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Literature Review

2 March, 2015 - 10:41
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The idea that there may be people who are more attuned to spirituality can be found in the work of Abraham Maslow. Maslow described the hierarchy of needs that humans have (Lowry, 1973). He discussed higher and lower needs. The needs range from simple life sustaining needs to the need for humans to be respected. At the top of his triangle, Maslow described the self-actualized person (Maslow, 1970). People at this level still need the lower levels to sustain them, but they are less dependent on them.

Maslow (1970) described self-actualized people as psychologically healthy. They are not afraid to make mistakes but rather choose to learn from them. They tend to jump right in to their work and attempt to do their best. They are accepting of self, others, and their surroundings. They are humans in the fullest sense of the word; comfortable with themselves and honest (Lowry, 1973). Self-actualized people are spontaneous, both outwardly and inwardly. They can see reality easily, denoting a great feeling of experiencing the present ("Self-actualization," n.d.).

A key in Maslow's description of self-actualized people is the detachment from things. This detachment helps one to concentrates and to act without fear of personal loss; a trait that a leader must have. While these people are focused on the ends, they do not lose sight of the importance and value of the means. They, in fact, see the means as ends in themselves as they experience them, thus seeing their deeper significance. This approaches what Maslow calls a mystic experience. The everyday moments produce emotions, feelings of wonder and awe, and appreciation of their meaning. Maslow says that centuries ago such people would have been called "Godly."

Here Maslow is setting the stage for a nonreligious spirituality. Self-actualized people are spiritual people. They look for and find meaning in events as did the biblical people. They understand values and can easily apply values to life situations with little difficulty (Lowry, 1973; Maslow, 1970).

Spirituality in leadership is being discussed in different disciplines. Sergiovanni (1992) looked at the spirituality in educational venues. He said that leaders build communities of learners and cultivate the leadership potential of followers. He stated that beliefs and values inform the theories and reflections, which, in turn, affect the decisions and actions of leaders. Leaders' actions ultimately are derived from leaders' interior values and visions.

Sergiovanni (1992) makes a point about authenticity. Leaders are the same person at home and at work. Leaders must be in touch with basic values and base decisions and actions on those values. Leaders who are authentic people are more effective in leading communities of followers to see that they are interconnected with each other. Being led by the meaning of the work, the followers will be led by intrinsic values rather than by rewards.

Sergiovanni (1992) noted that an important aspect of leadership is being a servant. True leaders put their own interests behind those of others. Only secure leaders can give power to others. They do not put their position ahead of the people (Maxwell, 1999). The idea of servant leadership is missing from most theories of leadership (Sergiovanni, 1992). A servant leader may appear weak. It takes a secure leader to serve others.

Peter Vaill (Vaill, 1998), a thinker in the business world, writes that the boundary between the secular and the sacred needs to be redefined. He discusses the idea of managerial leadership. This discussion describes leaders who work within the systems they are changing. Managerial leaders are interested in values and community.

Vaill (1998) reports that for the past 30 years there has been a battle in the academic world between the idea of a managerial leader as a pragmatist and the idea that such a leader is reflective. On one side the academicians argue for the emphasis to be put on the action and results of a leader. The other side emphasizes the wisdom, perception, and the complexity of the leader. Thomas Aquinas said contemplarietcontemplataaliistradere, translated as contemplate and give to others the fruits of your contemplation. Aquinas is proposing compromise between the two camps of the contemplative monk and the religious leaders working in the secular world. This is exactly what Vaill proposes. There is to be a balance between the two ideas. Managerial leaders have an interior life which affects their actions. They reflect deeply on experiences, examine consequences, and dialogue with stakeholders. This entails a search for meaning. Vaill calls for leaders and followers to discover their interconnectedness.

Recently more writers have looked at spiritual leadership as it applies to education. Blankstein, Houston, and Cole (Houston, Blankstein, & Cole, 2008), editors of The Soul of Education Leadership, discussed many aspects of the place of spirituality in leadership. Houston and Sokolow (2006) examined eight principles that shape effective leadership. These are principles that are used by enlightened leaders who are in touch with their spirituality. Leaders' intention is where the plan of action starts. Intention attracts people, aligns actions, and focuses energy. Attention to thought also focuses energy. Leaders pay attention to their thoughts, others, situations, and issues. Attention greatly helps to reduce distractions. Enlightened leaders realize that all have gifts and talents. Leaders discover their own gifts and lead others to find their gifts. They celebrate the uniqueness of each individual. Gratitude is the fourth key principle. Leaders are aware of life's blessings and see goodness in obstacles and adversaries. They are grateful for opportunities to help others. Unique life's lessons help leaders to see experiences as part of human development and spiritual growth. Each ending is a new beginning. The connectedness of all things illustrates a holistic perspective. Small changes create large effects. Leaders see that the parts and the whole are related. They identify patterns and show them to others in the organization. Houston and Sokolow emphasize openness as a key principle. Spiritual leaders foster openness in their leadership. Openness in turn promotes growth in self and others. Trust is the last principle. Trust allows people to grow. The authors encourage leaders to trust themselves, others, and the Universe. This trust stems from integrity that is woven through the eight principles of spiritually grounded leaders.

Spirituality in leadership is absent from early theories of leadership (Vaill, 1998). Yet, the spirituality of leaders has direct influences on leadership. Looking at ancient people who had a more holistic idea of life leads us to a fuller realization of a force that plays a role in how values turn into action, the place of integrity or authenticity, and the interconnectedness of life. Current writers are helping us understand this newly discovered power and its manifestations.