The journal Christian School Leaders and Spirituality by Susan Banke, Nancy Maldonado and Candance Lacey examines Christian school heads as participants in a study directed towards reviewing the effectiveness and efficiency of the administrators in their role as spiritual leaders in their schools. Through interviews (both face-to-face and on telephone) the participants gave up their experiences and later verified copies of audio-taped records of their interviews to ensure accuracy and authenticity of the data they had provided. With a minimum of five years of experience, the data included the undoubted experience that is reliable in making a conclusive remark on the effectiveness of an effective spiritual leader and lessons to learn from their experiences to help improve the amateurs’ knowledge through sharing. This paper examines the journal and addresses the issues that the authors utilized in obtaining their conclusions.
The authors began with existing theories that define the journey of spiritual leadership and inspiration. They explored the various definitions such as the servant leader. The servant leader according to Greenleaf (1977), who first introduced the concept, is based on a story by Herman Hesse (1956) called the Journey to the East that describes the role of a servant in directing and leading a team through a journey. Greenleaf concluded that a servant leader serves the mission by dedicating his life on serving the people who are on the mission. This theory was also enhanced by other writers that the authors refer. They include Wilkes (1998) who asserted that a servant leader coaches other people and influences them to awaken their potential in accordance to the same vision the leader has in mind or in the organization. Most important in Greenleaf’s theory is the fact that it includes the aspect of spirituality as a crucial part in the success of a servant leadership.
The servant leader is, therefore, accountable for managerial tasks necessary to efficiently run an organization while influencing and inspiring the junior members through spirituality. The duties also involve the need to interact with the community at to support the vision and mission of an organization (especially a school). The spiritual leader also needs to build lasting and reliably strong relationship across the board (with juniors, peers and senior members large in order of the organization).
In the literature review, the authors give a comprehensive study of the work of other researchers effectively. Diving the literature review into three parts (spiritual leadership, school administration and spiritual development), the authors successfully arrange the writers’ ideas into a reasonable and readable work.
Using a sample of 12 participants (school heads), the study gave a comprehensive research on these participants response. Each participant had a minimum of one hour to respond to the open ended questions that also gave room for them to express them freely. The also had the opportunity to carry copies of their interviews and review them to verify their response in accordance to the relevance of the topic and to their satisfaction.
The participants had not only adequate time to share their experiences but also extra time to review their comments. Basing on their experience in the qualitative analyses was justifiable and accurate. I commend the data collection method as sufficient and the data; authentic.
Although experience is a great tool in learning, the authors observed, it is not wise to completely rely on it to determine the success of a learner or spiritual leader. Today, society upholds and magnifies the experience of leaders as the most vital of the skills that qualifies them to lead and influence the society. Although experiences are useful, they should be contained as tools to help in the development of spirituality and not the only consideration. There are other aspects such as emotion and reflection that enable individuals to perceive the concept of spirituality clearly and correctly.
The authors conclude that spiritual development is a process rather than an instant event. Moreover, the development involves an active process of learning rather than passive involvement where one is molded into an effective leader. Instead, the participant should be keenly and deeply involved in order to achieve the desired results.
The journal explores the efficiency of the spiritual programs by examining the preparation of the leadership programs and the experiences that the Christian school leaders undertake in order to complete the course and qualify as Spiritual leaders (Blanchard and Hodges, 2003).
They discuss relevant theories that explain and define Christian education and leadership concepts such as the development theory. In reference to Tye (2000), the authors adequately explain the role of the theory and its relevance in defining Christian education. They write;
Christian education is based on developmental theory. The theory suggests that learning takes place in various stages. Through Christian education, learning takes place on an individual basis in various stages of development.
The theory defines the stages of learning giving explicit definitions of the expectations of each of the stages. It also allows criticism of concepts to help the learners to think widely to develop new ideas crucial in advancing the subject.
The role of Spiritual leaders
Spiritual leaders have numerous tasks to undertake in their duty as both administrators and spiritual leaders. I concur with the authors review on the unlimited roles of the school administrators that relates both spiritual influence and extra curricula activities. Such activities include balancing budgets, managing personal and academic issues, evaluating the learners’ progress, planning and preparing the appropriate curricula rand collaborating with the community to support the mission of the school (Banke et al. 2012). The administrators should attend to all these duties alongside the crucial role of inspiring learners into attaining and realizing their potential leadership skills.
The responsibilities of a spiritual leader extend beyond the congregation that they are accountable for. I agree with the authors when they indicate leaders’ roles to include community involvement, the spiritual development of subordinates and other staff members (if available) and the values of all the people these leaders encounter in their daily tasks (Benefiel, 2008).
The authors refer to various previous researchers and give a wide range of definitions of a spiritual leader. While some definitions focus on the simplicity of the term Spritual leader, others enhance the role of an effective and efficient leader. For example, Wheatley (2002) asserts that a spiritual leader reflects a sense of calling rather than training. It is a person, he insists, that exposes their inner peace and, through actions, manifests their inner desires to develop and improve the spirituality of other people as they do also. The authors also include the definition of Secretan (2007) who concluded that a spiritual leader leads their subjects by giving meaning to everyday life. In this definition, for instance, the authors show that the main role of spiritual leader is relating life experiences with their meaning and purposes to help people appreciate their endeavors and live contented and hopeful. Although the definition offers a crucial role of spiritual leaders in summary, it lacks the description of spiritual leaders as people who help to develop the spiritual lives of others, which too, is an equally important concept.
In the journal Christian School Leaders and Spirituality, the authors acknowledge the fact that observing spirituality in organizations is a crucial step in attaining
The journal accommodates various definitions of spirituality. In reference to Palmer (1998), spirituality involves the various ways individuals employ to satisfy their desires for a deeper and larger connection with other entities. This connection involves relationships between people through interacting in work especially teaching. Palmer writes;
The diverse ways we answer the heart’s longing to be connected with the largeness of life–a longing that animates love and work, especially Christian School Leaders and Spirituality the work called teaching.
In my opinion, the authors failed to explore the details of the human’s hearts desires and define the values that bring comfort and peace. Attaining these values involves a long process through an undefined period. The development into a psychological state of well-being, contentment and happiness is not an instant event.
Spirituality involves one’s commitment to certain defined values that they believe to be helpful (Chafer, 1981; Stokley, 2002; Glasserfel, 2010; Willard, 1988). These values cannot be attained instantly but requires a leaders strive and effort to achieve the results of peace and contentment.
The authors also cite Solomon and Hunter (2002) who describe spirituality as a state of being that influences the way the individuals perceive issues and conduct themselves toward themselves as well as other people that they associate with.
The journal also includes another definition of spirituality that simplifies the concept into transformational and ethical issue (Dent et al., 2005). The definition combines the part the spiritual leader plays in changing people’s lives as well as the moral role of the leader. In this regard, the leader seeks to provide moral guidance, holistic and profound explanation of one’s importance in existing and their role in relationships and interactions. This process, in my opinion, ensures a sustainable and reliable influence to the society.
In reference to Chafer (1981) and Stokley (2002), the authors note that spirituality identifies one’s personality and their outward manifestations. I agree with this definition because it reveals the selflessness of a spiritual leader in acting in accordance to their beliefs. However, with many cases of fraud and pretense in various parts of the world in religious organizations, it is impossible to judge a spiritual leader’s inner identity through their outward appearance and actions. Some of the renowned world religious leaders admit that they act against their beliefs in order to protect their reputation and that of the organizations in which they work. The authors’ assertion that authentic spirituality is evident in one’s actions rather than their inactions lacks the completeness and accuracy.
Research methodology used
Data generation methods
In selecting participants who will contribute the data in the research, the authors used sampling method. Since the research involves a wide area of research, I support the choice of the authors to utilize expertise and skill in selecting groups of participants and maintain the quality of their data. The participants included randomly selected Christian school leaders from various areas across ethnic boundaries and social classes. This random selection ensured fairness and avoided biasness.
In my opinion, the criteria for selection of the participants that involved recommendations of consultants from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and at least five years working as a school administrator was sufficient enough to ensure accurate results. Various leaders had different titles depending on their organizations such as superintendent, principal, president, headmaster or headmistress. The participant with the highest number of experience was 25 years. This range (5-25 years in experience) gave the data the authenticity that is crucial in obtaining accurate results ultimately.
Tools and techniques
The authors prioritized one-on-one interviews with the participants in the study although some took the interview via telephone. Although hectic, the technique enhanced full concentration of the participants. The interviewers were able to gather more information from the non-verbal signs of the participants that are crucial in determining the accuracy of the information they give. In the interviews, the participants are also free to expound on their answers as well as give more information they deem necessary or relevant without a direct question that addresses the issues. Since they have firsthand information, they are also free to control the discussion rather than yield to dictation from the interviewers. I believe that this tool was appropriate in the authors’ efforts to obtain reliable information geared towards obtaining a reasonable conclusion.
According to the authors, the interview was based on their literature review and uniform to all the participants. Each participant had an equal chance and time to express themselves freely in accordance to the questions and relevance of the subject. The authors claim that they used as many open-ended guiding questions as possible alongside the structured ones to ensure as much and as wide information as possible. The sessions also took at least an hour which, to my opinion, is adequate time for the participants to respond sufficiently to the questions. According to the authors, this period gave all the participants enough time to provide their information in comfort without pressure.
Record keeping techniques
All the interviews were, according to the authors, audio taped. The participants also received the copies so they could verify the authenticity and alter or modify the information to the best of their satisfaction. They referred to Gay (2006) who noted that the idea to record the interviews ensured that the data obtained become more objective and authentic especially after verification. Gay asserts that reviewing the recorded interviews enabled the interviewers to relate the participants with the theme and subjects they tackled. After verification and transcription, the interviewers guarantee the accuracy of not only the information but also the detailed meaning that the participants intended to communicate.
The authors based their analyses on Rudestam and Newton’s (2001) design that compares and contrasts the respondents’ feedback in relation to the topic of research. The strategy involves sketching ideas in relation to coding themes of the data (feelings, memories, experiences and images) using the NVivo software. They write;
Data are systematically coded into as many themes and meaning categories as possible. As the categories emerge and are refined, the researcher begins to consider how they relate to one another and what the theoretical implications are. Gradually the theoretical properties of the meaning categories crystallize and form a pattern.
I support the idea the authors employed in leaving the process open to adjustments and modifications in case there was extra data that the participants needed to add. This flexibility gives the participants the freedom and confidence to involve their emotions and feelings.
In defining the term leadership, the authors suggested that it is not only an elusive and mysterious concept but also one that is a mere fabrication of myths rather than reality. The authors seem to create the impression that historical figures such on ancient days may never have existed and their stories are not based on facts. They go on to mention leaders such as recent leaders such as Martin Luther King Junior and Mahatma Gandhi who both lived in the 20th century. I feel that this assertion is inaccurate considering the advancement in media technology in the 20th Century that played a major role in recording the events of the times that these leaders lived. In my opinion, the authors’ assertions are despiteful of the efforts of the media technology in maintaining crucial evidence of not only the existence of such great leaders but also their role in shaping the world that we know today through their influence. Their selflessness, courage and trouble they endured to encourage a large following and give hope to the oppressed are concepts that are based on accurate facts (Benefiel, 2008).
In the journal Christian School Leaders and Spirituality, the authors insinuate that society creates myths from personalities that lived to inspire them by defining their stories with exaggeration. Using spiritual leaders in their illustrations, the authors mention that spiritual leadership is not only an elusive but also a mysterious concept. They write;
What we read as history is really the creation of myths. From an ordinary person, society creates a Napoleon or Gandhi, or a Martin Luther King Jr., or Joan of Arc, someone who acquires mythic status as a shaper of destiny
In referring to Chopra (2010), the authors support the fact that these historical facts are mysterious and, therefore, unreliable. Although these leaders receive most the praise from the society as shapers of destiny after their passing away, their actions are factual. I was especially disappointed by the fact that the authors dismissed recent information contained in both video and audio of some leaders such as Martin Luther King Junior.
I find the journal useful to Christian school leaders. However, conducting a revision of the suggestions in the journal is extremely important considering the influence the journal has on not only the participants but also the readers. Using the participants’ response, the authors suggested that the experiences of the Christian school leaders affected their role as spiritual leaders. Other aspects of their lives such as family, college experiences and the time they spent in church compelled them into behaving in certain ways that influenced their role in spirituality. The participants appreciated the study noting that it enabled them to focus on helping others to nurture their relationship with God. They agreed on the fact that spiritual leadership is more of a calling than a profession and, therefore, needed the definition of purpose and meaning in order to achieve the desired results of helping others in developing their spirituality.
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