Analyzing Leadership Attributes in Faith-Based Organizations: Idealism Versus Reality

Journal of Business Ethics 170 (4):743-757 (2019)

Abstract

This paper aims to contribute to the growing discussion about leadership in the contemporary Church of England with a particular interest in the complex interaction between social context and leadership practices. Implicit leadership theory is used to explore mutual expectations around distributed models of lay and ordained leadership as well as ‘ordinary’ members’ of congregation. Applying a qualitative research method, we conducted 32 semi-structured interviews in 6 Church of England parishes. Through the systematic analysis of relevant contextual factors at multiple levels, we identify limited congruence between ideal leadership attributes and actual behavior. We contribute to the ILT literature by identifying ethical attributes, such as the ability to help others flourish, as particularly pertinent to the religious setting. We also identify the malleability of some leadership attributes. We further contribute to the literature on organizational studies in faith-based organizations by offering novel insights into the relationship between leadership, followership and contextual factors at local parish level which have significant practical implications for recruiting and training church leaders and followers.

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