Spirituality at work, and its implications for leadership and followership: a post-structuralist perspective

Tourish, Dennis and Tourish, Naheed (2010) Spirituality at work, and its implications for leadership and followership: a post-structuralist perspective. Leadership, 6 (2). pp. 207-224. ISSN 1742-7150

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Recent years have witnessed a significant growth of interest in spirituality at work (SAW), and in particular in spirituality management and leadership development. This article argues that the literature in the area is replete with paradoxes, many of which may be irresolvable. These revolve around how spirituality is defined, with advocates variously stressing its religious dimensions, usually from a Christian perspective, and others articulating a more secular approach focusing on non-denominational humanistic values. Much of the literature assumes that the values of business leaders reflect unitarist rather than sectional interests. In exploring these contradictions, this article adopts a post-structuralist perspective to argue that SAW seeks to abolish the distinction between people’s work-based lives on the one hand, and their personal lives and value systems on the other. Influence is conceived in uni-directional terms: it flows from ‘spiritual’ and powerful leaders to more or less compliant followers, deemed to be in need of enlightenment, rather than vice versa. It enhances the influence of leaders over followers, on the assumption that stable, consistent and coherent follower identities can be manufactured, capable of facilitating the achievement of leaders’ goals. We argue that SAW therefore promotes constricting cultural and behavioural norms, and thus seeks to reinforce the power of leaders at the expense of autonomy for their followers. Rather than encourage leaders to abolish the distinction between the private and public spaces inhabited by followers, in the name of liberation, we conclude that these should be preserved and extended.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Business and Management
Depositing User: Stacey Goldup
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2017 06:00
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2017 06:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/68495
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