Leaders and the Worldviews of Followers

A good leader needs to have a sound worldview, one that is open, comprehensive of all reality, and internally coherent (Walsh & Middleton, 1984). She can continue to refine her worldview throughout her lifetime, and probably will. Early experiences are especially formative. Parents and teachers can and should have major impact on molding their charges’ worldview.


An organizational leader, especially one’s first supervisor, often has a significant influence on the worldview of his followers, whether the leader realizes this or not. He needs to set a positive, constructive example and to offer morally sound lessons. For example, followers quickly imitate the stance the leader takes toward other people. When the leader shows respect for all, others tend to do likewise; on the other hand, when he speaks derogatorily to or about other ethnic groups, his followers might absorb a negative bias about its members’ beliefs, values, and needs.

Moreover, a good leader learns to recognize the worldviews of his followers.  Even if she does not agree with every assumption they hold, she must still respect the dignity and worth of others. Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult to lead well.

For this, a leader needs a basic understanding of the major aspects of different worldviews that most commonly occur among his employees and others to whom he relates within the organizational context. Of course, there are many differing worldviews. Many are grounded in a religion, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. Secular worldviews prevalent in today’s world include modernism and postmodernism. Often people have de facto worldviews that incorporate some combination of religious and secular ways of thinking. Subsequent blog posts will outline a few prevalent worldviews to show where they are likely to conflict.

A leader has no right to impose a complete set of worldview assumptions upon others, but can still help her followers and others better understand and mold their own worldviews. There may not be a set formula or process for this, because this facet of leadership is more art than science. Nevertheless, the leader can promote character development in others through personal example, mentoring, and challenging assignments–and thereby influence their worldviews constructively. This seems to be a legitimate, ethical responsibility for any good leader.

This blog post is based on a discussion in Whetstone, J. T. (2013).Leadership Ethics & Spirituality. Bloomington, IN: WestBow.


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