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Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comA systems theoretical servant-leadership framework withreference to Christianity and positive psychologySanchen HenningGraduate School of Business LeadershipUniversity of South AfricaMidrand, South AfricaE-mail: -0701AbstractTraditionally, psychology and Christian theology are viewed as two incommensurable secularand sacred paradigms. This conceptual article explores the convergence of systems theoryas a metatheory, Christian theology and positive psychology in order to construct a servantleadership framework. Integration of concepts from theology and psychology is evident in theleadership framework. A leader influences followers and achieves transformation or changethrough a perspective of humans as bundles of potential and contributors to a network ofpositive relationships. To serve others is more important than being served. Tolerance withambiguity and paradox in uncertain environments is a key driver in this leadership frameworkas well as a focus on character strengths and positive values. The triad, Identity, Hope andLove are described as conceptually the highest themes of servant leadership. In the visuallyconstructed framework, the intersection of positive psychology and theology depicts the rolesof a servant-leader as being those of systems thinker, hope merchant, paradox patron andidentity inventor.Keywords: systems theory, servant leadership, positive psychology, Christian theologyIntroductionFor I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order tounderstand. For I believe even this: that unless I believe, I shall not understand(Anselm of Canterbury).What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? In this rhetorical question, Tertullian (cited inEntwistle, 2015) asked what agreement there is between secular knowledge and sacredknowledge. The philosopher Tertullian was of the opinion that the Christians of his day had tomake a choice between seeking knowledge through human reason (Athens) and through faith(Jerusalem). Before psychology emerged as a scientific discipline, questions about the mindand behaviour were considered by philosophy, religion, medicine and folk wisdom (Entwistle,2015).The founding of the Journal of Psychology and Theology in 1975 inspired scholars to addressthe integration of theology and psychology through the generation of theories; however, since1982, model development has declined (Worthington, 1994). Articles published in this journalmay be classified into two groups. About two-thirds of the articles published from 1980 to 1986used a conformability model where psychological facts are reinterpreted in the light ofScripture or vice versa. The remaining articles used a compatibility model, in which secularand theological concepts and facts are given equal weight (Worthington, 1994).Scholars in both fields focus on their own fields of specialisation generally do not attempt tointegrate psychology and theology into their respective theories. For example, the founder of1

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.compersonality psychology, Gordon Allport was a Harvard psychologist who disguised the role hisChristian faith played. He stripped the psychological concepts from their spiritual dimensionsto describe personality as an object of scientific enquiry (Tjeltveit, 2013). In the evolution ofpsychological theories at the time, behaviourism and logical positivism was on the rise (1927)and Allports’ separation of the two disciplines is understandable. He thus never describedpersonality and character through a combination of psychological, ethical and theologicalperspectives, which could have provided a more holistic or systemic understanding of humanbehaviour.Since 2002, there has been a significant increase in workplace spirituality and leadershipresearch, as well as on the issue of what is termed the “corporate soul” (Graves & Addington,2002; Kim, 2002; Mitroff & Denton, 1999). Workplace spirituality describes the apparentlyintrinsic sense of spiritual ambience that mimics a religious site as displayed in certainworkplaces. Such an ambience may include the quality of the interrelationships betweenemployees and those between employees and the stakeholders of the organisation (Grobler& Nicolaides, 2014) and describes the psychological contract between the organisation andthe employees. Spirituality and a strong psychological contract in the workplace enhancecollaboration and partnership in the organisation. If the psychological contract is in place andemployees experience congruence between their own values and the values of theorganisation, they tend to be more loyal which improves overall organisational performance(Grobler & Nicolaides, 2014).The integration of the two disciplines of theology and psychology traditionally search formetaphysical assumptions. Psychology assumes unconscious or relational motivation forbehaviour or transformative behaviour while Christian faith assumes a conscious motivationthrough the acceptance of God’s grace, holiness and being in the right relationship with Him.A common interest for both disciplines is the phenomena of personal transformation andchange, an important aspect in understanding leadership behaviour.A study exploring religion and work–faith integration (Lynn, Naughton & Veen, 2010) succinctlycovers the salient points in this field of study. The authors postulate that work and faith aregenerally integrated for Christians, but that the extent of integration may vary according to thevariables ability, intent and opportunity. Ability describes aspects related to age, gender andformative influences. Intent describes church attendance, denominational strictness and faithmaturity, while the variable opportunity describes the broader culture, geographical salience,professional status, immediate work setting and size of the employing organisation.Workplace spirituality and work-faith researchers appear to focus on the consequences ofspirituality with little attention being paid to the content of belief systems. Furthermore, existingempirical research reflects studies related to the individual and the “Self”, with little devoted toareas related to interpersonal relationships or the “Other”, such as the psychological contractdepicted by Grobler and Nicolaides (2014). While much has been written about theinterdisciplinary integration of psychology and theology, limited research exist where the focusis on the “Other”. In addition, a leadership framework that integrates concepts from Christiantheology and positive psychology within a systems theory paradigm does not exist.This article explores the integration of paradigms to obtain a deeper understanding of servantleadership. The leadership framework will be conceptualised by adopting systems thinking asa meta-theory. To address the question, How may a servant-leadership framework beconceptualised from both a Christian theology and a positive psychology perspective? theauthor studied the theoretical intersection of theological and psychological conceptsThe question is further explicated in Figure 1 below. T1 (Triangle 1) in the figure depicts twodiverging lines; the one represents concepts from Christian theology and the other conceptsfrom positive psychological theory. In T2 in Figure 1 (Triangle 2), the two lines are moving2

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comcloser and in T3 (Triangle 3) the two paradigms are connected. This study aims to contributeto the interdisciplinary integration of theology and psychology by proposing a servantleadership framework. The framework could be applied by Christian counsellors andorganisational psychologists to articulate their own Christian theory of counselling ororganisational development in practice.T1T2T3Figure 1: Convergence of sacred and secular theoretical paradigmsThe integration of two seemingly different paradigms is encouraged by the words of St ThomasAquinas (Whidden, 2014: 2):We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whoseopinions we reject. For both have laboured in the search for truth, and bothhave helped in the finding of it.Integration is an attempt to expand knowledge through a mindset that inspires and directsactivity and may not be an achievable end-point in itself, as Entwistle (2015:19) described:Integration is a priori, a thing that we discover when we are uncovering thefundamental unity that God created, however much it might currently appearto be dis-integrated. On the other hand, integration is also something we doas we create ways of thinking about, combining and applying psychologicaland theological truths. If Christ lays claim to all of one’s life, then integrationbecomes not just feasible, but imperative.Collaborative scholarly discourses may not only be beneficial but are also imperative in theera of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Founder and Executive Chairman of the WorldEconomic Forum, Klaus Schwab (2018:1), states:The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to robotize humanity, andthus compromise our traditional sources of meaning – work, community,family, identity. Or we can use the Fourth Industrial Revolution to lift humanityinto a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense ofdestiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure that the latter is what happens.Yet, epistemological humility is required to consider the possibility that the ideas may be wrongin the light of the reality we want to unveil (Stevenson, Eck & Hill, 2007). Despite attempts byintegrationists to unveil the truth and discover common issues, evangelical and psychologyscholars have to accept that the whole truth will not be fully grasped. The apostle Paul remindsus of our finitude in his letter to the Corinthians:We know only a portion of the truth and what we say prophesy in part, butwhen completeness comes, what is in part disappears. For now we see onlya reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part;then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (Corinthians 13:12, 13).3

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comIn academic discourses there would appear to be confusion relating to the conceptualisationand practice of servant leadership (Horsman, 2018). Servant leadership is more than aleadership theory, a style or a mere concept comprising characteristics such as persuasionand stewardship. Rather, it is a philosophy, an emerging worldview – a way of being in theworld. Systems thinking as a metatheory is introduced in an attempt to integrate concepts andtheories from Christianity and positive psychology into a larger systemic framework of servantleadership.Consequently, two concepts from systems theory, namely, synergy and paradox, will be brieflydescribed, followed by selected concepts from Christian theology, positive psychology andservant leadership. Finally, an integrated conceptual framework for a deeper understandingof servant leadership will be constructed.Systems theoryBefore the body of knowledge on systems thinking emerged, Newtonian scientists had animage of the world that may be compared to a large clock. Knowledge about how the clockworked would enable you to predict what could happen at any point in time. They believed incertainties and not probabilities. Reductionist thinking seduced leaders and managers intothinking that everything could be controlled by good planning, even life and death.Management’s dream of perfect levels of control seemed to be the reality. Science appearedto have replaced God. However, the idea of a mechanical world and a machine-like universewere unsustainable and unconvincing, as Zohar (1990:18) describes:Classical physics transmuted the living cosmos of Greek and medieval times,a cosmos filled with purpose and intelligence and driven by the love of Godfor the benefit of humans, into a dead, clockwork machine. Human beings andtheir struggles, the whole of consciousness and life itself were irrelevant to theworkings of the vast universal machine.At the turn of the previous century the cosmic clock image of Newtonian science crumbledwith an important scientific finding. Physicists discovered that the behaviour of the atom andthe individual electron could not be predicted, as they behaved in random and unpredictableways. Quantum physics was discovered where atoms may simultaneously be both stable andunstable. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle (Wheatley, 2006) explains the phenomenonwhere matter can show up as particles in specific points in space, or as waves, that is, energydispersed over a finite area. The belief in a predictable cosmos was now on shaky groundbecause it lacked a subatomic foundation (Henning, 2009) and the world became anunpredictable place to live in.The quantum world is strange and is often described as “spooky”, as physicists reached forvarious metaphors to describe it. Following this paradigm shift, Zohar (1990:27) created animage of this new world depicting it as “a vast porridge of being where nothing is fixed ormeasurable somewhat ghostly and just beyond our grasp”. According to the astronomer,James Jeans, “the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine”(cited in Capra, 1983:86). Patterns of organising dynamics such as relationships andinterdependencies shifted Newtonian thinking, contesting earlier perspectives.Systems thinking was introduced by Von Bertalanffy in 1947 and since then various scholarsin the field have contributed to the development of general systems theory. This theory maybe applied as a metatheory, that is, as a model of the general elements of reality where realsystems are open and in interaction with both the internal and the external environment. Asystem may be considered as a whole formed by a number of interdependent componentsworking together to achieve a common goal (Henning, 2009).4

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comSynergy: the whole is greater than the sum of its partsThe focus of systems theory is on the relationship and interaction between the parts of a unitso that the organisation, its functions and outcomes can be understood as a whole. Thecomponents of a system do not function in isolation, but all subsystems co-create an outcomeas a result of the various interactions, involving energy, humans and information from theexternal environment. Synergy describes the way in which the interaction between parts ofthe system has a greater effect on the whole than the sum of the individual parts. This is alsotrue for the dynamics in teams and organisations where open exchange of information andcommunication between individuals may lead to innovative products or marketing strategies.This is confirmed by the apostle Paul in his letters to both the Colossians and the Ephesians:All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things,animals and atoms -get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, allbecause of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross (Colossians1:20).You don’t need a telescope, a microscope or a horoscope to realise thefullness of Christ and the emptiness of the universe without him. When youcome to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends overeverything (Colossians 2:10).He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its ownspecial work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthyand growing and full of love (Ephesians 4:6).In agreement with Paul, relationships are not just interesting, for many physicists they are allthere is to reality. Elementary particles are described as a set of relationships that reachoutward to other things (Stapp, cited in Capra, 1983). The process of these interactions canbe plotted but no particle can be drawn independent from the others in an effort to describe acertain setting or an outcome of a process. Similarly, human beings do not exist independentof relationships with others. With relationships we give up predictability and open up topotentials. The process by which particles meet and change is important as each particle is aunique bundle of potential (Wheatley, 2006:35).Likewise, each human being is a bundle of potential like any particle in the universe. Differentsettings, different colleagues and different leadership styles may evoke certain qualities andbehaviours in a person and leave others dormant. In each of these relationships a person isdifferent, new in some way (Wheatley, 2006).Predictability and control of the management of organisations through a reductionist,deterministic and positivistic approach are no longer relevant. Organisations should not beviewed as stable entities but rather as dynamic systems that contain the seeds of change.Instead of analysing organisations as independent individual components, interacting on alinear continuum of force and reaction, social scientists should study the non-linear shapes inmotion in organisations as systems, as the qualities of living systems as they pertain to thebehaviour of individuals and teams. Empowering leadership development interventionsshould occur through a relationship of networks that lies beyond the traditional, rigidlystructured boundaries.ParadoxThe term “servant leadership” seems paradoxical in itself. The words servant and leader areused as opposites to describe a particular way of being as a leader. A central question that aservant-leader should ask is: How can I understand my leadership role within a context in5

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comwhich I must provide both guidelines and directions to employees while simultaneouslycreating dialogue and emotional involvement with a serving consciousness? Individual andorganisational well-being in the 21st century presents a paradox: despite improved physicalconditions in the workplace, employees seem to experience increasing mental health issuesand more work-related stress (Dolan, 2007). Dolan (2007) further states that despite theprogressive, technologically advanced age in which we live, the world is deterioratingemotionally and morally. Despite many positive outcomes of community support andencouragement, the global outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic exposed inequalities betweensocieties and also various social illnesses such as an increase in gender-based violence; childand elderly abuse cases; vandalisation of schools and liquor stores as well an increase incable theft. Increased political polarisation of citizens and falling trust levels in global leaderswill require a new type of leadership, collaborative and inspiring, to address the huge systemicchanges and to succeed in delivering a human-centred future in which societies may flourish(Schwab, 2018).In response to the traditional leadership theories, a greater focus on research concepts suchas complexity, ambiguity, internal consistency, contrast and paradox emerged. Neumann,Keller and Dawson-Shepherd (1997) remark that it has become necessary for organisationsto become comfortable with contradiction and paradox and to reward employees for believingsix impossible things before breakfast, as the Red Queen in Alice’s adventures in Wonderland(Carroll, 1865) advised. A paradox arises when two true and mutually exclusive elements(thoughts, feelings or actions) show themselves to be interconnected when seen in relation toone another (Lusher, 2019:8).Organisations are being progressively perceived as fluctuating and dynamic processes ratherthan stable and predictable structures. Traditional leadership tools are becoming irrelevant inchanging situations which require radical turnaround strategies, where operations need to berestructured or redesigned. A single leader with hero status, who drives change top-down, isseemingly not assisting employees to operate within complexity. While these situations mayoften be experienced as contradictions, they could be seen as interconnected elements. Bothelements may be true and can in fact be managed with the same solution (Lusher, 2019). Aleader should be able to unparadoxise by creating a new understanding that includes the endsof the paradox and also points toward adequate actions. To create meaning out of a seeminglycontradictory, ambiguous world with conflicting truths demands a leader with integrativethinking skills and the practise of free will.The theological concept of “free will” is a paradox. God created things that have free will, whichimplies creatures that can do either wrong or right. A person is free to be good but also freeto be bad. Free will makes evil possible, but it is the only thing that makes love or joy orgoodness worth having. Without free will, we would be robots and God obviously prefers torelate to human beings and not to machines (Dennett, 2015).Positive psychologyThe epistemological foundation of positive psychology originated in 20th century psychology.It is embedded in humanistic and existential psychology and is defined as the study andoptimisation of positive behaviours and feelings (Snyder & Lopez, 2002). Its origins may betraced back to the ancient Greeks such as Aristotle and Plato, who emphasised notions suchas “the good life” and “civilisation”. Maslow (1970) was the first to use the term “positivepsychology” with his emphasis on self-actualisation.Positive psychology emphasises concepts that elevate individuals, teams and organisationsand is an umbrella term that unifies a variety of strength-based virtues and capabilities so thatboth individuals and communities can thrive and be sustainable. It may be defined as theexamination of virtuousness or the best of the human condition (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2012).6

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comStrength and high levels of performance are not only to be found in the good times but mayalso be evident in resilience during stressful times or painful circumstances (Wissing,Potgieter, Guse, Khumalo & Nel, 2014). Wissing et al. (2014) also remark that during SouthAfrica’s truth and reconciliation process as part of the transition period to a democraticgovernment, many strengths and positive traits were evident such as meaning-making,forgiveness, hope, spirituality, gratitude, compassion and justice.Concepts such as hope and love are some of the positive traits that form part of the commonvocabulary in this body of knowledge (Peterson & Seligman, 2003). Scholars in this field seekto understand optimal individual states rather than pathological states or illnesses. In addition,areas of interest include the generative dynamics that may lead individuals, teams andorganisations to resilience, restoration and the fostering of extraordinary performance. Populardiscourses often refer to this field of study as the “the science of happiness”, although positivepsychology differs from and is more than a superficial study of happiness. The WorldHappiness Report 2020 has been released recently and is an annual landmark survey of thestate of global happiness which ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens are. TheUnited Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network tracks the happiness of nationsby the way citizens rate their own lives.Regarding happiness, C. S. Lewis (1952:20) asserts that the: happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness ofbeing freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of loveand delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man anda woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.From a Christian theological perspective, he states further that the primary purpose of our lives is to establish a relationship with thePerson who placed us here and until that relationship is established, all of ourattempts to attain happiness will always fall short (Lewis, 1952:20).When looking at Holy Scripture the importance of hope and love is made manifest:For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now Iknow in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. Andnow these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.(1Corinthians 13:12-13).Otherwise, according to him, we would think of this world our home rather than a place we arepassing through: “ the Creator refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but willnot encourage us to mistake them for our home” (Lewis, 1952:21). Furthermore, he isconvinced that although humans do have the right to seek happiness, we do not have the rightto happiness itself:This sounds to me as odd, as a right to good luck, a right to be six feet tall, orto have a millionaire for your father or to get good weather whenever you wantto have a picnic (Lewis, 1952:22).It is the opinion of this author that in defining a servant-leadership framework, the vocabularyof deficit and pathological thinking, as well as a one-dimensional focus on mere “happiness”,should be contrasted with a vocabulary of strengths and virtues through the integration ofconcepts from systems theory and positive psychology.7

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comIdentityThe apostle Paul proposed a triad comprising faith, hope and love to the Corinthians. Thesethree aspects together shape the identity of a Christian as a way of being:Christianity is much more than theology; it is an encounter with Christ thatredeems and reorients human lives it is less a system of thought than it isa commitment to follow God with heart and soul and mind that lays claim to alllife (Entwistle, 2015).But without faith it is impossible to walk with God and please Him, for whoevercomes near to God must necessarily believe that God exists and that Herewards those who earnestly and diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).The concept of identity is fundamental to Christian theology, psychology and leadershiptheories. A biblical understanding of a person’s identity highlights humanity’s connection tothe rest of creation. Humans were created in the image of God, the imago Dei. We owe ourlives and allegiance to the Creator. As His image bearers we are intended to be God’srepresentatives on earth, reflecting His identity. In essence, we are to do what He would do:lovingly rule and care for creation (Entwistle, 2015). Paradoxically, we are part of creation andalso uniquely instructed to steward it. Humans are told to tend to creation, that is, to developits potential. Art, agriculture, education, science and literature are available to be discoveredand developed by us who bear the image of God.Jesus Christ was a servant and also truly God. This implies that we too should have a servantconsciousness to relate to others as bundles of potential.I will give thanks to you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm119:14).Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are Hispeople, the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 110:3).From a system psychodynamic perspective, scholars are encouraged not to lose sight of theidea that interacting “I” identities are simultaneously forming and being formed by “we”identities (Henning, 2009). An organisation consists of individuals and their identities influenceeach other reciprocally. The two entities are one but, paradoxically, also separate.Dependence, finiteness and the insufficiency of the human being’s mortal life, which belongsto God’s plan for creation, are facts to be accepted with humility. In Christ, our identity isparadoxically both image-bearers of God and finite creatures and fallen beings.HopeAs part of the positive psychology family, the concept of hope has a long history, also featuringin Judeo-Christian discourse as one of the main theological virtues.Systems thinking offers a theory that is hopeful because of concepts such as “adaptation”, asopposed to traditional deterministic psychological approaches. Constant change in all livingsystems creates possibilities for renewal and thereby hope. The result is endless variety andinnovative behaviour and the ability to find solutions to problems of a paradoxical nature. Hopeis also inherent in identity, which is the experience of self in the presence of things future.Maintaining the experience of hope may be a meta-motive in identity construction, as itemerges in the favourable progression of a leader’s development narrative. Stories of pastachievements provide blueprints of experiences with which a leader may build a belief inattaining future outcomes. In the predictability of events, hope enables creative discovery8

Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 101 - (2020)Copyright: 2020 Open Access/Author/s - Online @ http//: www.pharosjot.comwhich is also rooted in nature, within rhythmic patterns such as the change of seasons andthe life stages.Research in positive organisational scholarship and leadership (Luthans, Van Wyk &Walumba, 2004) suggests the enhancement of the psychological capacity of hope in SouthAfrica through the following practical guidelines:-Leaders can be sensitised to the nature of hopeful thinking.Hope can and should be developed by coaching and mentoring hopeful str

leadership. Consequently, two concepts from systems theory, namely, synergy and paradox, will be briefly described, followed by selected concepts from Christian theology, positive psychology and servant leadership. Finally, an integrated conceptual framework for a deeper understanding of servant leadership