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How exemplary Christian leaders discern their higher purpose

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Gilbert A Jacobs
Abstract:
Although leadership literature has asserted the importance of purpose and vision in leadership, there has been a lack of empirical studies on how leaders discern their purpose that informs their vision. This empirical study is distinctive in its systematic examination of the factors that contribute to the discernment of a higher purpose by examining a diverse group of 10 exemplary Christian leaders. The microtheory suggested by this investigation evolved from data generated using Moustakas's (1994) phenomenological approach to study the leaders in this investigation and from the grounded theory procedures developed by Strauss and Corbin (1998). The central logic of the theoretical model from this study suggests that when there is dissonance in the environment (i.e., gaps between God's will as revealed in the Bible and the condition of the world), exemplary Christian leaders experienced cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) due to their spiritual formation (Mulholland, 1993). This acts as a motivator for the leaders to reduce the dissonance. The influence of others through social modeling and verbal persuasion (Bandura, 1986) encourages exemplary Christian leaders to discern a higher purpose aimed at reducing the dissonance in their environment. Intervening conditions can challenge exemplary Christian leaders during the process of discerning their higher purpose. Strategies employed by exemplary Christian leaders to overcome these challenges and to discern their higher purpose include (a) the counsel of trusted people, (b) prayer, and (c) critical reflection. Similar to the behavioral model by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980), the evidence from this study suggests exemplary Christian leaders' belief in God and the encouragement of others overrides the leaders' attitude towards their personal limitations and opposing forces in the discernment of the leaders' higher purpose (intention) which informs the vision they communicate to others (behavior).

Table of Contents Abstract....................................................................................................................iii Dedication................................................................................................................iv Acknowledgements....................................................................................................v List of Tables...........................................................................................................ix List of Figures............................................................................................................x Definition of Terms..................................................................................................xi Chapter 1 – Introduction............................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem....................................................................................3 Purpose of the Study...........................................................................................3 The Research Question.......................................................................................4 Significance of the Study....................................................................................4 Chapter 2 – Literature Review...................................................................................5 Leadership Theory and Vision............................................................................5 Leadership....................................................................................................5 Vision in Leadership Theory.......................................................................6 Authentic Leadership..........................................................................................7 Charismatic Leadership......................................................................................7 Exemplary Leadership........................................................................................8 Spiritual Leadership............................................................................................8 Transformational Leadership..............................................................................8 Visionary Leadership or Leadership That Matters.............................................9 Characteristics of Vision...................................................................................10 Purpose in Vision..............................................................................................11 Formation of Vision and Purpose.....................................................................13 Intuitive Perspective on Vision Formulation.............................................13 Rational Perspective on Vision Formulation.............................................16 Social Interactive Perspective on Vision Formulation..............................18 The Christian Perspective on Discerning Vision and Purpose.........................21 Summary of the Literature Review...................................................................25 Chapter 3 – Method..................................................................................................28

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Sample...............................................................................................................28 Procedures.........................................................................................................31 Qualitative Research Strategy....................................................................31 Role of the Researcher...............................................................................32 Data Collection Procedures.......................................................................32 Data Analysis Procedures..........................................................................33 Preliminary Pilot Findings................................................................................34 Summary of the Method...................................................................................36 Chapter 4 – Results..................................................................................................37 The Visual Model.............................................................................................37 Conditions Influencing the Phenomenon..........................................................38 Context.......................................................................................................38 Causal Conditions......................................................................................40 Intervening Conditions..............................................................................44 Strategies in Discerning Their Higher Purpose.........................................46 Consequences – Discerning a Higher Purpose..........................................50 Summary of the Results of the Study...............................................................52 Chapter 5 – Discussion............................................................................................54 Empirically Grounded Theoretical Propositions..............................................54 Limitations of the Study....................................................................................56 Delimitations..............................................................................................56 Limitations.................................................................................................57 Implications for Leadership Researchers and Practitioners..............................58 Contribution to the Literature....................................................................58 Benefits for Practitioners...........................................................................58 Recommendations for Future Research............................................................59 Conclusion........................................................................................................60 References................................................................................................................62 Appendix A..............................................................................................................68 Role of the Researcher.............................................................................................68 Appendix B..............................................................................................................69

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Causal Conditions....................................................................................................69 Appendix C............................................................................................................109 Intervening Conditions...........................................................................................109 Appendix D............................................................................................................118 Context...................................................................................................................118 Appendix E............................................................................................................129 Strategies................................................................................................................129 Appendix F.............................................................................................................164 Consequences.........................................................................................................164 Appendix G............................................................................................................179

How Exemplary Christian Leaders Discern Their Higher Purpose ix

List of Tables Table 1: Granados’ (2005) Nine Principles for Vision Development.....................17  Table 2: Subjects’ Profile.........................................................................................30 

How Exemplary Christian Leaders Discern Their Higher Purpose x

List of Figures Figure 1: Theoretical model of how a Christian leader discerns his or her purpose from a formal pilot study..............................................................................35 Figure 2: A theoretical model showing how exemplary Christian leaders discern their higher purpose......................................................................................38 Figure 3: A theoretical model showing how exemplary Christian leaders discern their higher purpose......................................................................................55

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Definition of Terms Core ideology “consists of two distinct parts: core values, a system of guiding principles and tenets; and core purpose, the organization’s most fundamental reason for existence” (Collins & Porras, 1996, p. 66). Disciple of Jesus Christ is defined as someone who endeavors to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ taught his disciples to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37, New International Version) and to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). Exemplary Christian Leader is defined as a person who has made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and has influenced the thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors of a significant number of people in ways that honor God. Leadership is a process of influencing the thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors of people. Purpose is defined as the intention of the leader or the organization to add a distinct and unique contribution to the world. It answers the question, “Why do we exist?” (Senge, 1990, p. 223) Spiritual formation, from a Christian perspective, is defined as “(1) a process (2) of being conformed (3) to the image of Christ (4) for the sake of others” (Mulholland, 1993, p. 15). Vision is a mental image of a realistic, credible, and attractive future. “A well-conceived vision consists of two major components—core ideology and an envisioned future” (Collins & Porras, 2002, p. 220).

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Chapter 1 – Introduction “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

For many leadership scholars, purpose is an important part of vision in leadership. “Real vision cannot be understood in isolation from the idea of purpose. By purpose, I mean an individual’s sense of why he is alive” (Senge, 1990, p. 148). According to Warren Bennis (as cited in Loeb, 1994), “The No. 1 requirement for a leader . . . [is] a strongly defined sense of purpose” (p. 242). Senge (1990) suggested: The leader’s purpose story is both personal and universal. It defines her or his life’s work. It ennobles his efforts, yet leaves an abiding humility that keeps him from taking his own successes and failures too seriously. It brings a unique depth of meaning to his vision, a larger landscape upon which his personal dreams and goals standout as landmarks on a longer journey. But what is most important, this story is central to his ability to lead. It places his organization’s purpose, its reason for being, within a context of “where we’ve come from and where we’re headed,” where the “we” goes beyond the organization itself to humankind more broadly. In this sense, they naturally see their organization as a vehicle for bringing learning and change into society. This is the power of the purpose story—it provides a single integrating set of ideas that gives meaning to all aspects of the leader’s work. . . . Out of this deeper story and sense of purpose or destiny, the leader develops a unique relationship to his or her own personal vision. He or she becomes a steward of the vision. (p. 346)

Collins and Porras (2002) posited, “A well-conceived vision consists of two major components—core ideology and an envisioned future” (p. 220). They indicated core ideology consists of core values and core purpose. A compelling vision is an essential construct associated with effective leadership. Drucker (2001), a notable thinker on vision and leadership, said, “An effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision” (p. 271). Nanus (1992) posited, “There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared” (p. 3). Examples of leadership theories that suggest vision is a key to effective

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leadership include charismatic leadership (Conger & Kanungo, 1987), exemplary leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 1995), transformational leadership (Bass, 1998, 1990; Burns, 1978), and spiritual leadership (Fry, 2003). According to Conger and Kanungo (1998), vision is a significant ingredient in charismatic leadership theory. They posited a three-stage model for describing charismatic leadership as a process that influences organizational members from where they are towards an idealized future vision. They suggested charismatic leaders (a) are sensitive to environmental constraints and able to identify deficits and opportunities for change in their environment, (b) communicate an idealized future vision that harmonizes with followers’ needs and abilities, and (c) are creative in employing unusual means to achieve their vision. Research by Kouzes and Posner (1995) has indicated leaders inspire a shared vision and through this shared vision, create a unity of purpose for themselves and their followers. Their findings suggest the leader’s belief and enthusiasm for the shared purpose and vision inspires followers. Vision is a key factor in transformational leadership because it helps people to understand the purpose, objectives, and priorities of the organization (Bass, 1990, 1998; Burns, 1978; Yukl, 2002). “Envisioning is the creating of an image of a desired future organizational state that can serve as a guide for interim strategies, decisions, and behavior. It is fundamental to effective executive leadership” (Bass, 1990, p. 214). Tichy and Devanna (1990) posited, “the most essential component of a transformation is a vision of the future desired state” (p. 116). Fry’s (2003) theory of spiritual leadership includes “creating a vision wherein organization members experience a sense of calling in that their life has meaning and makes a difference” (p. 695). Fry suggested that this vision (a) has broad appeal to stakeholders, (b) defines the “destination and the journey” (p. 695), (c) reflects high ideals, (d) encourages hope/faith, and (e) encourages “a standard of excellence” (p. 695). Fry posited the essence of motivating leadership is “the act of establishing a culture with values that influences others to strongly desire, mobilize, and struggle for a shared vision” (p. 698).

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O’Connor, Mumford, Clifton, Gessner, and Connelly (1995) asserted that a leader’s beliefs, motives, and self-concept influence the vision they create. Strange and Mumford (2002) suggested that the leader creates his or her purpose by reflecting on his or her experiences, and these reflections inform the creation of the leader’s purpose which leads to the vision that inspires their followers. Popper, Mayseless, and Castelnovo (2000) bemoaned the lack of studies that have illuminated the processes by which leaders create their sense of higher purpose and vision. Strange and Mumford (2002) suggested that the internal process by which leaders construct their purpose and vision has been under- explored. The lack of empirical research on how leaders discern their purpose that informs their vision was the impetus for this study. Statement of the Problem Although the leader’s purpose, which drives the leader’s vision, is recognized as a major motivating factor in influencing followers, there has not been a clear understanding of how leaders arrive at their purpose that informs their vision. Because of the lack of empirical research on how leaders arrive at their purpose (Kouzes & Posner, 2004; Parameshwar, 2006; Yukl, 2002), our understanding of this phenomenon is limited. Therefore, this dissertation addresses the need for a better understanding of how leaders discern their purpose that informs their vision. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this empirical study is to develop a deeper understanding of how exemplary Christian leaders discern their higher purpose that informs their vision. The contemporary relevance of this study is evidenced by the growing interest in the role of calling and higher purpose in providing direction for one’s life (Fry, 2003; Parameshwar, 2006) and the importance of purpose and vision in the process of leadership (Bass, 1990, 1998; Burns, 1978; Conger & Kanungo, 1987; Fry; Kouzes & Posner, 1995).

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The Research Question The research question that focused this qualitative study is: How do exemplary Christian leaders discern their higher purpose that informs their vision? Significance of the Study By investigating an understudied phenomenon of how exemplary Christian leaders discern their purpose that informs their vision, this study makes a unique contribution to leadership theory. As Gardner (1995) suggested, understanding examples of extraordinary leadership can help us better understand ordinary leadership and just may provide an inspiration for ordinary leaders to become extraordinary. The following chapter presents a literature review of vision and purpose in extant leadership theories as a framework for this investigation.

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Chapter 2 – Literature Review The purpose of this literature review is to frame the problem for this dissertation and to provide a basis for comparing and contrasting the findings of this inductive study (Creswell, 2003). This chapter is organized into five major sections. The first section discusses leadership theory and the vision construct. The second section presents leadership literature on the characteristics of vision and discusses how the literature includes purpose as a part of vision. The third section presents a review of the leadership literature on how vision is created or discovered. The fourth section presents Christian literature on the discernment of a leader’s vision and purpose. The final section summarizes the literature review and discusses why a study of how exemplary Christian leaders discern their higher purpose is important. Leadership Theory and Vision This section of the literature review is divided into two parts. In the first part, the literature on leadership as a construct is summarized and a definition of leadership is presented. In the second part, extant leadership theories that include vision as a significant factor are discussed. Leadership

According to Gardner (1995), “A leader is an individual (or, rarely, a set of individuals) who significantly affects the thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors of a significant number of people” (p. ix). Kouzes and Posner (1995) defined leadership as “the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations” (p. 30). Similarly, Northouse (2004) suggested that leadership is a process that involves influence within a group that is goal oriented. Northouse defined leadership as a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Yukl (2002) broadly defined leadership so that it could be a shared process in a group, rather than restricting leadership to a specialized role of one individual. Yukl presented the following definition of leadership:

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Leadership is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish the shared objectives. (p. 7)

For the purposes of this study, the following definition of leadership is used: Leadership is a process of influencing the thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors of people. Of note is that this definition suggests an individual or group that exercises leadership may or may not occupy a formally designated leadership position. Individuals or groups who exercise leadership are considered leaders for this study. In the ongoing study of leadership, numerous theories have emerged that suggest leaders communicate a vision that inspires others to a higher purpose. These theories include, for example, charismatic and transformational leadership (Bass, 1990, 1998; Burns, 1978, 2003; Hunt & Conger, 1999; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993), exemplary leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 1995), and spiritual leadership (Fry, 2003). Vision in Leadership Theory

Some notable thinking on vision and leadership includes the following. “An effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision” (Drucker, 2001, p. 271). “There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared” (Nanus, 1992, p. 3). To understand why vision is so central to leadership success, we only need to reflect on why organizations are formed in the first place. An organization is a group of people engaged in a common enterprise. Individuals join the enterprise in the hope of receiving rewards for their participation. . . . When the organization has a clear sense of its purpose, direction, and desired future state and when this image is widely shared, individuals are able to find their roles both in the organization and in the larger society of which they are a part. This empowers individuals. . . . Under these conditions, the human energies of the organization are aligned toward a common end, and a major precondition for success has been satisfied. (Bennis & Nanus, 2003, p. 83-84)

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Many leadership theories include vision as a significant factor. Current leadership theories that suggest vision is a part of the leadership process are summarized in the following paragraphs. Authentic Leadership Authentic leadership suggests that the leader’s personal vision is aligned with the leader’s vision for the organization. Avolio and Gardner (2005) presented the following: A leader can be seen as visionary for her ability to articulate a highly desirable future state, which followers identify with and commit to over time. And if she is an authentic visionary leader, than what the leader suggests as being the vision is the leader’s best and most accurate articulation of what she believes is future potential, which does not make it so. Authenticity does not guarantee accuracy of prediction, but it does over time provide the impetus for followers to be more engaged, aware and intelligent about the direction being set so that they can contribute their best views and questions about the desired future state. (p. 328-329) Charismatic Leadership According to Conger and Kanungo (1998), vision is a significant ingredient in charismatic leadership theory. They posited a three-stage model for describing charismatic leadership as a process that influences organizational members from where they are towards a desirable future state. They stated the following: Behaviorally, we can distinguish charismatic leaders from noncharismatic leaders in Stage 1 by their sensitivity to environmental constraints and by their ability to identify deficiencies and poorly exploited opportunities in the status quo. In addition, they are sensitive to follower abilities and needs. In Stage 2, it is their formulation of an idealized future vision and their extensive use of articulation and impression management skills that sets them apart from other leaders. Finally, in Stage 3, it is their deployment of innovative and unconventional means to achieve their vision and their use of personal power to influence followers that are distinguishing characteristics. (p. 49)

Yukl (2002) suggested the behaviors of charismatic leaders include (a) communicating an appealing vision, (b) being an example or role model consistent with the vision, and (c) taking personal risks and making self-sacrifices to attain the vision.

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Exemplary Leadership Research by Kouzes and Posner (1995) has indicated Leaders inspire a shared vision. . . . They see pictures in their mind’s eye of what the results will look like even before they’ve started their project. Much as an architect draws a blueprint or an engineer builds a model. . . . Leaders breathe life into the hopes and dreams of others and enable them to see the exciting possibilities that the future holds. Leaders forge a unity of purpose by showing constituents how the dream is for the common good . . . . Leaders communicate their passion through vivid language and an expressive style. . . . Their belief in and enthusiasm for the vision were the sparks that ignited the flame of inspiration. (p. 11)

The findings by Kouzes and Posner (1995) were similar to those of Bennis and Nanus (2003) who discovered that vision was one of the four strategies effective leaders used to influence others. Their research indicated that the first strategy of effective leaders is “attention through vision” (p. 25). They suggested that attention through vision creates focus. “Vision grabs. Initially it grabs the leader, and management of attention enables others to get on the bandwagon” (p. 26). Spiritual Leadership A major proposition by Fry (2003) was that spiritual leadership is necessary for the transformation to and continued success of a learning organization. Fry’s theory of spiritual leadership includes “creating a vision wherein organization members experience a sense of calling in that their life has meaning and makes a difference” (p. 695). Fry suggested that this vision (a) has broad appeal to stakeholders, (b) defines the “destination and the journey” (p. 695), (c) reflects high ideals, (d) encourages hope/faith, and (e) encourages a “standard of excellence” (p. 695). Fry posited the essence of motivating leadership is “the act of establishing a culture with values that influences others to strongly desire, mobilize, and struggle for a shared vision” (p. 698). Transformational Leadership Vision is a key factor in transformational leadership because it helps people to understand the purpose, objectives, and priorities of the organization (Bass, 1990, 1998; Burns, 1978; Yukl, 2002). “Envisioning is the creating of an image of

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a desired future organizational state that can serve as a guide for interim strategies, decisions, and behavior. It is fundamental to effective executive leadership” (Bass, 1990, p. 214). Tichy and Devanna (1990) posited, “the most essential component of a transformation is a vision of the future desired state” (p. 116). Visionary Leadership or Leadership That Matters Although Sashkin and Sashkin (2003) originally called their theory visionary leadership, they later adopted a new term—leadership that matters. Sashkin and Sashkin indicated several reasons for this change. First, they believe that “everyone has the potential, at least to some degree, to have an effect as a visionary leader” (p. 1). Second, “visionary leadership is about creating the future, not predicting it” (p. 2). Sashkin and Sashkin (2003) stated that their understanding of vision is best summarized by University of California political philosopher John Schaar as follows: The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present place but a place that is created. Created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination. (p. 92)

What the theories of authentic leadership, charismatic leadership, exemplary leadership, spiritual leadership, transformational leadership, and visionary leadership have in common regarding vision is that it is a mental image of a realistic, credible, and attractive future. It is perceived as a desired future state that is worth striving for by the leader and his or her followers. Because of the significance of vision in leadership theory, knowledge of the characteristics of vision is important to understanding how this aspect of leadership influences people. However, as will be discussed in the following section, the literature has suggested different perspectives exist regarding the characteristics of vision in leadership theory.

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Characteristics of Vision There has been no general agreement in the literature regarding the characteristics of vision. Nevertheless, there are many overlaps in the differing perspectives of vision. The following paragraphs provide various scholarly perspectives regarding vision as it related to leadership. Tichy and Devanna (1990) suggested the following: Vision has two fundamental elements. One is to provide a conceptual framework or paradigm for understanding the organization’s purpose—the vision includes a roadmap. The second important element is the emotional appeal: the part of the vision that has a motivational pull with which people can identify. (p. 130)

According to Nanus (1992), “vision is a realistic, credible, attractive future for your organization” (p. 8). He said powerful and transforming visions tend to (a) be “appropriate for the organization and the times” (p. 28), (b) “set standards of excellence and reflect high ideals” (p. 29), (c) “clarify purpose and direction” (p. 29), (d) “inspire enthusiasm and encourage commitment” (p. 29), (e) be “well articulated and easily understood” (p. 29), (f) “reflect the uniqueness of the organization” (p. 29), and (g) be “ambitious” (p. 29). “Vision refers to a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should strive to create that future” (Kotter, 1996, p. 68). Kotter (1996) posited that an effective vision has the following six characteristics: (a) imaginable, (b) desirable, (c) feasible, (d) focused, (e) flexible, and (f) communicable. Research by Nutt and Backoff (1997) has suggested some similar characteristics for vision. For example, they found that (a) possibility, (b) desirability, (c) action ability, and (d) articulation are the key properties of vision. For some leadership scholars, vision includes an idealized and shared purpose. Conger and Kanungo (1998) defined vision as a set of idealized future goals established by the leader that represent a perspective shared by followers. According to Burns (2003), the leader’s vision involves moral judgment of the gap between wants or values and actualities. In other words, vision is grounded in the fulfillment of a moral purpose, in bringing values to life. Furthermore, the vision

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must speak to the would-be followers’ “underlying wants, discontents, and hopes” (p. 167-168). Collins and Porras (2002) posited, “A well-conceived vision consists of two major components—core ideology and an envisioned future” (p. 220). They further suggested core ideology consists of core values and core purpose. Somewhat similarly, Strange and Mumford (2002) posited that “vision may be conceived of a set of beliefs about how people should act, and interact, to attain some idealized future state” (p. 344). Purpose has been generally perceived as an integral component of a leader’s vision either explicitly or implicitly. As Senge (1990) said, “One of the deepest desires underlying shared vision is the desire to be connected, to a larger purpose and to one another” (p. 230). For this study, the leader’s purpose is considered an integral component and driver of vision. Purpose in Vision “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one . . . the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy” (George Bernard Shaw, as cited in Senge, 1990, p. 148). For many leadership scholars, purpose is an important part of vision in leadership. “Real vision cannot be understood in isolation from the idea of purpose. By purpose, I mean an individual’s sense of why he is alive” (Senge, 1990, p. 148). According to Warren Bennis (as cited in Loeb, 1994), “The No. 1 requirement for a leader . . . [is] a strongly defined sense of purpose” (p. 242). The following paragraphs discuss purpose in vision according to various leadership scholars. But vision is different from purpose. Purpose is similar to a direction, a general heading. Vision is a specific destination, a picture of a desired future. Purpose is abstract. Vision is concrete. . . . Vision without an underlying sense of purpose, or calling, is just a good idea. (Senge, 1990, p. 149)

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Senge posited that the leader’s ability to lead comes out of the leader’s purpose story. The leader’s purpose story “provides a single integrating set of ideas that gives meaning to all aspects of the leader’s work” (p. 346). Out of this sense of purpose, the leader develops his or her vision. Senge (1990) posited that stating the purpose in words is not enough. People need visions to make the purpose more concrete and tangible. He presented the following: • Vision is the “What?” – the picture of the future we seek to create. • Purpose (or “mission”) is the “Why?” the organization’s answer to the question, “Why do we exist?” Great organizations have a larger sense of purpose that transcends providing for the needs of shareholders and employees. They seek to contribute to the world in some unique way, to add a distinctive value. (p. 223-224)

Full document contains 193 pages
Abstract: Although leadership literature has asserted the importance of purpose and vision in leadership, there has been a lack of empirical studies on how leaders discern their purpose that informs their vision. This empirical study is distinctive in its systematic examination of the factors that contribute to the discernment of a higher purpose by examining a diverse group of 10 exemplary Christian leaders. The microtheory suggested by this investigation evolved from data generated using Moustakas's (1994) phenomenological approach to study the leaders in this investigation and from the grounded theory procedures developed by Strauss and Corbin (1998). The central logic of the theoretical model from this study suggests that when there is dissonance in the environment (i.e., gaps between God's will as revealed in the Bible and the condition of the world), exemplary Christian leaders experienced cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) due to their spiritual formation (Mulholland, 1993). This acts as a motivator for the leaders to reduce the dissonance. The influence of others through social modeling and verbal persuasion (Bandura, 1986) encourages exemplary Christian leaders to discern a higher purpose aimed at reducing the dissonance in their environment. Intervening conditions can challenge exemplary Christian leaders during the process of discerning their higher purpose. Strategies employed by exemplary Christian leaders to overcome these challenges and to discern their higher purpose include (a) the counsel of trusted people, (b) prayer, and (c) critical reflection. Similar to the behavioral model by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980), the evidence from this study suggests exemplary Christian leaders' belief in God and the encouragement of others overrides the leaders' attitude towards their personal limitations and opposing forces in the discernment of the leaders' higher purpose (intention) which informs the vision they communicate to others (behavior).