Spirituality in Educational Leadership

by Paul D. Houston, Alan M. Blankstein and Robert W. Cole, editors, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2007, 208 pp., $30.95 softcover

No, spiritual public education is not an oxymoron, and it isn’t religious education. In Spirituality in Educational Leadership, Paul Houston, former executive director of AASA, and other instructional leaders offer a wide range of opinions on the subject, but they have come together for a “journey of discovery as thoughtful people grapple with what to say on the subject of spirituality and leadership.”

Houston and Steve Sokolow, another former superintendent, start things off with an essay on what they see as the key principles of spiritual leadership — intention, attention, unique gifts and talents, gratitude, unique life lessons, a holistic perspective, openness and trust. Other contributors talk about servant leadership, appreciative inquiry that builds on the strengths and yearnings of the people of an organization and the importance of rituals and ceremony.

All 10 chapters challenged my thinking and encouraged me to more closely examine my core beliefs and how I apply them to education and to the organizations and people I serve.

Terrence E. Deal closes with his thoughts on whether schools should really be more like businesses. He concludes, “Schools are out of whack because their souls have shriveled and their spirit has dampened, not simply because they lack rigorous standards or tangible results.” He acknowledges the importance of standards and accountability, but laments that “creativity, building character and learning how to work cooperatively with others have been sacrificed to information-driven yardsticks that don’t come close to capturing the true purpose of education.”

As Houston puts it, “Spiritual leaders lead from within.” This is a book that will help you examine yourself to more effectively work outside yourself as an enlightened, empowered and spiritual leader.

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, educational consultant and retired superintendent, Granite Bay, Calif.