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Effective Leadership: Vision, Values and a Spiritual Perspective

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Perhaps it is in this light that we find hope and commitment amid relativism.

Frans Johansson (2004) has offered a similar and somewhat more contemporary perspective through his analysis of Florence Italy’s cultural history during the Renaissance. He identifies what he calls The Medici Effect and offers many examples of how diverse perspectives and disciplines can productively converge to create highly innovative and valuable ideas and products. Having offered these persuasive examples, Johansson (2004, pp. 97-98) presents a couple of reasons for the power of a Medici “intersection”:

“Why is the intersection of disciplines or cultures such a vibrant place for creativity? . . . It increases the chances that an idea will be good because it brings together very different concepts from very different fields. . . [T]here is another, stronger, reason for its power. When you connect two separate fields, you also set off an exponential increase of unique concept combinations, a veritable explosion of ideas. Or, to put it succinctly, if being productive is the best strategy to innovate, then the Intersection is the best place to innovate.”

We propose that spirituality and spiritual leadership—guided by a compelling image of the future and a shared commitment to the greater good—provides the “glue” (Medici intersection) for diverse ideas and viewpoints to come together in an innovative manner.

In Over Our Head: While Kegan’s unified source of illumination and Johannson’s Medici Effect are inspiring and worth pondering as an organizational or community leader, it is also important to identify the challenges being faced while living in a world saturated with diverse, competing perspectives. These challenges exist at several different levels.

At one level, as Gergen has noted, the challenge concerns our own coherent sense of self. Carol Gilligan (1982), who is one of the leading researchers on the lifespan development of women, writes about the splitting that occurs in the lives of young women during their pre-adolescent years (Brown and Gilligan, 1992). There is one “self” that is the “good girl” who does and thinks what society expects. There is another “self” that relates to what the young woman actually thinks and feels (and would like to do).

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Gilligan speculates that this splitting may occur even earlier in the lives of young men. Is this splitting a recent phenomenon among young women and men, or is it simply becoming more evident given reduction in the pressures for young people to conform to societal expectations (at least in many parts of the world)? As Kegan suggests, the challenge is to retain some sense of coherence and discover the underlying unifying source (perhaps what exists outside the cave). How hard is it for any of us to retain this coherence? Are we in the same position as those in younger generations regarding our simultaneous embracing of a real self and one or more alternative selves?

Valuing Diversity by Recognizing Distinctive Strengths and Competencies

We can identify yet another way in which an appreciative perspective can complement and enhance a spiritual perspective. Appreciation in an organizational or community setting can be engaged in the recognition of the distinctive strengths and potential of people working within the organization or community. An appreciative culture is forged when an emphasis is placed on the realization of inherent potential and the uncovering of latent strengths rather than on the identification of weaknesses or deficits. People and organizations “do not need to be fixed. They need constant reaffirmation.” (Cooperrider, 1990, p. 120)

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