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Resilience and spirituality: a mixed methods exploration of executive stress

Charlotte D. Shelton (Helzberg School of Management, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
Sascha Hein (Department of Psychology, Freie Universitat Berlin, Berlin, Germany)
Kelly A. Phipps (Helzberg School of Management, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)

International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Article publication date: 23 November 2019

Issue publication date: 2 March 2020




The purpose of this mixed methods research study was to explore the relationships between spirituality, leader resiliency and life satisfaction/well-being.


Using an explanatory sequential design, the authors tested three research hypotheses to explore the relationships between the participants’ spiritual practices and level of resiliency, life satisfaction and sense of well-being. Data were collected from 101 executive MBA alumni of a US-based university. Following the quantitative analysis of the survey results, interviews were conducted with 25 executives who scored high in the frequency of spiritual practice to further explore how they applied their spirituality in stressful work situations.


The results found positive relationships between spirituality, resilience and overall life satisfaction. Participants who engaged in meditative practices had a significantly higher overall resilience score than non-meditators.

Research limitations/implications

Key limitations are sample size and the risk of common method variance. Though numerous procedural steps were taken to control for these issues, future research with a larger and more diverse sample is needed.

Practical implications

Organizational stress is pervasive and executive burnout is a risk factor for leaders and their organizations. This research offers practical suggestions for ways that human resource managers and organization development practitioners can provide prevention resources to their executives.


This research contributes to the literature by providing support for mindfulness/meditation training for executives. It also demonstrates the value of mixed methods research for a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of the participants.



This research was supported by a Helzberg School of Management Dean’s grant. The authors are grateful to Dean Cheryl McConnell for research funding and to Grace Irwin for managing the data collection process. We also appreciate the support of Cheryl Boglarsky and Mary Himmel at Human Synergistics for providing discounted assessments.


Shelton, C.D., Hein, S. and Phipps, K.A. (2020), "Resilience and spirituality: a mixed methods exploration of executive stress", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 399-416.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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