An exploratory study of the effects of the leaders spirituality on the organisation: comparing leader and follower perceptions.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
This study explores the effects of the leaders’ spirituality on the organisation as perceived by both leaders and followers. The literature on leadership is focused almost exclusively on the leader perspective. The Leadership and Spirituality literature largely assumes positive outcomes for followers and given the Messianic undertones associated with Transformational Leadership in general and Spiritual Leadership Theory specifically, this research set out to explore the perspectives of both leaders and followers as to both the positive and negative outcomes of the leaders’ spirituality. An exploratory case study approach was taken with primary data collected through 29 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with both leader and follower participants. The study focussed on three aspects drawn from the literature: Spiritual Leader as Person, Power and Control, and Purpose beyond Profit. Limited conceptual development and empirical evidence, uncovered a number of assumptions within the literature. Three central themes emerged from the research findings: Emotional Safety, Value Alignment and Blurred Boundaries. The results found that both leaders and followers agreed that the effects of the leaders’ spirituality were a culture of freedom, the need to navigate through ambiguity, stimulation of whole brain thinking and a connection to a higher purpose. However, they both interpreted these effects differently. The results indicate that concepts of individual spirituality create tensions within organisational realities. The practical implications of this study include the need for organisations to create shared moral standards in which to address tensions between allowing spaces for existential meaning making and in preventing against perceptions of unfairness due to leader discretion in decision making. Secondly, if spiritual freedom is to be provided to leaders and followers by organisations then the potential for followers to experience inconsistencies between expected leader behaviours and assumed organisational values is great. Lastly, the research would suggest that organisations consider a focus towards shared organisational goals as opposed to shared organisational values, in order to allow for individual spiritual freedom to be realised. Future research should include exploring tensions between leaders and followers as a means of drawing out possible hegemony that may influence follower and leader perceptions.