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Co-Charismatic Leadership

Critical Perspectives on Spirituality, Ethics and Leadership


Simon Robinson and Jonathan Smith

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.
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Chapter Three: Spirituality and responsibility



Spirituality and responsibility

In the last chapter we explored the meaning of spirituality noting that it involves consciousness of the other, and a connectivity with the other. This connectivity links to a calling of the other (including the self) and a responsiveness to that calling. None of this is easy, not least because it involves finding a meaning in this calling that links with people’s values, especially ethical values, and ethical values, with their own underlying theories, differ greatly. At the heart of this are two ethical tensions, the first between the autonomy of the individual and any normative spirituality. This focuses on self-governance. For many this involves the right to decide for yourself and by extension the right to believe what you want to believe, and to practice what you want to practice. How can that be held if there is a normative spirituality i.e. a correct way of seeing/ constructing perceptions about the world? The second tension is between positive and negative spirituality. This focuses on the idea that spirituality might be put to bad ends. In an organisational / leadership context we see these tensions clearly in the case of Enron, with which we begin this chapter. We then briefly note a wider history of these tensions, initially expressed in the relationship between religion and ethics. The Enlightenment led to attempts to divide rational ethical decision making from ethics based in forms of spirituality are then followed by more holistic views...

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