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Leadership and Spirituality—A “new” model for Academic Leaders

As spirituality moves away from semi-religious practice to a powerful new understanding of the integration of an individual’s life with internal and external realities, the concept is finding more acceptance and value in academic settings. Many top-tier universities have established centers to explore both the science of spirituality and its value for individuals and institutions. For example, the University of Colorado houses the Center for Human Caring that honors the unity of “mind-body-spirit.” The University of Florida, has an established Center for Spirituality and Health with the mission to “pursue research and provide curriculum at the interface of spirituality and the health sciences.” Although this center provides educational opportunities at the interface of spirituality, biomedical science, and health, it has yet to take the step of defining a model, principles, or practices that subscribe to the integration of Leadership and Spirituality. Levinas defined Spirituality as “an ethic of belonging in an infinite field of universal love,”1 which clearly overlaps with the purpose of Leadership, i.e., to create a sense of belonging and equanimity among constituents to achieve optimal results for the benefit of the whole. Thus, we recognize that as academic leaders we are in the “business” of facilitating spiritually transformative experiences among, and for, our constituents. We must also recognize that rapid changes are forcing academic leaders and institutions to grapple with a new “quantum world”2 of unprecedented events and unsustainable practices (climate change, abolition, deforestation, unacceptable levels of greenhouse emissions, global warming) and devastating catastrophes (pandemic, volcanoes erupting, wildfires, flashfloods, and tsunamis).



Most disciplines are redefining themselves to prepare to deal with, manage, and imagine this “new” world with its limitations, stressors, challenges, and opportunities. Unfortunately, academic leaders do not generally subscribe to, nor have they been taught, a model of integrative (spiritual) leadership that can acceptably and adequately guide and inform us in strategy development— as role models of living and working –according to principles of a higher Consciousness. At the heart of this writing is the need and desire to investigate, examine, and propose an Integral Model (integration of Leadership and Spirituality; see Figure, Integral Model)3 to “drive” our future academic leadership activities. This approach may accelerate our group’s evolution towards a responsive, integrative and spiritual leadership empowering us to develop conscious solutions and innovations, while also guiding us in leading and solving the academic challenges of our decade. Time, focus, and dedication is essential to achieving such actions, and I am committing to pioneering such initiatives in my leadership journey.


- Sherrilene Classen PhD


1. Walsh, R.D. (1989). The Priority of Responsibility in the Ethical Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Marquette Univ., Milwaukee, WI.

2. Rosen, S. M. (1982). David Bohm's Wholeness and the implicate order: An interpretive essay. Man-Environment Systems, 12(1), 9-18. (1989). Dissertations (1962–2010) Access via ProQuest Digital Dissertations. AAI9009975.

3. Universal Model of Leadership. https://leadershipcircle.com/en/products/leadership-circle-profile/, retrieved February 2022.

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