A New Vision of Leadership

June 1995

Deep Spirituality Moves Leaders to Effectively Serve Community

A new vision of leadership has emerged, one in which the leader continues the tradition of the health ministry and energizes it for the challenges of the future. The new leader is moved by a deep spirituality, seamlessly integrates interpersonal relationship competencies with professional expertise, and leads his or her Catholic healthcare organization in providing outstanding service to its community.

This vision springs from a landmark study, "Transformational Leadership for the Healing Ministry: Competencies for the Future," sponsored by CHA's Center for Leadership Excellence, which delivers a detailed picture of the characteristics of outstanding leaders in Catholic healthcare (see Health Progress, June 1994).

The research findings are rich in information about the specific behaviors that make effective leaders. The study identified 18 critical competencies demonstrated by successful leaders in the Church's health ministry. To present them, the researchers commissioned by the center developed a "transformational leadership" model showing the dynamic interrelationships among these 18 competencies. This model is now serving as a framework for the services and products currently offered and under development by the center.

At the Core, Spirituality
"The findings of our research emphatically show the impact of deep personal spirituality in motivating effective leadership behavior," says Regina M. Clifton, executive director of the Center for Leadership Excellence. "About two-thirds of the behaviors demonstrating the other competencies we identified were clearly the effect of the leader's core of spirituality. We have empirical data to prove this."

In the transformational leadership model, spirituality is defined by the following three competencies:

  • Finding meaning, discerning purpose in what one does and what happens to one's organization
  • Faith in God, seeing God's presence in the events of everyday life
  • Positive affiliation, an intrinsic desire to be in relationships with other people

A growing recognition of the importance of spirituality is evident throughout contemporary culture, in the popular press, in management literature, and in best-selling books like The Celestine Prophecy, a novel by James Redfield, and Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore.

Interviewed for the center's educational videotape, "A New Vision of Leadership," Margaret Wheatley, a management consultant and author of Leadership and the New Science, said the current interest in spirituality is the reaction to extreme materialism predominant during the 1980s. "I've always been struck by Mother Teresa's comment that the deepest poverty she experienced was in America because we had a poverty of the soul," she said. The search for the spiritual, she added, was a search for answers to the question, "How do I connect through my life with something greater than my life?"

"For leaders in our ministry, spirituality, whether defined as faith or meaning in life, gives them a sense of being called to serve," says Clifton. "That call is their most powerful motivator, and it is a strong source of hope for the future of Catholic healthcare."

Leading with Heart and Head
Faced with an environment of increasing needs and diminishing resources, effective leaders in the healthcare ministry have to be good businesspeople. The leaders studied in the center's research demonstrated professional skills such as information seeking and analytical thinking.

Successful leadership of organizations that have many employees; work with large physician groups; and deliver care to patients, families, and communities requires another set of competencies, as well — competencies in relationships with people. The research identified these competencies, such as an ability to deal with people's failures firmly yet compassionately and an interest in meeting the needs of the poor and marginalized.

"These leaders are not good businesspeople first, nor are they primarily caring people," Clifton says. "They demonstrate a synthesis of these two sides of leadership, and that synthesis is one of the things that makes them outstanding. It's their inner spirituality that makes the synthesis possible — their call to positive affiliation with others and sense of meaning in the work they do — for some, the call to be God's instrument in the world," she adds. "In an environment that is becoming more and more difficult for healthcare providers, that blending of what we call 'heart and head' competencies is necessary to carry on our mission."

Service to the Community
The transformational leadership model includes several integrating competencies that build on the other characteristics of effective leadership. The most striking is "Insight-driven Strategic Action," a thought-value-action process that results in service to people in need. "This action is such an important piece of leadership. These leaders do something," Clifton says. "They make change happen."

Service is the tradition of the Catholic health ministry. The center's research clearly indicates that service to the community is the output of effective leadership.

Learning Opportunities
Clifton points out that the center is committed to spreading this new vision throughout the healthcare ministry. The center has recently released a videotape and discussion tool about the vision for use by teams at all levels within healthcare organizations (see "A New Resource From the Center" at the end of this article).

Recognizing the importance of spirituality in effective leadership, the center is currently developing a curriculum of learning opportunities for ministry executives to explore and develop their own spiritual lives.

"This is a very exciting project," Clifton says. "We are examining a variety of experiences that will put people in closer touch with their inner selves and develop deeper relationships with their roles in the health ministry."

—Ed Giganti


A new learning tool on outstanding leadership in the ministry is now available from CHA's Center for Leadership Excellence. This three-part discussion resource includes a videotape, facilitator's guide, and participant work sheets.

Through the thought-provoking videotape segments and facilitated discussions, participants can examine the importance of spirituality, the blend of heart and head — interpersonal and professional — strengths, and service to the community.

"Although 'A New Vision of Leadership' was designed for use by groups within healthcare organizations, it is also a good tool for individuals to use for personal reflection on their roles in the organization," says Regina Clifton, the center's executive director.

"A New Vision of Leadership" is available for $55 from the Center for Leadership Excellence. To order, call Dottie Freitag in CHA's order processing department, 314-253-3458, or complete and return the business reply card inserted in this issue.


Copyright © 1995 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

A New Vision Of Leadership

Copyright © 1995 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.