Volume 5: 2011 Abstract 2

Journal of Spirituality, Leadership and Management

Volume 5: 2011

The role of stories in the development of values and wisdom as expressions of spirituality

Glenn Martin

University of Notre Dame, Sydney

ABSTRACT: pp. 14-24.

This paper explores the roles that stories can play in professional development, taking this term to refer broadly to any kind of vocational, professional and leadership role. Such roles are commonly defined in terms of competencies, but it is increasingly being recognised that there is a spectrum of development that leads beyond competency (the acquisition of knowledge and skills and their application) to the attainment of expertise. At the level of expertise, the exercise of work roles involves values and judgement. Moreover, when we consider the idea of developing from competence to expertise, we can see that expertise may develop into wisdom which is an expression of spirituality.

This model raises the question of what kinds of learning are involved in professional development and how such learning is best facilitated. Expertise, wisdom and spirituality are fostered through a combination of direct experience and immersion in the experiences of others, and reflection on these experiences.  The focus of interest in this paper is specifically on the role that stories can play in enabling people to develop an awareness of, and commitment to, values and ethics.

One aspect of stories in professional development is the articulation and sharing of stories by participants. Another aspect is the examination of “received stories”, which include organisational war stories, case studies and business novels. There are numerous types of business novel, those with a minimalist story line and a dominant didactic purpose, fables or parables, and full-length novels that deal with deep issues that leaders or professionals face. The value of the “full-length story” type of business novel is explored. The importance of the story in itself is considered, and then a methodology for eliciting learning from such novels is examined. Wisdom and spirituality are inherently personal, and stories enable the worker, professional and leader to step into their own wisdom.

Keywords: stories, business novel, values, professional development, wisdom