Original Research - Special Collection: Christian Leadership

The beauty of spiritual leadership: A theological-aesthetical approach to leadership

Volker Kessler
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 2 | a5898 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i2.5898 | © 2020 Volker Kessler | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 November 2019 | Published: 20 July 2020

About the author(s)

Volker Kessler, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria Akademie für Christliche Führungskräfte, Gummersbach, South Africa


The aim of this article is to investigate two links between beauty and leadership: What is beautiful about spiritual leadership? Why should spiritual leaders bother about beauty? This study was motivated by the Bible verse 1 Timothy 3:1 and the observation that, at least in the German context, church leadership is no longer seen as a beautiful task. After a preliminary note on theological aesthetics, the paper discusses several approaches towards the link between aesthetics and transformation of the world, among them God becoming beautiful by Rudolf Bohren and Christianity, art and transformation by John de Gruchy. The article finally argues that: (1) spiritual leaders are beautifying the church and beyond and (2) spiritual leaders should strive for beauty as diligently as they strive for truth and goodness. Statement (1) is drawn from the propositions that (a) the spirit is the real leader of the church, (b) church leaders are partaking in the work of the spirit and (c) the spirit is beautifying the church and beyond. This is a theological statement, not a phenomenological one. A small poll provides some answers to the questions: ‘what is beautiful about leading?’ and ‘what is not beautiful about leading?’ An example of a German kindergarten illustrates some benefits of an aesthetical approach.

Contribution: This article focuses on the neglected area of aesthetics in the context of leadership. It aims to encourage Christian leaders to fight against the ugliness of the world and make the world more beautiful.


Aesthetics; Spiritual leadership; Church leadership; Holy Spirit; Beautifying; Transformation; Practical theology; Rudolf Bohren; John de Gruchy; Patrick Sherry


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