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An exploratory study of strategic leadership in churches

Gina Grandy (Commerce, Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 23 September 2013




The purpose of this paper is to extend the notion of strategic leadership, that which has been primarily applied to for profit organizations, to nonprofits, specifically the church setting.


The research employs a case study methodology and draws primarily upon qualitative data collected from interviews and observation.


The findings reveal that over the past several years, the organization and its members have undergone a number of incremental and more radical changes. Much of this change has been attributed to the vision and leadership style of the current leader. Four key themes illuminate the processes and content of change under this strategic leader, including unsettlingly the status quo, model of shared leadership, shared vision and culture of community and learning.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are based upon one case study site and this limits the generalizability of the research. In addition, exposure to the organization was limited to short periods of time on-site and the sample size was relatively small.

Practical implications

Achieving success in nonprofits requires leaders to have an intimate understanding of the complex nature of stakeholder relations and measuring success needs to be multi-dimensional in nature and linked directly to the mission and context of the organization, rather than based solely on generic measures.


There is limited research to date that examines the applicability of leadership theories that have been traditionally applied to for profit and public sector organizations to nonprofits. The research extends the notion of strategic leadership from the for profit setting to nonprofit organizations generally, and more specifically to the church setting.



This research has been funded by a Standard Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (file 410-2009-2283). I would like to thank the editor, Professor Paul Humphreys, and the reviewers for their invaluable feedback throughout the reviewing process.


Grandy, G. (2013), "An exploratory study of strategic leadership in churches", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 34 No. 7, pp. 616-638.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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