Having burned the Straw Man of Christian spiritual leadership, what can we learn from Jesus about leading ethically?

Christopher Mabey, Mervyn Conroy, Karen Blakeley, Sara De Marco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In considering what it means to lead organizations effectively and ethically, the literature comprising spirituality at work (SAW) and spiritual leadership theory (SLT) has become highly influential, especially in the USA. It has also attracted significant criticism. While in this paper, we endorse this critique, we argue that the strand of literature which purportedly takes a Christian standpoint within the wider SAW school of thought, largely misconstrues and misapplies the teaching of its founder, Jesus. As a result, in dismissing the claims and application of SAW and SLT, there is a real risk that we lose the vital contribution of Christian thought, not least some of the timeless counter-cultural wisdom of Jesus which, we contend, offers a vital foundation to the practice of ethical leadership and business ethics in organizations. In proposing a way forward, two thorny issues which face all leaders are addressed: dealing with ego and closing the gap between what we say and what we do. The more we understand about the dynamics of human nature, the more we learn about the profundity of Jesus’ teachings. We then propose a number of ways in which Jesus-centred ethical leadership can be practised. Each is radical and each implies risk: both the personal risk of inner renewal arising from repentance as a doorway to personal integrity, as well as the risk of opposing unethical practices and promoting the excellence of core practices in the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Early online date17 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2016


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