Engaging with holistic reflection to improve leader practices

Categories: Qualitative


Exploring the relationship between improved leader practices and holistic reflection. Holistic reflection is characterized as engaging with reflective thinking, critical reflection and spiritual reflection.


Scholars particularly in the social sciences have written extensively about the ways in which reflection particularly in education (Boud, 1999; Dewey, 1933; Mezirow, 1991; Schon, 1983, 1987) and medicine ( Gustafsson, et al, 2004; Mamede & Schmidt, 2004; Pearson & Heywood, 2004; Pinsky & Irby, 1997; Teekman, 2000 ) can assist practitioners to inquire into their practices for the purpose of improving the quality of their teaching or for example nursing.


As a women minister wishing to improve my leader practices within the context of my work with church staff, parishioners and the community, I consider the benefits of reflecting in a holistic manner.  As a member of the clergy I am aware that leadership that is about the social formations I construct needs to be representative of the value I claim regarding the flourishing of all. To uphold this value it is important that I monitor my practices in a way that will allow me to evaluate if I indeed ‘practice what I preach’ or believe.


As an inquiring tool ‘holistic’ reflection engages the intellect, the senses and the spirit.  As a Christian, participating with the ‘Holy Spirit’ in reflection is important because my work is inherently spiritual.  My engagement with spiritual reflection consists of prayer, meditation, scripture reading meaning making and silence.  This paper discusses what surfaced about my leadership when I embraced holistic reflection as a method of inquiry.


Submitting leader practices to the scrutiny of holistic reflection is intensely personal.  According to Quinn (1996), what we discover about ourselves as leaders and how we embrace our discoveries and decide to act in relation to them can mean the difference between slow death and deep change.  


Holistic reflection raises our awareness of the place from which we act and enables us to pay conscious attentiveness to the way in which we live our lives as leaders.




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