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Lessons in spiritual leadership from Kenyan women

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explicate spiritual leadership lessons of beneficence, courage, hope and ubuntu/humanness that are derived from the experiences of women leaders in Kenya. The paper seeks to connect African data with existing literature on spiritual leadership, to demonstrate where African spiritual leadership is similar to, or different from, western conceptualizations of spiritual leadership. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study from which this paper is derived employed qualitative methods, specifically interviews with supplemental archival data and observations. Four major themes are explored: beneficence, courage, hope/forbearance and ubuntu/humanness as emerging from the women's leadership stories. These four themes are compared and contrasted against existing literature on spiritual leadership. Findings ‐ It is found that beneficence, courage, and hope are comparable to existing western conceptualizations, whereas ubuntu is unique to the African context. Research limitations/implications ‐ The paper and the larger study were derived from interviews with 16 participants; as such, generalization was not a goal. The paper provides a deeper understanding of spiritual leadership as enacted by African women, with implications for the need for increased research on non-western, non-white perspectives on the phenomenon. Practical implications ‐ Readers may relate to the women's stories and be both informed and inspired towards their own social justice leadership. Originality/value ‐ Whereas the paper is derived from field research conducted in 2005 and published variously in other sources as cited, this paper takes an original perspective in comparing and contrasting African and western understandings of spiritual leadership, and expanding the understanding of the same in a novel way not done in previous publications.
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Keywords: Kenya; Leadership; Social justice; Women

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 28, 2010

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