Personal and professional spiritual development: ten educational leaders share experiences and insights
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AbstractThe new millennium is a possible time of synthesis, of bringing together multiple ways of knowing. Many educators are challenging the dualism of a disconnected mind and heart approach to leadership and making space for spirituality within leadership practices. More dialogue about the changes that help cultivate a spiritual sensibility are taking place within some public school educational systems. By more openly dialoguing about spirituality at work, educational leaders can rediscover their heart's wisdom, enabling them to view their roles through a fresh lens. In this study, spirituality is defined as a latent inherent truth awakened by contemplation, rituals, peak life experiences and caring acts of kindness; when awakened, spirituality is a sensation of the sacred, a sentiment of hope, a feeling of enthusiasm and excitement, and a heart-felt sense of interconnection with others. Further, the term "heart" is used metaphorically in both analysis of literature and data base, as a symbolism of the tacit nature of spirituality that makes it difficult to articulate in words or encompass in religious organizations. The purpose of the study was to understand the spiritual insights of 10 educational leaders and to explore how an educational leader behaves spiritually. Appreciative inquiry was applied to the research questions: 1.How are the spiritual experiences of educational leaders understood and articulated by educators? 2. In what ways would this articulation of spirituality best contribute to the development of effective leadership? Appreciative inquiry is a constructive approach to research that creates space for new voices and expands circles of dialogue to include discourses about spirituality. It encourages leaders to establish systems that nurture educators within the workplace. Recollections of study participants' personal and professional spiritual experiences were gathered from on-line interviews, two web-page private discussion forums, and follow-up telephone conversations. Exploring spirituality through electronic communication enabled participants to dialogue freely and anonymously on-line within their own selected time frames and locations. They had opportunities to share personal and professional insights about spirituality which moved them beyond muted discourses about spirituality. However, this method of data collection was limited to 10 participants and excluded non-verbal cues that could have been observed in a face-to-face interview. Data were analysed using a triangulated phenomenological, feminist and cooperative inquiry research design. An application of a triangulated approach encourages the application of three different lenses when examining responses to a research question. Qualitative inquirers triangulate among different data sources to enhance the accuracy of a study. The three key concepts found within the literature set the foundation for a synergism: 1. muting discourses about spirituality within educational systems 2. exploring moral issues within educational values, and 3. shifting paradigms affecting educational leadership. These key concepts led to discoveries of threads within the data. After the threads were woven into patterns, they evolved into emergent themes and phases of spiritual leadership development. The phases of spiritual development include 1. awakening spirituality within self, 2 signifying spirituality within the workplace, and 3. cultivating spirituality within leadership practices. A schemata of cultivation of spirituality within self and a schemata of cultivation of spirit within the workplace were outcomes of these phases. Both schemata framed ways that participants have cultivated spirituality within self and spirit within leadership, after their innate spirituality had been awakened. The findings were analyzed to identify key concepts, threads and themes. The overarching key concepts set a foundation for the questions; the data collected from the questions evolved from threads into emergent themes. Then, the emergent themes enfolded into two heart-centred schemata. Working as a team, treating everyone as equals and "walking the talk" are three elements of spiritual leadership shared by all participants. Research implications include applying the findings to better understand how to cultivate spirit within educational leadership practices. Articulation of the findings could assist leaders who are working on personal growth and educators who want to initiate effective leadership training programs. Additionally, answering the research questions provided an original contribution to knowledge that encourages more open communication about the spiritual elements of leadership amongst educators and leaders in other walks of life thus, assisting them to introduce discourses about spirituality. Research inquiries, such as this one, move beyond heart and head dualisms within educational systems and encourage the revision of a narrow bureaucratic leadership style into one that is based upon a more spiritual model. Such practices would assist educators to be more adept at dealing with impressionable children and diverse youth and perhaps avoid professional burnout.
Bibliography: p. 233-252