Article Review on Role of Spirituality in practice of Adult Education Leaders

Response Article

Jeanette Justice Fleming and Bradley C. Courtenay’s study “The Role of Spirituality in the Practice of Adult Education Leaders” gives a detailed explanation and analysis of what spirituality is. They begin by defining spirituality as the part of an individual’s identity that brings forth a connection to a Higher Being, nature, and other people. According to them, spirituality has played an integral role in the Influence of how organizational leaders, especially those in educational institutions use power, make decisions, and communicate with their workers and other stakeholders within the organizations (Waaijman, 2002). In coming up with definitions of spirituality, Fleming and Courtenay conducted a study where the participants practiced various leadership styles that showed a reflection of their individual perceptions of spirituality. In their study, Fleming and Courtenay largely focused on distinguishing spirituality from religion. In the modern world, there have been misconceptions and misunderstandings of what spirituality and religion are. In a few case, people mistake spirituality for religion and vice versa. The study carried out by the two indicates that there is a clear distinction between the two terms. They articulate that some of their participants described religion as a concept that focuses more on the rules and regulations that govern social behavior (Kunin, 2003). For instance, Christianity as a religion stresses on specific behaviors that its followers should adopt (Kunin, 2003). Islam, on the other hand, has its specific rules and regulations that govern social behavior (Kunin, 2003). In contrast to religion, Fleming and Courtenay opine that some of the participants defined spirituality as a concept that involves an individual searching for identity and meaning. Thus, for someone to be described as spiritual, he or she must have an identity or connection with a Higher Being, which for Christians, it is God whereas for Muslims, it is Allah. Despite the extensive analysis and discussions exhibited in the study, it raises more questions than answers on a number of definitions highlighted. Moreover, there is concern about the research methodologies used during the study. Therefore, there is a need to challenge some of the definitions given, as well as the research methodologies that Fleming and Courtenay capitalize on to facilitate their study.

Challenge on Definitions Offered for Spirituality in Organizational Leadership

Fleming and Courtenay’s definition of spirituality should be challenged. In their study, the two take into consideration the definition given by leaders on spirituality. They argue that spirituality is in a way related to religion, and it is part of an individual’s identity that connects him or her to a Higher Being, others or, the natural world. They go ahead to argue that spirituality is an aspect that plays an integral role in the provision of a calling to profession that people instill in ethical frameworks and use as a resource during challenging times (Waaijman, 2002). According to their study, it comes to mind that spirituality in one way or another influences decisions that leaders make in their organizations, how they use power, and how they communicate with their workers. In essence, in the real life situation, this cannot be taken and embraced as a credible definition of the term spirituality. The study inclines spirituality to leaders only. However, every person or individual can be described as being spiritual in nature, despite the background, race, or position held in the society (Waaijman, 2002). A common and perfect definition of the term spirituality in real life situation would be “a personal transformation process that is either in accordance with traditional and modern religious beliefs or with psychological growth and development of any given religious context” (Waaijman, 2002). A good number of modern researchers have the argument that the term spirituality does not have a single definition that people widely-agree with. Besides, it is believed that the term spirituality can be applied in various practices among different communities across the globe (Waaijman, 2002).

Subsequently, Fleming and Courtenay opine that the way the modern generation define and perceive spirituality is greatly determined and influenced by their understanding and knowledge of how to use it in their day-to-day lives. They add that people are in a position to communicate effectively, efficiently, and freely only when there is an acknowledged agreement on the meaning of the word ‘spirituality’ (Burkhardt & Nagai-Jacobson, 2002). In addition, people have come up with their definitions of the world itself, and this is due to the fact that languages across the globe are ever changing. Thus, there have been misunderstandings and different views and perceptions of various words, such as spirituality. From the study, there is an argument that the term spirituality and religion are synonymous. This is greatly challenged by the fact that people from different parts of the world have their definitions and views about spirituality (Burkhardt & Nagai-Jacobson, 2002). The fact that the study considers spirituality as a sense of connection is refutable. Questions are often raised about what the connection and what it entails. If the study argues that spiritual people have a sense of connection, then what and whom are they connected to? Necessarily, the sense of connection does not have to be to a Higher Being or the natural world as opined in the study. People of the ancient times were also believed to be spiritual yet they were not aware of the existence of a Higher Being (Burkhardt & Nagai-Jacobson, 2002).

It should also be noted that Fleming and Courtenay’s study while focusing on fifteen participants, found out that there is neither a connection nor a relationship between religion and spirituality. From the study, it is found out that almost all participants confirmed that there was no relationship between spirituality and religion. Some of the differences given by the participants of the study include the fact that whereas religion of rote and dogmatic, spirituality focuses more on who an individual is and why he is in existence in the present world, not forgetting his relationship with God. A larger percentage of the participants affirm the fact spirituality is a deep and personal concept that involves the search for identity and meaning (Burkhardt & Nagai-Jacobson, 2002). Thus, from the study at hand, it can be concluded that there is no glimpse of any connection or relationship that exists between spirituality and religion. However, this is not the case, and this argument needs to be challenged. In the modern generation, one irrefutable fact is that without spirituality then there is no religion (Burkhardt & Nagai-Jacobson, 2002). For instance, for a person, a Christian to be specific, to follow the set rules and regulations that push for the exhibition of specific social behaviors, he or she must be spiritual. That is to say, it is essential for people to have personal identities and connections to God in order to follow religious demands towards the exhibition of exemplary societal or social behaviors. This is a similar situation for the Muslim community. Apparently, a Muslim believer must have a personal identity and connection to Allah in order to implement the societal and social, behavioral demands of the Islamic religion. If this does not take place, then the Muslim believer does not qualify to be considered either as a spiritual person or as a religious person. Therefore, there is a significant relationship and connection between spirituality and religion, an aspect that is refuted by Fleming and Courtenay’s study (Kunin, 2003).

In their study, Fleming and Courtenay are in support of the fact that there is need to integrate and bring spirituality and religion to the workplace. This has been a cause of disagreement in the recent years. Although they recognize the fact that bringing as well as integrating spirituality and religion in the workplace could result in negative implications, Fleming and Courtenay go ahead to support the campaigns lobbying for the inclusion and integration of spirituality and religion in the workplace. This is attributed to their argument that spirituality and religion should be allowed in the workplace while saving specific religious rituals for a person’s private and confidential life. In the modern world, there have been enormous disagreements among people about the idea or opinion of including religion and spirituality at the workplace. There are several educational institutions that have faced a danger of destruction because of the wars that have erupted among stakeholders because of the introduction of the idea of being spiritual and religious. The number of teachers who have lost their jobs as well as dignity for opposing the introduction of spirituality and religion at the workplace cannot be ignored. The idea and opinion of integrating and including spirituality and religion as supported by Fleming and Courtenay’s study should be opposed if peace, stability, as well as understanding, are to be enhanced at the workplace especially in educational institutions. In the current world, there is a wide social and interactional gap that exists between the Christian and Islamic religions. There have been frequent wars between Christian believing and Muslim countries (Küng, 2005). For instance, for several years, the war between the US and Iraq seemed a war against Islam for several people. Muslim countries and communities organized retaliatory attacks on the US. There have also been wars between Israel, a Christian country and other nations such as Palestine where the dominant religion is Islam. The tag of war between the two religions has moved to the workplace, and the results of integrating and including spirituality and religion at the workplace will not be pleasant (Küng, 2005). There is a need for people to organize strong campaigns that push for the abolishment and abandonment of religion and spirituality at the workplace as suggested by the Fleming and Courtenay’s study (Küng, 2005).

With the opinions and ideas that Fleming and Courtenay have about spirituality and religion, it is with no surprise that they argue that spirituality is an aspect of personal identity. The researchers in this case have the belief that the choices made by people in life, as well as the callings or vocations that people get to their personal experiences in life are as a result of the influence of spirituality and religion (Waaijman, 2002). In other words, according to Fleming and Courtenay, the behaviors that people exhibit in the modern generation are out of the influence of spirituality and religion yet this is not the case. Moreover, the study argues that personality makes people who they are (Waaijman, 2002). Is it right to say that a person is humble because of spirituality? Is it right to make a conclusion that a person is harsh with neighbors because of spirituality? In addition, is it right to conclude that a person appreciates and is happy with life because of spirituality? The experiences that people have in life have exact answers to such questions. Arguably, spirituality and religion neither have an influence of people’s lives nor they make people be who they are (Burkhardt & Nagai-Jacobson, 2002). The argument that being spiritual and religious makes an individual happy and social as argued by the study is vague. Apparently, across the globe, there are a number of people who are not spiritual or religious yet their experiences are all about happy moments and social interactions. Besides, there are several individuals who are harsh and cruel with their neighbors, and it cannot be argued that their behavior has been influenced by religion or spirituality (Burkhardt & Nagai-Jacobson, 2002). People need to disregard or ignore the argument brought forth by Fleming and Courtenay’s study that spirituality, which is like the inner being, makes people who they are. There is a need for people to come up with new ideas and opinions about the factors that determine or influence who they are.

Another surprising argument that comes out in Fleming and Courtenay’s study is that spirituality and religion play an integral role in influencing a person’s leadership qualities. According to the study, leadership is defined or rather described as a lonely and humbling experience that leaves people feeling vulnerable and inadequate in the desire to meet the demands of the role. The study argues that spirituality acts as resources that have a hand in the leadership decisions that people in leadership positions make. The study adds that it is impossible to succeed and thrive in leadership positions without having spiritual foundations. Most of the participants that contribute towards the study have the perception that it is more or less difficult experience for organizational leaders to maintain and sustain their organizations without traces of spirituality and religion. Most of the participants in the study argue that spirituality is an important component that keeps leaders going forward in their bid to achieve their organizational objectives (Yasuno, 2008). There is also an argument that spirituality among organizational leaders, comforts, gives peace of mind, provides hope, inspires, and motivates. In essence, there is no glimpse of truth in these arguments (Yasuno, 2008). How many organizational leaders have been successful yet they are neither spiritual nor religious? In addition, how many organizational leaders have motivated, inspired, comforted, provided hope, and given peace of mind to their employees and other organizational stakeholders without necessarily being spiritual or religious? It is not necessary that a person becomes spiritual in order for him or her to succeed in the organizational duties. Leadership qualities are inborn. It does not matter what level of spirituality that a person has. If a person was born to be a leader, then there is no doubt that he or she will exhibit excellent leadership qualities (Yasuno, 2008).

Challenge on the Specific Research Methodologies Utilized In the Study

Every study uses different methods of data collection, and this is dependent on the topic of study or the community of study. If the community or space of study is small, sampling is not necessary. However, a large space of research requires that sampling is used in order to do away with the possibility of time wastage and higher expenses. Similarly, Fleming and Courtenay’s study aimed at examining the role of spirituality in the practice of leadership within adult education settings. Owing to the large space and huge community of research, it was necessary for the researchers to have a sample of participants for the study. The total number of participants who took part in the study is 15, and this is after other three declined to take part. One of the methods used in data collection during the study was the use of interviews. Notably, participants were issued with interview questions to which they responded giving their opinions and views on the definition of spirituality, the influence of spirituality on leadership, as well as the description of spirituality. However, there is need to challenge this method of data collection. First, the information provided by the participants when responding to the interview questions cannot be trusted. Besides, there is a possibility that the participants collaborated when responding to the questions hence the validity and reliability of the data and information collected are questionable. Another possibility is that some of the participants may have failed to submit their interview responses thus raising doubts on the validity and reliability of the study. It is also evident that there was a follow-up activity that included phone calls to the participants. This was very expensive and tiresome given the large number of interviewees in relation to that of the interviewers. Apparently, rather than using the written interview method to collect data from the participants, the researchers would have capitalized on the use of the oral interview method to collect data from the respondents. The oral interview method is advantageous because it is less expensive and helps save time. Moreover, the data collected through oral interviews can be trusted more as compared to the data collected through written interviews. It also comes to mind that after data collection, the findings of the study were mailed to the participants in response to their accuracy of voice as well as interpretation. The process where communication between the participants and researchers takes place through the exchange of emails raises more questions than answers. Without a doubt, there is a possibility that not all the participants would receive the emails sent to them. Moreover, there is no way the researcher should trust the fact that the responses given were particularly from the participants of the study. The fact that there were loopholes in the research and data collection methodologies used during the study cannot be ignored. Moreover, it would be difficult for the researchers to defend the validity and reliability of their study


Burkhardt, M. A., & Nagai-Jacobson, M. G. (2002). Spirituality: Living our connectedness. Albany, N.Y: Delmar/Thomson Learning.

Küng, H. (2005). Religion, violence and “holy wars”. International Review of the Red Cross, 87(858), 253-268.

Kunin, S. D. (2003). Religion: The modern theories. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press.

Waaijman, K. (2002). Spirituality: Forms, foundations, methods. Leuven: Peeters.

Yasuno, M. (2008). The Role of Spirituality in Leadership for Social Change. Spirituality in Higher Education Newsletter, 4(3).