An Online Measure of Discernment

An Online Measure of Discernment

Hazel C. V. Traüffer (Grand Canyon University, USA), Corné L. Bekker (Regent University, USA), Mihai C. Bocarnea (Regent University, USA) and Bruce E. Winston (Regent University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2172-5.ch015


The Discernment Practices Indicator (DPI) reports three-factors: (a) Courage, (b) Intuition, and (c) Faith with Cronbach alpha values of (a) .85, (b) .89, and (c) .85, respectively. The Courage factor addresses the leader’s mental and moral courage; willingness to accept uncertainty; use of common sense; ability to seek new ways to look at old things; see a future full of possibilities, believing in the equality of all people; and to be firm, but loving, in addressing issues. The Intuition factor addresses the leader’s understanding of his or her emotions; willingness to make decisions, based on a hunch; as well as paying attention to body cues or thoughts that may flash across the mind. The Faith factor addresses the leader’s use of quiet time (to include prayer and meditation) to reflect and find meaning; use of principles of faith as guidance; as well as incorporating religious beliefs in professional undertakings.
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Discernment Practices Indicator: An Online Measure Of Discernment

Bass (1990) contended that decision-making is the most critical of the leader’s responsibilities, and a measure of the leader’s effectiveness lies in the quality of these decisions. Traüffer’s (2008) dissertation sought to determine if there was a role for discernment in the leader-decision process and using in-depth interviews, a literature review on discernment and related topics, as well as feedback from an expert panel determined that discernment had a role in understanding how leaders make decisions. Traüffer pointed out the paucity of research on the topic of discernment, thus making her study of discernment a foundational piece for the stream of research.

Leadership and organizational decision-making have been largely addressed from a classical, reductionist approach, but the set of challenges leaders face can seldom be successful with traditional methods of decision-making. These methods are variations of the behavior model of rational choice, whereby leaders arrive at decisions based on a reflection of experiences (Simon, 1955). Current leadership challenges suggest that we cannot always approach decision-making from this perspective, because several factors in the experience may not duplicate, or may differ from those in the present issue. Thus, the experience becomes either irrelevant or insufficient, and this requires leaders who desire to keep their organizations viable in emerging contexts to develop and master a new way of thinking. Therefore, it is necessary to reform current decision-making paradigms to meet the social realities of our times. A study of discernment contributes to the literature through the introduction of a new paradigm and cognitive ability that places the divine centre stage and integrates the leaders’ self-perception and identity into the organizational context for optimal performance, instead of the leader relying on best practices of past experiences.

The attempt to further the understanding of the discernment concept is not simply about philosophy or theology; rather, it is about uncovering truths whose “applicability is not bound to any one time or culture” (Plaut, 1961, p. 7). In other words, though revealed in one context, it is possible that the truths underlying the concept of discernment are relevant to our current times and issues, and may provide an explanation for leadership, as well as organizational behavior. Still, to discover these truths and present a coherent and comprehensive rendition of the construct, it is necessary to explicate the meaning of discernment, as well as what it entails. At present, there is no simple definition of, or scholarly consensus about, what discernment means. However, the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (p.89) likens the concept to “wisdom,” the Hebrew word transliterated as chokmo, which Whybray (1972) deemed “not only a practical guide to the successful life but a characteristic of God himself, from whom alone it can be obtained” (p. 14). Therefore, any definition or understanding of discernment requires an understanding of the concept wisdom.

The issue of decision quality and its effect on organizational life is not confined within any specific geographic boundary. Furthermore, the nature of being human affords no one an immunity from moral and ethical lapses. News headlines of the corporate implosions that result from unethical decisions (Colvin, 2003; Mehta, 2003), as well as the moral failures of renown and high-profile executives, whose extraordinary influence had the potential to mobilize vast arrays of resources, including human and financial, towards impressive achievements (Allen & Klenke, 2009), lead to the stark realization that the viability of organizations depends on the quality of the decisions their leaders make; yet, there has been little to no work that examines the role of discernment in the process. Two basic theories speculate that leaders in organizations make decisions either by rational choice or intuition. Simon (1955) presented a perspective which implies that theorists of rational choice adopt the schematized model of economic man that suggests that humans are rational beings. As such, humans have the capacity to engage in what Simon describes as

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