Leader Emotional and Social Competencies are Keys for Parish Vibrancy

Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management research is highlighted in Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

News Release: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CLEVELAND – Successful organizations depend greatly on management practicing effective leadership skills. Such skills can have a significant role in improving vibrancy at religious-based organizations, where spirituality generally is the primary goal for clergy.

For example, within the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, pastoral leadership can affect vibrancy among parishioners, according to a study published in the May issue of Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies (JLOS). The report is entitled "The Effect of Religious Leaders' Emotional and Social Competencies on Improving Parish Vibrancy" (link: http://jlo.sagepub.com/content/18/2/192.full.pdf+html).

A vibrant congregation is defined as one with a sense of community; parishioners giving freely of their time, talents and treasure; spiritual growth; reaching out and caring for each other and the neighboring community.

"Church officials and researchers need to have a better understanding of what makes a parish vibrant, what competencies make pastoral leaders effective and the pastoral leaders’ impact on the vibrancy of their parishes," said Distinguished University Professor Richard Boyatzis, whose teaching and research involves organizational behavior, psychology and cognitive science. As part of the faculty at Case Western Reserve's Weatherhead School of Management, Boyatzis is an expert concerning management leadership and emotional intelligence.

Boyatzis is the principal investigator of the study. Co-authors are Lindsey N. Godwin and Terry Brizz, both also with connections to Case Western Reserve's Weatherhead School. Godwin is an assistant professor of management in the College of Business at Morehead State University. She attained her PhD in Organizational Behavior from Weatherhead, where she studied with the founders and leading thought-leaders in Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Brizz, a graduate of Weatherhead's Doctor of Management Program, is a businessman/entrepreneur and presently an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Baldwin-Wallace College.

The article in JLOS explains that research focused in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese builds on a growing body of evidence that a leader’s behaviors, and specifically social and emotional competencies, can have a positive impact on organizational outcomes. Boyatzis said the research was possible because of the bold and compassionate commitment of the Diocese in wanting to inspire continued parish vibrancy.

Building on the Diocese’s Vibrant Parish Study, this study seeks is to identify components leading to parishioners' satisfaction and support within a vibrant parish. Five key variables were identified as outreach, stewardship, sacramental, faith formation and sense of community. The researchers point out a need for further studies indentifying vibrancy variables in other dioceses and in other religious communities.

"Looking within the particular context of a religious organization, these findings suggest, as many would suspect, that pastoral leadership does have an impact on the vibrancy of a Catholic parish, specifically on the perceived improvement in the sense of parishioner satisfaction," the study researchers report. Although observed emotional/social competency of a pastor is significantly related to improvement in parishioner satisfaction, that does not seem to affect improvement in attendance or donations.

The JLOS article's authors point out that the sample size from findings from data gathered within the one diocese is limited. Since each parish is unique, there may have been different procedures for collecting, monitoring, and reporting data. Also, certain public events may have altered or influenced parishioners' sense of satisfaction, such as the role of some priests' in a pedophile scandal nationally, removal of a number of priests/pastors, investigation of the financial/legal director of the Cleveland diocese, and tuition increases at parish schools.

The authors thanked several colleagues for their feedback and help in developing the study and logic of this article: Joan Manuel Batista, Diane Bergeron, Diana Bilimoria, Cary Cherniss, David DeLambo, Vanessa Druskat, Amy Edmundson, Richard Krivanka, Charalambos Mainemelis, Argun Saatcioglu, Melvin Smith, Scott Taylor and Ellen Van Oosten.

Posted by: Marvin Kropko, May 25, 2011 08:39 PM | News Topics: Official Release