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Gonzaga University


Over a century ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson bragged to Henry Thoreau that "at Harvard they teach all branches of learning." Thoreau responded, "Yes, but they don ' t teach the roots" (Jacobs, 1991, p. 277). This sort of commentary continues to this day as a growing number of scholars and practitioners argue that the roots of effective leadership are grounded in the spiritual dimension of individual leaders (e.g., Conger, 1994; Marcie, 1997; Mitroff & Denton, 1999).

While hundreds of articles and books about spirituality and the workplace are now appearing, most are theory-based or anecdotal (Strack, 2001). Very little quantitative and empirical research exists in this subject area. Part of the problem is that spirituality is a complex, abstract, and multidimensional construct that has little consensus among leading scholars. However, Gibbons ( 1999) has pointed out that no matter which concept of spirituality is espoused (e.g., mystical, religious, or secular), they all involve beliefs, values, and practices that must be lived out by an individual with consistency to be spiritual.

One obvious area in which spirituality might be lived out consistently is through leaders hip. Indeed, most leadership scholars assert that a major determinant or motivation for taking on leadership is derived from some source beyond the individual leader; for example, a higher power, a set of immutable spiritual beliefs or values, or a set of higher-level human values (Bolman & Deal, 2001 ; Conger, 1994; Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996; Kouzes & Posner, 2002; Moxley, 2000). This source provides the foundation for the leader's relationship with self and with others. Effective leaders possess, recognize, and use the spiritual dimension of human existence to benefit others in their organizations and communities. Many decades ago McClelland conceptualized this relationship by describing leaders using "socialized power" for the benefit of others rather than "individualized power" for the benefit of self (McClelland & Burnham, 2003).

This current study explores the possible link between spirituality and leadership. Data were collected from over 700 college freshman. They completed the student version of the Leadership Practices Inventory (Kouzes & Posner, 2005) and the Spirituality Assessment Scale (Beazley, 1997). The analysis will investigate how leadership practices and dimensions of spirituality are related among college freshman.

There has been much recent interest in the spirituality of young people (cf. Cannister, 1999; Groen, 2001 ; Grytting, 2003; Klenke, 2003; Manning, 200 l ; Schafer, 1997 ; Smith, 2003). The Higher Education Research Institute (2005) recently launched a national study of student spirituality. It suggested that spirituality points to our interior self (our subjective life) as contrasted to the objective domain of material events and objects. Spirituality is reflected in the values and ideals that we hold most dear, our sense of who we are and where we come from , our beliefs about why we are here - the meaning and purpose we see in our lives - and our connectedness to each other and to the world around us.

Their study acknowledged that each student viewed spirituality in a unique way. The preliminary report found that students place a high value on spirituality broadly defined. For example, 70% say people can grow spiritually without being religious, and 88% say non-religious people can lead lives that are just as moral as religious values dictate. In addition, spirituality was associated with positive physical and psychological health, optimism, sense of personal empowerment, civic responsibility, empathy, racial and ethnic awareness and tolerance, academic performance, and satisfaction with college.


Copyright © 2006 Gonzaga University. Reprinted with permission.



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