Spiritual Power. Ethnic Chinese Managers and the Rise of Charismatic Christianity

Juliette Koning, Heidi Dahles

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This article explores the conversion of ethnic Chinese managers in Indonesia and Malaysia to charismatic Christianity, a movement characterized by experiential spirituality, healing, and prophesying. The spiritual turn among ethnic Chinese managers is positioned against literature on spirituality in organizations and the acclaimed need for managers and business leaders to bring spirituality to work in order to enhance efficiency and employee well-being under the present Zeitgeist of growing global competition and organizational change. An important missing link, however, in this rather instrumentalist literature is a contextual-ized approach to the inner meanings of religion-based spirituality in the lives of the managers involved. By analyzing the experiences as narrated by converted managers in Indonesia and Malaysia against the background of their cultural, political, social and economic context—in this case the ethno-religious power relations at national levels—this article takes the analysis beyond the goal-ori-ented leadership literature. Additionally, it applies a comparative approach to show that the spiritual turn may have divergent meanings to actors in different contexts. The outcomes of the research illustrate that religion-based spirituality among ethnic Chinese managers in Indonesia and Malaysia is empowering at the managerial level but also, although differently constituted, at the ethnic level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-37
JournalCopenhagen Journal of Asian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • spiritual leadership
  • religion-based spirituality
  • charismatic Christianity
  • ethnic Chinese
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia

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