Authors Note:  This analysis was a concluding project during my doctoral degree on customer relations management.  I post it here as the sentiment contained tracks with a desperately needed shift in the conversation between internal customers to facilitate an improved external customer support system.

For this analysis, a customer is defined as both an internal (fellow employee) and external (a person or organization paying money for your product/service) entity desiring a product or service. Gitomer (1998, 2005, and 2008), Greenberg (2002) and KASET (1988) all provide more detailed distinctions regarding customer classes, service needed, and methods for providing the euphemistic term “customer service.” When discussing customer service Avolio & Yammarino’s ‘Full Range Leadership Theory’ (2002) including the need for strong moral character as found in religious belief and the combination of the philosophies of Realism and Positivism, are employed to help define why multiple principles are required to fully influence the customer interaction while attempting to provide service.

Religious realism is based upon the following philosophies, positivism and realism, with religion as an overlaying guiding measurement mechanism. Positivism is the field of philosophy that deals with obtaining knowledge through logic, mathematics, and human sensory input. For example, an item is understood as hot due to a source of heat transference and the heat is felt through sensory input and understood employing prior experience. Epistemic knowledge is created through experience and through genetic knowledge transference (Hoerr, 2007). For example a parent passes on the knowledge of hot and burn to a child who forever knows the difference between hot and cold. Peale (1992) is called upon in conjunction with Allen (1902) to broaden the positivist philosophy by adding the control of human interaction, the individual’s thoughts, feelings, bias, attitude, and personality. Allen (1902) is especially important for the consideration that thoughts predict outcomes.

Realism deals with that which can be understood but not seen. For example, gravity is real as a principle of science, but seeing gravity can only be understood through the attraction of an object to another, not seen as a power. Consider the item falling from a height, we understand the attraction of the item falling as the gravitational pull upon the object, but cannot see gravity. Hoerr (2007) adds to the body of insight regarding the genesis of knowledge and the genetic nature of learning. While many of Hoerr’s (2007) conclusions are not personally acceptable, Hoerr (2007) does identify many points in both religious leadership and knowledge creation, not fully explained or identified in postmodern thinking supported in Delanty & Strydom (2003).

Religion is used as an overlaying guide Von Braun explains this need succinctly in Miller & Fugal, (2000) [p 35], not to control the principles, but to fully understand the need for human behavior as choice and consequence cycle and the drive to become more than a club wielding species locked in mortal combat with elements, other men/women, and man himself. Religion is the impetus for many of man’s achievements, philosophies, and tenants of thought and action, this is inferred from a discussion by Newton as related by Miller & Fugal (2000) [p 70]. While not a researcher in the traditional sense, as an observer and author, not many come better; Carnegie (1936) and Allen (1902) are employed, as their collective observations regarding positivism, realism, religion, and the influence of thought upon the human interaction remain timeless. Muir (1902) and Frankl (1992) provide the religious overlay, non-denominational, but universal. Muir (1902) focuses upon specific guiding principles fundamental to man, when applied, could be termed religious. Frankl (1992) is employed as the sole purpose for man to strive is explained and examined in detail, again, in a non-denominational environment.

A review of traditional researchers performing work specific to religious leadership in customer service environments is identified encompassing the positivism, realism, and religion inherent in modern leadership. The works of Alon & Chase (2005), Pandey, Gupta, & Arora (2008), and Soltani & Joneghani (2012) are referenced extensively as their combined research provides the fundamental proof of religious leadership being dynamic in organizations, especially in customer interactions. The main theme running through all of these researchers is that no specific religious flavor stands supreme; but that strong religious morals are paramount to the leadership qualities identified by Hamlin & Sawyer (2007) and the customer service proficiencies identified by KASET International (1988). The ideals of strong morals, strong character, and defined positions of ethics, honesty, and specific limits are shown as attractive to customers. Steyrer, employed in Avolio & Yammarino (2002), emphatically outlines the research on character traits, stigma’s, charisma, and many other personality traits distinguished in individual people. Several times, Alon & Chase (2005), Pandey, Gupta, & Arora (2008), Soltani & Joneghani (2012) create the distinction, that while not needed for success, these character traits add depth and satisfaction to success. This is important, as many organizations do not employ religious leadership, realism, or positivism. Yet these organizations are successful or only successful for a short time. The answer as to why religious leadership is important and provides more satisfying success is found in the difference between leadership and management.

Leadership vs. Management

            Hamlin & Sawyer (2007) make the case perfectly clear that leaders are not managers and managers never lead. This theme is fundamental to the remaining analysis for several reasons; namely, leadership in customer service requires on the spot action, decision-making, and accountability, all anathema to managers (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002, p 25). Goldratt & Cox (2004), Gitomer (1998), and KASET International (1988) all espouse similar philosophies in caring for customers. More importantly, Greenberg (2002) discusses opportunity management in relation to customer centered focus which provides the guidance needed to develop people, train people, and improve service, which is the end goal of Goldratt & Cox (2004), Gitomer (1998), and KASET International (1988). The requirement to develop people, train people, thus improving customer service is a key trait in leadership missing in managers, Antonakis & House make this abundantly clear (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002, p 3-33).

While a multitude of factors persist in separating leadership and management, the other factor prevalent in religious based customer service leadership is found through agency theory; the principle is freedom to choose, coupled to accountability for the choice and consequence (Ekanayake, n.d.). Managers employ we, us, team, as deflectors to accountability or to soften consequences for ill, but employ I, me, and mine, when the consequences are perceived as favorable. Leaders are the exact opposite in their speech patterns, accepting accountability for negative consequences but deflecting praise for positive consequences. This phenomenon is documented in many places namely, Allen (1994), Brady & Woodward (2008), Maxwell (2003), and Wren (1995). Goldratt & Cox (2004) do a tremendous job documenting the changes as they occurred in a business with a charismatic leader and the managers who must make “bricks without straw (Exodus, 5:16-18).” The changes that occurred parallel the principles established by Greenberg (2002) and Hamlin & Sawyer (2007). More important is the behavior patterns of charismatic leaders, grounded in religious foundations, produce the organizational patterns discussed by Kreitner & Kinicki (2004), Lundin, Paul, & Christensen (1996). Dumdum, Lowe, and Avolio, quoted in Avolio and Yammarino (2002), increase the research in leadership character traits providing correlational evidence between effectiveness and satisfaction [p 35]. Dumdum, Lowe, and Avolio, from Avolio and Yammarino (2002) [p 53], outlined how “charisma,” “idealized influence,” “inspirational motivation,” and “intellectual stimulation” from leaders outweigh and influence both internal and external customers from a transformational leader. While transactional leadership is effective, the carrot or reward is always a problem in transactional leadership and is not as effective in training people, developing people, or influencing people. Managers often employ the transactional theory of leadership while never striving for the transformational aspects, which are more affective. The research is clear, leadership and management are totally separate principles, and leadership through religious principles is the better option for transforming organizations and the people associated with those organizations.

Spiritual leadership encompasses, the best of human striving, harnessing the power of individual effort and the power of positive thinking. This power to strive is derived from strong morals, developed over time and experience. Some of the experience has been learned genetically (Hoerr, 2007) and cannot be discounted simply because it sits in opposition to the philosophical theories of postmodernism. Soltani & Joneghani (2012) discuss these principles through expanded research coming to similar conclusions about the need for and use of strong morals in leadership and success. This does not mean that those without strong morals cannot succeed, but that the success of those with strong morals appears to last longer and possess a far greater reach and impact. Pandey, Gupta, & Arora (2008) researched the power of religious leadership/management in the corporate culture of an organization and the positive influence this religious culture has upon customer service. Again, this does not make a claim that those without religious leadership cannot be successful; but the research is clear that possessing the strong morals of a religion advances success and improves the customer experience. Religious leadership, corporate culture, and customer receptiveness to strong morals is mentioned due to the need for not losing oneself in corporate cultures. Those employees possessing strong moral character need not lose themselves making Carnegie (1936), Muir (1928) and Peale (1992) more applicable to the separation between manager and leader and the need for knowing oneself more abundantly clear. Kreitner & Kinicki (2004) allude to the same organizational principles discussed by the researchers Alon & Chase (2005) along with Pandey, Gupta, & Arora (2008). The organizational matrix needs strong moral character, epitomized through religious leadership, not management, is clear as detailed by Maxwell (2003).

Goldratt & Cox (2004) do a tremendous job documenting the changes as they occurred in a business with a charismatic leader and the managers who must make “bricks without straw (Exodus, 5:16-18).” The changes which occurred parallel the principles established by Greenberg (2002) & Hamlin & Sawyer (2007). More important is the behavior patterns of charismatic leaders, grounded in religious foundations, produce the organizational patterns discussed by Kreitner & Kinicki (2004) and Lundin, Paul, & Christensen (1996). Dauten (2003) provides impetus for leadership shifts, organizational change, and perspective on how to avoid some of the problems in making the change. Dauten (2003) adds another single variable into the volatile mix of change and leadership over management, a positive attitude as defined and described by Peale (1992). Dauten (2003) and Peale (1992) both emphatically state that without a positive attitude, as reflected through the actions of smiling, the charisma described in Avolio & Yammarino (2002) cannot be properly identified by those being led. Development Dimensions Intl. (2008) spells out retention efforts during change; yet the more telling research document lies in Frankl’s (1992) dissertation for delivering a product or service, changing the organization, all while retaining employees. Tribus (2008) specifically discusses how to change; namely, by being the change you desire to see in others. All of these authors are justified in the research conducted by Alon & Chase (2005), Pandey, Gupta, & Arora (2008), Soltani & Joneghani (2012). The principles of selling, customer leadership, product development, employee retention, and etc. all are developed more satisfactorily and improved through organizations with strong morals through religious leadership. Religious leadership is formed as a paradigm of action and detailed by Kuhn (1996) and Allen (1902). Kuhn (1996) outlines how paradigms are chosen, built, and become cultures in an organization. Allen (1994) introduces the simplicity behind realism and foundational knowledge, lifting, edifying, and providing methods for improving organizations. The keys here are simplicity that Muir (1928) expounds upon. Eden & Sulimani discussed in Avolio & Yammarino (2002) [p 287-308] expound upon the principle of self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP), Allen (1902) would describe this as thoughts becoming actions, predicting results. Regardless, self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP) also referred to as the “Pygmalion Paradigm” “works” (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002, p 288). The realization that expecting more from people, providing the training to achieve the higher standard, and raising the bar, is absolutely effective. This principle is universal in application. Changing how a person thinks, improves performance; expecting more from people, improves productivity measures; leadership, transformational leadership, founded upon strong moral codes and ethical actions, “works” (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002).

Religious Philosophy vs. Postmodernist Philosophy

Delanty & Strydom (2003) pitch post modernist thinking as the new reality and reject the fundamental principles described herein. Post modernist philosophy represented by Delanty & Strydom (2003) strives hard to cast out realism, redefining realism in new terms rejecting the foundation upon which the theory was built (p 442-447; 456-467). Habermas, quoted in Delanty & Strydom (2003), dictates that realism cannot be considered unless it is perpetually washed and filtered through new interpretations. This would be akin to learning about a hot stove by touching it and then re-experiencing the hot stove through burning other parts of the body, just to make sure we understand heat. The religious philosophy discussed herein would simply allow for learning that the stove is hot and looking for the signs of heat through sensory options to protect the individual from future burns or harm. While this analogy is simple, the concepts are easily understood. Postmodern thinking would have the individual continually suffer through new learning experiences in an attempt to understand heat. While the foundations of knowledge are more than acceptable to simply keep the individual from further harm through realistic endeavors and understanding. Bhaskar, Collins, and Habermas, again as displayed in Delanty & Strydom (2003) individually, would argue that the analogy about heat is too simplistic, not transcendental, and not ontologically expressive enough. Yet, Muir (1928) would argue that simplistic is best and more than sufficient to pass understanding from the author to the audience. This same philosophy would carry over into customer service and religious leadership. It is important to note, postmodern thinking will change language, attempt to re-define words, create new words and phrases, all in an attempt to overpower the thinking and thought of the audience. But the foundational principles of realism, strong morals, and leadership as a principle of living always shine through using simplicity.


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© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

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