Differentiation of self and leadership effectiveness in Christian clergy: A mixed methods study

by Wasberg, Gregory D., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2013, 182 pages; 3602885


Organized religion plays a significant, even defining role for millions of people worldwide. Recently however, churchgoers, pastors, and denominational hierarchies are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with clergy leadership effectiveness and pastors are experiencing higher than expected levels of burnout and emotional exhaustion. Leadership effectiveness is often reported as one of the least satisfying aspects of working in faith-based settings and religious congregations. Clergy and congregational leaders need a leadership paradigm that provides a framework for leading in highly relational contexts such as religious organizations that also addresses the leaders need to maintain emotional health and psychological well-being. The present study utilized a mixed-methods approach to examine the relationship between self-differentiation and leadership effectiveness among 97 pastors in leadership positions from a variety of Christian religious denominations. Participants completed the Differentiation of Self and Role for Clergy and the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. Results of this study suggest that pastors performing in leadership roles have higher levels of self-differentiation than pastors performing in non-leadership roles and that self-differentiation was moderately and positively correlated with the transformational leadership components of intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration. For the qualitative portion of the study, fourteen pastors participated in telephone interviews about their experiences of self-differentiation in leadership roles. Utilizing thematic analysis, nine distinct themes emerged and identified as precipitating event, “aha” moment, self-regulating, systemic awareness, self-in-role, take a stand, use of self-in-system, lead through connection and inclusion, and followers first. Qualitative results suggest that higher self-differentiation is related to pastors’ use of self-regulation of emotion, experiential learning, awareness of social context, and willingness to accept risk in exchange for progress. Higher levels of self-differentiation may contribute to the leaders ability to develop and maintain emotional connections with followers during times of conflict or disagreement.

AdviserDeborah Vogele-Welch
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsClergy; Management; Occupational psychology; Individual & family studies; Organizational behavior
Publication Number3602885

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