Co-Charismatic Leadership

Critical Perspectives on Spirituality, Ethics and Leadership

by Simon Robinson (Author) Jonathan Smith (Author)
©2014 Monographs VIII, 326 Pages
Series: Frontiers of Business Ethics, Volume 10


Current theories of leadership, spirituality and ethics are inadequate for the global, rapidly changing and complex environment in which leaders work today. Emerging from this book’s critical analysis comes a new theory of leadership: co-charismatic leadership. This does not mean leadership focused in ‘charisma’, or the special qualities or charm of an individual. Charisma originates from the Greek word for gift or grace. Rather it emphasises the relational nature of charisma, as both shared throughout the community and dependent upon mutual relationships within the community. The charismata are in effect virtues, to be practised in the community by all members, hence the ‘co’ in the title.
The authors argue for a leadership that enables virtues, informed by the ongoing narrative of and dialogue in the community, to be practised in the community and beyond. These virtues enable the practice of responsibility, and taking that responsibility for ideas, values and practice is itself central to leadership. Through the practice of responsibility everybody in the organisation becomes a leader in some way. The task of the authorised leader is to enable all this.
This book will appeal to both practitioner and academic audiences alike as it provides an engaging mix of theory and practical application which tests and applies the concepts explored in a range of practical case studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Praise for Co-Charismatic Leadership
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Structure of the book
  • Chapter One: Leadership
  • Defining leadership
  • Individual leadership and traits
  • Value-centred leadership
  • Transformational leadership
  • Critiques of transformational leadership
  • Servant leadership
  • Critiques of servant leadership
  • Returning to transactional leadership
  • Relational leadership
  • Complexity theory leadership
  • Eco-leadership theory
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter Two: Spirituality and values
  • Introduction
  • The context
  • Spirituality
  • Spirituality as positive or negative
  • Spirituality and religion
  • Current definitions of spirituality
  • Connection
  • Spirituality in the workplace
  • Values
  • Identity
  • Holism
  • Spirituality and holism
  • Holistic models
  • Wilber’s Integral Leadership
  • The Holistic Development Model
  • Malcolm’s holistic approach to leadership
  • Gallegos Nava’s (2000) Integrated Model of Holistic Education
  • Rayment’s and Smith’s Global Fitness Framework (GFF)
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Three: Spirituality and responsibility
  • Enron
  • Reflections on the Enron case
  • Spirituality and responsibility: A brief background
  • Responsibility
  • Imputability
  • Accountability to
  • Liability for
  • The interactivity of modes of responsibility
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Four: Spirituality, virtues and leadership
  • Introduction
  • Case: Arthur Andersen
  • Spirituality and virtues
  • Virtue ethics theory
  • Limitations of virtue theory
  • Virtues and leadership
  • Practical wisdom
  • Empathy
  • Justice
  • Respect
  • Other virtues
  • Hope
  • Goals
  • Pathways
  • Agency
  • Realistic hope
  • Ground of hope
  • Faith
  • Integrity
  • The virtues, complexity and co-charismatic leadership
  • Vices and affective complexity
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Five: Authority, power and spirituality
  • Leadership, authority and power
  • Henriad
  • Henry V
  • Rhetoric and responsibility
  • Leadership and ambiguity
  • Dialogue
  • Difference and peace building
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Six: Spirituality and management
  • Manager’s Oath
  • The identity of management
  • Case: Space management
  • Management and professions
  • The profession of management
  • Governance
  • Comply or explain
  • King III
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Seven: Spirituality and the organisation
  • Introduction
  • Unitarist or pluralist perspective
  • Embracing the spiritual dimension in the organisation
  • Spirituality and acceptable forms in an organisational context
  • Reasons for embracing spirituality
  • Policy and practice – Reward Management
  • Handling difference
  • The police
  • The Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL)
  • Excursus on philia
  • The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on religious discrimination (BBC 2013)
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Eight: Benefits of spirituality in work
  • Introduction
  • Evidence of the benefits
  • External
  • Internal
  • Themes and weaknesses with current research on spirituality
  • Limitations of proxy measures
  • Conflicting findings
  • The tensions
  • Spirituality as fixed
  • Managing uncertainty
  • Negative aspects to spirituality in organisations
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter Nine: Educating leaders
  • Introduction
  • Attributes
  • The purpose of management education
  • Planetary wellbeing
  • Business Needs
  • Employability
  • Underpinning issues
  • Implications for pedagogy
  • Reflective practice
  • The development of responsibility
  • Spirituality in management education
  • Examples of good practice
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Ten: In practice
  • Organisational breakdown
  • Francis report
  • Francis and beyond
  • Co-charismatic leadership in practice
  • Vision
  • Values and principles
  • The board
  • Finding time and space
  • The unknown
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index


This book presents a critical analysis of leadership, spirituality and values, and from this argues that current theories are inadequate for the global, rapidly changing and complex environment in which leaders work today. Emerging from this critical analysis comes our proposal for a new theory of leadership which we have termed co-charismatic leadership. By that we do not mean leadership focused in the ‘charisma’ of the individual leader. In other words it is not simply about the special qualities or charm of an individual, be they powerful or mystical, which enable her to take followers where she wants them to be. Charisma originates from the Greek word for gift or grace. This emphasises the relational nature of charisma, as both shared throughout the community, and dependent upon mutual relationships within the community. The charismata are in effect virtues, to be practised in the community by all members, hence the ‘co’ in the title. We are arguing therefore for a view of leadership that moves us away from the focus on a special or elite individual, and the traits that mark them out, to leadership that enables virtues, informed by the ongoing narrative of and dialogue in the community, to be practised in the community and beyond. We argue that these virtues enable the practice of responsibility, and that taking responsibility for ideas, values and practice is itself central to leadership. Through the practice of responsibility everybody in the organisation becomes a leader in some way. The task of the authorised leader is to enable all this.

Whilst this book is focused in business and professional ethics it speaks to three different audiences, not all of whom currently speak to each other. Our aim in this dialogue is to challenge the theoretical underpinning of all of these areas, but also to establish critical connections between them. We hope this will provide a more inclusive theory to aid understanding and practice of leadership in a complex, rapidly changing global context. In this we are not trying to assert a Western perspective, still less any particular religious perspective. The work emphasises the importance of a dialogic and critical focus embracing difference and plurality and how to handle these, both within organisations and beyond.

One audience involves leadership, practitioners and theorists. We challenge traditional views of charismatic leadership, based in the individual leader and theories which focus on the transformational role of the leader. The latter are often themselves referred to as charismatic or neo-charismatic. We distinguish our work from these: focusing on a broader understanding of character, placing a greater emphasis on virtues, the development of a culture of critical dialogue, through all of which responsibility is embodied across the community of practice. We also aim to show that our view of leadership relates to and develops theories of relational and emergent leadership. In particular we aim to show this approach is focused in dialogue with multiple and complex narratives within and outside the organisation. We argue that this is the path to addressing issues of complexity theory.

The second audience is those involved with spirituality and its application in the work place. Our co-charismatic approach challenges traditional views of spirituality. In particular, we want to reclaim holism. Many views of spirituality espouse holism without working through its full implications. In arguing for greater focus on affect, for instance, the importance of the intellect and critical questioning is often lost, seen rather as a lack of faith. Equally, the somatic, or embodied aspect, is often lost, through stress on the transcendent view of spirituality. This can lead to a lack of genuine engagement with problems and difficulties in the workplace and a lack of critical engagement with theory and research in spirituality at work. Hence, many researchers assume a simplistic connection between spirituality and leadership effectiveness, as we show in Chapter Eight. We argue that cognitive, affective, somatic and relational aspects of holistic meaning, which are vital elements of spirituality, have all to be given full value in practice, and that this centres on the practice of responsibility. In this we argue that critical engagement with, and not simply tolerance of, difference along with the potential for conflict, is key to spirituality. Such engagement involves transcendence in terms of relational engagement, finding the self in relationship, as distinct from views of spirituality which stress spiritual transcendence as simply moving beyond the self. Our focus is on spirituality in a generic sense, inclusive of religion, noting that whatever the definition of spirituality there is a need to bridge the gap between agency (the autonomy of the individual) and structure (with stress on order, but danger of imposing meaning).

The third audience is involved in business and professional ethics. A virtue ethicist might look at our proposals and suggest this is simply virtue ethics, and needs little engagement with the other audiences. Indeed it could be argued that virtue ethics theory is a strong corrective to the trait theory of leadership, locking into meaning making (narrative) and the practice of virtues in the community. However, virtue ethics theory is challenged by our critique of the spirituality literature, in relation to complexity and difference as part of the community and as part of the social environment with which the community engages, and the need to engage this critically. We argue also that virtues are directly connected to the practice of responsibility and dialogue. Spirituality also critically tests virtue theory. Integrity and practical wisdom, for instance, can be seen as focused in consciousness, as much as end, purpose, congruence or coherence.

The book then is an attempt to engage these audiences around mutual reflection on the meaning and practice of leadership and its relationship to ethics. We attempt to sum up co-charismatic leadership under seven heads, which emerge through the book, each of which we will relate to holism and virtues:


– Consciousness of the other, holistic meaning making (cognitive, affective, somatic and relational), involving awareness of thought, feeling, value, practice, and impact.

– Connectivity, appreciation (valuing) our relationship with the other, involving a sense of belonging, solidarity.

– Criticality, involving a testing of difference. We argue that awareness and testing of difference is key to spirituality. The presence of the other, and the connected narratives, challenges our understanding, meaning making, and beliefs. It also works against the dominance of single narratives. Hence, plurality in community is to be welcomed.

– Commitment to person and purpose and project over time – all three are key to consciousness. It is hard to be aware of the other without being there for them, something which ties closely to the idea of shared and universal responsibility.

– Community. Community is key to identity, which is in turn key to relationship and meaning. On the one hand this means developing the disciplines of community which involved mutual support and shared responsibility. This requires a well worked out culture (system and discipline of meaning making). On the other hand this also requires working with difference both inside and outside the community, enabling learning and an associated sense of journey.

– Character. This focuses in the virtues, the embodiment of shared meaning and value. Virtues are both strengthened by spirituality, not least in the stress on consciousness as much as any sense of ethical value. They also strengthen spirituality. Their practice enables responsible action, including responsible leadership. Consciousness includes awareness of moral limitations, including dispositions which limit awareness and the capacity to respond to the social and physical environment (the vices).

– Creativity. The focus on character and community takes leadership away from the realm of utility and tools to ontology and existentialist concerns. Spirituality and any leadership based in it is about the person and her engagement with meaning. In this respect practice, action is a further embodiment of meaning, focused in the negotiation of shared responsibility, and the creation of value that moves beyond the individual and the organisation. This reminds us that spirituality is as much physical and relational as it is about concepts or feelings.


All these aspects of spirituality, we argue, are to be embodied in the leader and enabled in the members of the organisation and beyond. Hence, it takes us beyond simplistic views of stakeholder relationships and management. They are also underpinned by and embody a complex view of responsibility, focusing on agency, accountability and shared responsibility for the social and physical environment. In turn this depends upon mutual critical dialogue.

Structure of the book

Chapter One critically examines leadership theory, from traditional charismatic, neo-charismatic, transformational, servant, transactional and relational, to emerging theories of leadership. We argue that in the theories focused in value there is not enough attention to agency and critical testing and that in relational theories there is not enough attention to different levels of complexity and the means of responding to it. We conclude that the impetus is towards the handling of increased complexity and to leadership which is often characterised as focused in spirituality.

The second chapter examines the meaning of spirituality and how this relates to leadership, focusing on holistic meaning making and consciousness (awareness and appreciation of the other) and connectedness.

Chapter Three moves into the importance of criticality, commitment and creativity as different aspects of responsibility, noting the existential basis of much of this. The fourth chapter focuses on character and how this is practised in community. The practice of responsibility and virtues are a key part of bridging the gap between agency and structure, moving beyond the charisma of individual leadership (trait theory) to the charismata of the community, enabling leadership that is dispersed and able to practice multiple responsibility based in different holding different narratives in community. The implications of this co-charismatic leadership are then worked out through the next chapters.

Chapter Five uses the example of Shakespeare’s Henry V to show how complex narratives, including those of power and authority, can be engaged holistically, and goes on to develop the place of dialogue and conflict resolution theory in leadership. The next chapter looks more closely at the nature of complexity in an organisation, noting the dangers of polarising different narratives. An example from Higher Education examines the very different narratives which compete to inform leadership and management, and which are focused in different aspects of value and meaning. In this chapter we explore the ways that professions can relate to spirituality, and the importance of including management in the professional dialogue, not simply dismissing it as value-neutral.

Chapter Seven focuses on different aspects of the complexity of any organisation, not least different spiritualities that may be brought to work and how these are affected by work legislation. The following chapter extends the critique of spirituality at work presentations to claims about the positive effect of spirituality on the workforce, arguing against the use of spirituality as a tool to enhance workplace experience or productivity.

Chapter Nine looks at the leadership education and the place of spirituality. It argues that business schools in particular have not begun to address the issues put forward by this book. This is partly because of the positivistic paradigm, asserting value neutrality and utility, that informs much of the curriculum, partly because of the lack of a genuinely holistic perspective, and partly because the lack of critical reflectivity, and connections, between disciplines and different aspects of the intellect (from rationality to affective agendas).

The final chapter attempts to summarise the book and offers two perspectives of practice. The first critically examines the case of the Mid Staffs Hospital Trust and provides a response. The second offers positive examples of what co-charismatic leadership might look like in practice.



This chapter focuses on the meaning and practice of leadership. Most commonly this is seen in terms of business. However, simply to assert that business is the context of management and leadership can be misleading. First, ‘business’ involves a wide variety of institutions, from small corner shops to multi-billion pound multinational organisations. Second, business is not an isolated practice. In global contexts for instance, businesses may be connected to politics, with para-state corporations.1 Third, leadership and management are critical in public organisations as well as organisations in the market place. Public sector organisations such as health, police and education and not for profit organisations such as charities and Non-Governmental Organisations (from religious institutions to sports teams) all require management of people, physical resources and finances as well as leadership in the sense of setting and communicating vision. What are often counted as the traditional professions such as medicine or the law, often also offer a strong sense of leadership applicable to wider society as much as the profession. There is an on-going debate about how leadership relates to management (Western 2008). Some see them as quite distinct, with leaders as focused in vision and direction. Others suggest they are much the same or at least overlapping. We will examine this relationship, and the meaning of management, more closely in Chapter Six.

In this chapter we will critically examine some of the traditional views of leadership, often based in quasi scientific theory, and argue that there are strengths and also weaknesses with all these theories. One of the most significant factors they overlook is that of value and meaning. We argue that this is a significant omission because it does not address issues of underlying meaning. We will then critically examine the theories which place value and particularly ethical value at the centre of leadership, including transformational, transactional, and servant leadership. We end this section with an exploration of the emerging theories of leadership and management, including eco-leadership, social relations and servant leadership. We will argue that even theories that are ethics centred are inadequate, because they ignore or do not critically work through underlying worldviews or the epistemological issues behind them. This is important because it raises questions about power and freedom in leadership. We argue that to address this omission requires a critical engagement with spirituality.


VIII, 326
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (February)
community environment responsibility
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. 326 pp.

Biographical notes

Simon Robinson (Author) Jonathan Smith (Author)

Simon Robinson is Professor of Applied and Professional Ethics at Leeds Metropolitan University. Educated at the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, Robinson became a psychiatric social worker before entering the Church of England priesthood in 1978. He entered university chaplaincy in Edinburgh and Leeds, developing research and lecturing in areas of applied ethics and business ethics. In 2004 he joined Leeds Metropolitan University. He has written and researched extensively in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, the nature and dynamics of responsibility, equality, ethics and culture, and ethics and care. He is co-general editor of the Peter Lang book series New International Studies in Applied Ethics, and director of the Centre for Governance, Leadership and Global Responsibility. Jonathan Smith (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer at the Lord Ashcroft International Business School at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK, where he leads a number of innovative master’s level leadership and HRM courses. He coaches and supports leaders and HR professionals in the research, design and implementation of best practice initiatives. His current research, consulting and development interests are focused on organisational, team and individual transformation through spiritual leadership; development and training within the police; and sustainable development for businesses.


Title: Co-Charismatic Leadership
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