Spiritual Leadership

Does the idea of spiritual leadership have any place in business? Some would say absolutely not. Why? They fear a thinly veiled introduction of religious views into a realm that should be based solely on the logic of the marketplace.

While I am sensitive to that concern, I am not one to say that spirituality and business are incompatible. Quite the contrary. I believe that many business ideas are rooted in the action of the spirit in our lives.

Let’s Take a Closer Look

It’s a commonly accepted fact that all human beings have a physical body. It’s not universally accepted, however, that we have a soul. Yet, that is exactly what we are sensing and feeling when we say that we were moved, or that something stirred in us. Okay, the realists ask, where is the soul? I would posit that, if the mind is “in” the brain, then the soul is “in” the heart.

From this point on, the anti-spirit crowd may want to simply drop out. For those with an open mind, read on.

Secular (non-religious) spirituality (a phrase that may strike some as an oxymoron) is simply based on the idea that the sacred and the transcendent are real, and they are not bound by traditional religious frameworks. If the sacred and the transcendent are realities, just as real as water, wood, and stone, then what are the implications?

One of the implications is that how we live our lives really matters. Our choices really matter. How do we know that our choices are right? To answer this question, we need values. Values are guidelines for right action. We must articulate our personal value system, our group’s, and our organization’s.

What Values, You Ask?

We must have values such as respect for each other, support for one another, and concern for the impact we are having on one another and on our surroundings and neighbors.

My colleague in Canada, Jan Yuill, has a saying that should be repeated:

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“Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place.”

Such a value is, for me, a great expression of a secular spirituality, one that recognizes the importance of values-driven choices.

Consultant Danie Eksteen, based out of South Africa, wrote an article about some research that was done at MIT on spirituality in the workplace. Prof. Ian I. Mitroff, the co-author of the MIT study, recently contributed to Marshall Goldsmith’s HBR Blog and said that spirituality in the workplace is about recognising that when people come to work, they do not leave their ‘spiritual sides’ at home.

While the ‘whole person walks in the door every day’, people are often forced to fragment themselves into many disconnected pieces. We would agree that (irrespective of how you describe or understand spirit) organizations have to allow people to bring their complete selves to work in order to have optimally engaged and effective employees.

Metaphors We Live By

In a recent interview with Vineet Nayar, India-based CEO of HCL company, he spoke about how management’s job is to enthuse and encourage employees. Take a deeper look at the metaphors we live by in our words and thoughts:

  • Enthuse =  to be possessed by a god within
  • Encourage = to put (something) into the heart
  • Inspire = to breathe upon or into

Take a moment to become more mindful of our language. It is a reflection of our deep cultural wiring.The spirit is in there.

What Do You Think of Spiritual Leadership in the Workplace?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Terrence Seamon
Terry is the author of To Your Success! a motivational guide for those in career transition and a leadership development trainer and coach based in central New Jersey.
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