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Leadership and Spirit: Breathing New Vitality and Energy into Individuals and Organizations / Edition 1

Leadership and Spirit: Breathing New Vitality and Energy into Individuals and Organizations / Edition 1

by Russ S. MoxleyRuss S. Moxley
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Learn how you can harness your inner spirit to help yourself and those around you approach work with a renewed sense of purpose and satisfaction. In this book, Moxley shows how spirit can spawn a more vital and vibrant kind of leadership-one that, in turn, promotes the creativity, vitality, and well-being of others. Here, Moxley examines various leadership practices: those that elevate people's spirits and those that cause the spirit to wither and wane. He offers specific suggestions on what each of us can do to reach a new level of awareness regarding leadership. And he demonstrates how a spirited leadership that values rituals, celebrations, and employee input creates a totally engaged workforce; one that brings the whole person-mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual-to work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780787909499
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 10/29/1999
Series: J-B CCL (Center for Creative Leadership) Series , #3
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.28(w) x 9.35(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

RUSS S. MOXLEY is a senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. Over the past thirty years, he has been an executive coach, a trainer/facilitator in a variety of management and leadership development programs, an OD practitioner, a writer and editor, and a senior-level manager in two different organizations. He received his masters degree in theology from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Read an Excerpt


A Story About This Book

It was seven or eight years ago that a brief conversation started me on a new leg of my life's journey and changed, at least in part, the focus of my work. The conversation brought up ideas that had been below the waterline of my thinking and perceiving but never come to the surface. The conversation happened at an unlikely time and with an unlikely person.

It was a casual conversation over lunch, not the place or time I expect to find deep insights. The person was Roland Nelson, an adjunct staff member at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), where I work. Roland had been president of two colleges in the earlier part of his career and was then on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He also worked as an independent management consultant.

Almost as a side comment, Roland looked at the two of us sitting with him and said, "The most important dimension of leadership is one that those of us who work here are not willing to talk about."

Curious, I bit: "What's that, Roland?"

"It's the spiritual dimension," he said. As soon as the words were spoken, I knew they were true.

For almost thirty years, I have done management development, leadership development, and organization development work in a variety of organizations and in all sectors of the economy-private, public, and independent. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with thousands of managers and executives to help them and the organizations of which they were a part of learn, grow, and change. As one part of this work, I have focused on helping individuals link their heads, hearts, and hands-to integrate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I thought that when they and I integrated these three dimensions of ourselves that have been so long divided, we would find the wholeness we sought. This was my on-the-surface understanding of wholeness.

The conversation with Roland helped me realize that this equation for wholeness wasn't complete. Since then, I have read different types of books and participated in new types of personal and professional development experiences. I have surfaced and written about "below the waterline" ideas in my journal, had deeper conversations with friends and colleagues and clients, observed new realities in the organizations in which I work, seen different dynamics in relationships, and looked at practices of leadership through a new lens.

What I now deeply believe is that we are more than a collection and integration of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We are also spiritual men and women. Spirit is as much a part of us as are those other three dimensions, and it is just as natural as them. Spirit saturates and weaves through all of our experiences-those internal to us, and those that are external-and offers us a source of vitality not available from mental, emotional, or physical energy. Our journey toward wholeness requires that we learn to appreciate and integrate all four of these energies; our understanding and practice of leadership is incomplete unless it includes the use of all four.

I did not come to these beliefs quickly or easily. By personality, preference, and temperament, I prefer data and truth that can be known though one or more of my senses. I am logical and rational. But slowly and over time, as I reflected on my own experience and paid attention to the experience of others, I have come to believe that there are truths that cannot be empirically proven, truths about effective leadership that we have too long ignored. One of those truths is that our practice of leadership either suffocates or elevates spirit.

This book is my attempt to put on paper what I have learned. Several years ago, I heard Peter Block say that he had good news and bad news about the research that provided the basis for one of his books. The good news was that it was based on a longitudinal study. The bad news was that it was based on an N (a number) of one. So it is with this book. The longitudinal study has spanned the thirty years I have engaged in my professional work-even longer if my early work experiences and educational experiences are included, experiences that were formative. But the N is still one. This book reflects what I have learned during those years. To be sure, along the way you will notice that I scatter in bits and pieces of data from others, and sometimes a story or two from others to help make a point. But this book is primarily a reflection of my growing awareness that spirit is a core dimension of the self; leadership and spirit are inextricably linked, for good or bad.

The Purpose of This Book

This book seeks to show how leadership and spirit can be linked to promote new vitality and energy in individuals and organizations. It is my hope that it helps you find new depth of meaning and satisfaction in your work, and in the leadership activities in which you participate. Doing this is not easy. As I try to make clear, linking leadership and spirit requires a new level of awareness and understanding-of ourselves, of others, and of the process of leadership-and the intentional development of new behaviors. But this is a way to make our work worth the investment of our lives.

There are four beliefs underlying this purpose:

The Structure of the Book

The structure of Leadership and Spirit reflects these core beliefs.

The first part, Chapters One to Four, shows why leadership and spirit must be woven together. In Chapter One, I introduce "Composite Corporation" as a story of how and why employees become dispirited because of how leadership is practiced. The threads of leadership and spirit are first woven together in this chapter. The second chapter defines spirit and describes the way it works within us and among us. In Chapter Three, I describe and analyze prevalent practices of leadership, emphasizing those that cause spirit to wither and wane. The final chapter in this first part offers a different way of understanding and practicing leadership, and it provides examples of how this practice looks in day-to-day leadership activities.

Part Two demonstrates why we-each of us-must use our whole self in the activity of leadership; it identifies the capacities we must develop if this different approach is to be used effectively. A core idea stressed throughout the second part is that it is not enough to add new leadership skills or techniques or models to our repertoire, which is what we often attempt to do in leadership development processes. Instead, a focus on our being and our spiritual development must accompany new ways of doing. Getting to know various dimensions of ourselves, including learning how to embrace our shadow, is the emphasis of Chapters Five and Six. Chapter Seven identifies several of the skills and behaviors that reflect and give voice to the true self and that add to our capacity to engage in the activity of leadership. Chapter Eight links leadership, spirit, and community, describing things we can do to foster community.

The final chapter is an Epilogue, a framing of the choices that we each must make to write the endings (as we would like them to turn out) of our individual and organizational stories.

The Audience

For whom is this book intended? It is for men and women who have invested much of their lives in their careers, who have by and large been successful (at least as we usually define success), and who have discovered somewhere along the way that something is missing-that their careers, which promised so much, now appear at the very least somewhat hollow. It is meant for men and women in organizations who want more from work than a paycheck, who are prepared to invest themselves fully in their work, and who know that there must be a way to be a leader and do leadership that encourages the investment of our whole selves and best selves. It is written for workers, supervisors, managers, and executives who hunger for a better way.

In a larger sense, Leadership and Spirit is written for all of us. I make this bold claim because all of us will, during the course of our lives and careers, have opportunities to engage in leadership activities. Parents, teachers, youth workers (and youths themselves), service delivery providers, knowledge workers, widget makers, and those in formal management positions all engage, at least at times, in the activity of leadership. This book is written for all who want to lead fuller and more satisfying lives at work; it is offered with a belief that one way we can do this is to weave together leadership and spirit.

I received some confirmation of this claim from my wife, Jean, a gifted teacher who knows that teaching is her calling. Though the book is not specifically written for teachers, as Jean read each chapter of the draft she talked with me about how she could apply the concepts and practices in her classroom and more broadly in her school.

I hope that you, like Jean, can find useful ideas and concepts that you can apply, practices that will make the places where we work worthy of the time and energy we invest in them.


This book was not written by me alone. Along the path I've traveled in the past thirty years, I have had special teachers who challenged me, encouraged me, expanded my way of thinking and doing. You will find their fingerprints scattered throughout this book. Here I mention but four of the primary ones; there have been many others.

Through workshops, conversations, and his books, Peter Block was one of the first teachers to give me a glimpse of how leadership-or, in his words, stewardship-and spirit could be linked to bring new vitality to individuals and organizations.

Early in my journey, Peter Vaill, now the Distinguished Chair in Management Education at St. Thomas University, came to CCL to engage several of us in a dialogue about integrating leadership and spirit. His thinking was, and is, provocative and helpful.

I remember when I first read the introduction to James Autry's Love and Profit (1991). I was moved by it, and then by the rest of the book. Since then, I have been privileged to get to know Jim and learn with and from him.

More recently, I have learned from the writings of Parker Palmer. I've read and reread his books. His description of the inner journey has left me more willing to go on my own, and from his writings I have clarified my understanding of the link between inner life and outer work.

To these four teachers, I give grateful thanks for their insights and courage.

Several colleagues at the Center for Creative Leadership have taken parts of this journey with me. For the past several years, Robert Burnside, Meena Wilson, Kim Kanaga, Paige Bauswell, and Jessica Crawford have cohosted with me an annual conference on spirit and leadership. I have learned from each of them (and from those who joined us at the conference). Though their language is different from mine, the CCL's Wilfred Drath and Chuck Palus have done seminal thinking about new ways of understanding and practicing leadership, and I have learned from their conceptualizations. Martin Wilcox and Marcia Horowitz are editors at the center, and they have extended steady and needed encouragement. To these colleagues, heartfelt thanks.

One colleague at the center, Paige Bauswell, provided special help in the preparation of the manuscript. She edited the final draft, she demonstrated superb investigative skills as she searched for citations, she helped secure necessary permissions, she covered the office with patience and grace while I was writing. And she did it with skill and good humor. Thanks Paige.

Though I did not expect it, each person who reviewed the initial manuscript of this book identified himself or herself to me. Each gave generously of time and talent to help me clarify and strengthen ideas, and each provided needed support and encouragement. To Mary Lynn Pulley, Mike Murray, Richard Smith, and Peter Vaill, my deep gratitude. And I thank Byron Schneider, Dawn Kilgore, and Thomas Finnegan, the editors at Jossey-Bass with whom I worked, for their careful guidance, their ability to give feedback honestly and kindly, and their steady affirmations. This book is better-ideas presented more clearly and understandably-because of their work. In each of these relationships, I experienced the clear and present reality of spirit.

I have been graced through the years with friends who have shared the story of their journey with me and listened to mine. I think it is fair to say that we have grown together. To Richard Smith again, Virginia Duncan, Mike Murray, Peggy Cartner, George Peabody, Dan Pryor, Carole Hunter, Tim Rouse, Phyliss Hawkins, and Mignon Mazique, special thanks.

I also thank Matt and Ann and all the folks at Tate Street Coffee House in Greensboro, who offered me a space to reflect and write while I listened to good music and drank even better coffee. Tate Street has been my "downtown office" for the last five years.

These acknowledgments would not be complete without recognizing the special women in my life. I am surrounded by them: my mother, two sisters, four daughters, two stepdaughters, and Jean. These are women who engage life fully, each in her own way and with indomitable spirit. I am thankful for the spirit that is in each of them and that connects them to me. My life is fuller and more complete, and I am who I am, in large part because this is true. To each, my thanks and my love.

And a special word of appreciation once again to Jean, who gave me space and encouraged me while I wrote, who celebrated with me when ideas were working and listened to me when they weren't, and who always had confidence I could do it.

The Middle of the Story

When I started to write about leadership and spirit, I did it in a personal journal; my intent was simply to capture my musings. Later, as I was encouraged to turn my musings into a manuscript, I thought I would write about what I had learned over the years from my personal experiences in leadership activities and from working with others engaged in the same pursuit. I had learned, and now I would write-or so I thought.

Table of Contents

Preface: A Story about this Book.

The Authors.


Weaving Together Leadership and Spirit.

Understanding and Experiencing Spirit.

Leadership That Constrains Spirit.

An Inspiriting Alternative: Partnership.


Who Are We to Be?

Developing Our Inner Life.

What Are We to Do?

Fostering Community.

Epilogue: Rewriting the End of Our Story.



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