in our Academy of Management Conference paper. | Download Paper
Fry, L. W., Latham, J. R., Clinebell, S., & Krahnke, K. (2014). Spiritual leadership as a model for implementing the Baldrige performance excellence criteria. Paper presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Philadelphia.
Fry, L. W. 2003. Toward a theory of spiritual leadership. The Leadership Quarterly. 14, 693-727.
Fry, L. & Nisiewicz, M. 2013. Maximizing the triple bottom line through spiritual leadership. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Latham, J. R. (2013). A framework for leading the transformation to performance excellence part II: CEO perspectives on leadership behaviors, individual leader characteristics, and organizational culture. Quality Management Journal, 20(3), 22.