Leaders and organizations are uncomfortable talking about spirituality or any subject that can be interpreted as religious. There could be several reasons why, the separation of church and state, the organization’s non-discriminatory policies, or the need to conform and not be seen as weird. Therefore, we find in the literature and in mainstream words such as: Synchronicity, Zen, Spirit at work, inner work, vision, intuition, enlightened leadership, 6th sense, meditation, visualization, awareness, mystic, and many more. All of these words are synonymous with spirituality. Leaders practice spirituality… as long as they just don’t call it spirituality. A more appropriate term could be “Holistic Leadership.”
The purpose of this paper is to look at elements of spirituality and leadership and their relationship to each other. Spirituality, Religion, and Leadership Spirituality and leadership are two concepts that have broad meanings and interpretations. According to Conger spirituality like leadership are two very hard concepts to describe (1994, 27). “So an exploration of these two words individually or in combination could be an exercise in frustration, especially for those who seek absolute answers.” (Conger 1994, 63) There are many descriptions for leadership, spirituality, and religion. For the purpose of this paper I chose the ones that I felt were the most appropriate to the topic. Spirituality
So how does the literature define Spirituality? Janet Dalton Honek in her article “Spirituality in My Workplace?! Not that God talk!” states that” Spirituality in the Workplace is an emerging field of management. It encourages you to bring your whole being into your work. It offers you the place and opportunity to use your gifts and talents to their full potential in fulfilling your job responsibilities. It encompasses a variety of elements that can be expressed in a multitude of ways.
For many people, it is a sense of personal satisfaction.” Kathy Szaj, a writer living in New York City, in her article “Sounds like Spirit” defined Spirituality as: “Spirituality is…wonderbuilt frame of reverence. Spirituality is the habit of heading for the innerness of people, places and things, and after visiting, leaving some small token of gratitude there. Spirituality is the vision that remembers that several billion earth creatures originate from and unite at one center; the practice of purposefully acting as if all thinking/feeling/being matters. And so it does…in-deed. Spirituality is consciously tending to all of the above so often that it becomes as natural and necessary as breathing.” In a description of the book Capturing the Heart of Leadership. Spirituality and Community in the New American Workplace. by the Greenwood Publishing Group; Spiritual leadership is described as a dynamic, interactive process that is dependent on a recognition that leadership is a relationship. “Leaders are leaders only as far as they develop relationships with their followers, relationships that help all concerned to achieve their spiritual, as well as economic and social, fulfillment.”
John-Brian Paprock in his article “The Spiritual Part. Employment and Spirituality” states: “Spirituality does not really take time, rather it is being who one is. If a person has engaged a spiritual life, then it is personal integrity that brings spirituality wherever the person is. Whether through prayer or a prayerful consciousness or through meditation or a meditative consciousness or through cultural practices, work stations and offices can become personal “sacred space.” Obstacles and problems become opportunities of spirit. All of life becomes an integrated adventure. Spirituality becomes the whole of life, not an extra-curricular hobby reserved for the weekend.” (1997, 2).
John Buck in his article “Leadership and spirituality connected” states that the soul of leadership is spirituality, that spirituality grounds leadership, that it is impossible to separate leadership from the spiritual essence of a leader. “It is spirituality that provides substance and solidarity to a person, not leadership. It grounds the leadership style and practice of a leader.” (2000,2)
In a recent study on spirituality, Wade Clark Roof, a religion professor at the University of California, found an interpretation of spirituality among middle-aged Americans: “In its truest sense, spirituality gives expression to the being that is in us; it has to do with feelings, with the power that comes from within, with knowing our deepest selves and what is sacred to us, with, as Matthew Fox says, ‘heart-knowledge.'” (Conger, 1994,9). Religion
The Encarta World English Dictionary has the following definitions of religion: 1. People’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life. 2. A particular institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine. 3. A set of strongly held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by.
Religion is not the same as spirituality. But when we discuss spiritual values, highly charged issues arise. Because of religious freedom and the freedom to practice and chose your own religion and beliefs, this area has been considered sacred ground. People are afraid that if the subject of religion or spirituality is approached, someone is going to influence a person’s private and individual beliefs. Rutte is more direct by saying that some individuals would try to shove a particular point of view down their throats, and this approach will take away the individual’s freedom to choose and the opportunity to search for his/her own truth. (Rutte, 1991, 3).
Some of the issues why we do not discuss religion in the workplace include the fear of people being dogmatic and the conflicts that could arise, taboos, the separation of church and state, freedom of religion, separation of private and business life, and unreflected notions of the Divine. (Rutte,1991,1)
Leadership Leadership is a process of working with people to get things done. Joseph Jaworski in his book Synchronicity. The Inner Path of Leadership states that leadership is about learning how to shape the future. “Leadership is about creating a domain in which human beings continually deepen their understanding of reality and become more capable of participating in the unfolding of the world. Ultimately, leadership is about creating new realities.” (1998, 3)
Roger Fulton in his book Common Sense Leadership defines leadership as: “…the art of influencing and directing people in such a way as to obtain their willing obedience, confidence, respect and cooperation. Leadership is not a mysterious phenomenon. It is a combination of skills and observable behaviors that can be learned.” (Fulton, 1995, viii). Today’s Leaders “The Baby Boomers”
We, the so-called Sixties generation, the baby boomers, now the leaders, CEO’s, managers, and parents, are leading the quest for the understanding of life issues. We have more and deeper questions about life. We are once again interested in the nobler ideals of world peace, economic equality, egalitarian civil rights, human potential, and spiritual enlightenment. (Green, 2000)
All we have to do is to take a look at some of the best seller’s books in the market. Small inspirational books such as: The One Minute Manager, The Greatest Salesman in the World, The Chicken Soup collection, Who Moved My Cheese, Fish, The Corporate Mystic, books on stress reduction, angels, prayer, visualization, vision quests, Feng Shui, and the long list of books published by Nightingale Conant. Books and materials that are nurturing the self, the soul, the leaders, and the organizations; materials that are giving permission to the executives, leaders, business people, and CEO’s to be more open and to admit that spirituality is a part of their leadership style.
Think about how many doctors, CEO’s, leaders, and ourselves , in a moment of need, have taken a moment to pray, to ask for help from God, the Creator, the Force, the Universe? How many business leaders write their short and long term goals and then meditate and visualize them? How many people are joining study groups, meditation groups, spiritual study groups? There is a group in the Pentagon that meets weekly for meditation and prayer for world peace. Barrett in his articles on Spirituality and the World Bank addressed the creation of The World Bank Spiritual Unfoldment Society (SUS).
The mission statement of SUS is: “The Spiritual Unfoldment Society promotes personal transformation through self-knowledge, understanding, and awakening higher consciousness. SUS provides a safe forum for the exchange of beliefs and ideas that promote spiritual awareness. SUS seeks to create within the World Bank a consciousness of love and understanding that contributes toward transforming the way we interact with one another (and the way the organization interacts with the world).” The SUS instituted monthly meditation sessions, created special interest groups, held two retreats, an international conference, and publishes two newsletters. Barrett states: “The real significance of the conference and of the Spiritual Unfoldment Society was that the Bank staff now have permission to talk about spiritual values in development, and to bring their hearts and souls to work.” (1998, 2)
Spirituality is for some a taboo word, for others a way of life. The driving force of the Spirituality movement is the middle class, educated vanguard of the Baby Boom generation. (Lauerman, 2000, 2). Ancient religious traditions often combined work with spiritual practice and rituals. We are now coming full circle. In her article “The Missing Link” Anne Colby states that “We spend more and more time at work, people have less time to spend outside social groups. They’re interested in making spirituality practical and applied, rather than just something you do on the weekend.” In the same article Colby quotes Judith Neal, and states “As idealistic as it sounds, Neal said she sees many signs of renaissance in workplace spirituality. She estimates [Neal] that about 10% of the management consultants working with corporations today have a spiritual focus in the work. And spirituality in the workplace has become an open topic in the personnel trade journals.” Elements, characteristics, and tools
“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude. Be kind, but not weak. Be bold but not a bully. Be thoughtful, but not lazy. Be humble, but not timid. Be proud, but not arrogant. Have humor, but without folly.” Jim Rohn Spirituality is not religion but a way of being. There is not just one definition of spirituality, but several key words appeared several times throughout the literature, words like: synchronicity, miracles, vision, from within, whole being, full potential, relationships, personal integrity, substance, feelings, meaning of life, and way of being.
In attempting to explore spirituality in leadership several common areas, elements or characteristics were discussed in the literature. The table on Appendix A highlights those common areas encountered in several books and articles. The elements and characteristics of leadership and spirituality were concepts such as integrity, trust, creativity, communication, relationships, energy, vision, fun, creativity, change, and passion. Each column in the table of appendix A shows the characteristics, elements, or areas covered in each article or book. These are books such as Fish, Who moved my cheese, Jesus CEO, and the Corporate Mystic.
The tools to achieve some of the characteristics and elements of spirituality and leadership are objects such as crystals, water fountains, and aromatherapy oils. Leaders are attending workshops that teach meditation, visualization, relaxation techniques, stress reduction techniques, vision quests, inner work, self-awareness and prayer groups. Retreats that are designed to balance body, mind, and spirit. There is a lot of information on energy, feng shui, tai chi, and Qi Gong.
Organizations are becoming more aware of the trends in society. Spirituality in the workplace promotes an expression of talent, brilliance and genius. Baby boomers are seeking more meaning in their lives, including the place where they spend a lot of their time, work. The nature and meaning of work is undergoing an evolution. We are yearning for work to be a place in which we can experience and express our spirit. “Companies are beginning to recognize employees as whole human beings and are exploring a full range of their needs and desires. Conversations are emerging around spirituality and how to nurture its potential in both the individual and the company.” (Rutte, 1996, 1)
McLaughlin in his article “Seeking Spirituality…at work” discusses the trends and indicates that the trend extends beyond individuals, that organizations and hundreds of companies are defining or clarifying their organizational values, universal ideas such as respect, honesty, and integrity. (1998, 2)
Judy Neal, an associate professor of management at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, publishes a newsletter, “Spirit at Work.” In less than two years her base subscription grew to more than 1,000 professionals. When I received her bibliography on “Spirit at Work” it contained a list of 447 citations on Spirituality, a list that gets updated every three months.
Ms. Neal fully understands the willingness of professionals to look beyond conventional sources for inspiration, insight, and imaginative ideas. She states: “Developing one’s own spiritual side offers a source of strength both on the job and off. Helping other employees develop theirs can make the workplace a stronger, safer and much saner, place to do business.” (Brandt, 1996, 4) “Holistic Leadership”
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams: who looks inside, awakens. — Carl Jung. I see Leadership and Spirituality as interrelated and yet distinct elements of the same issue. I related the issues of Leadership and Spirituality to the symbol of Yin and Yang. According to Chinese beliefs, every single thing that exists in the universe has two aspects, a yin and a yang. Everything has a front and a back, a top and a bottom, a left and a right, a beginning and an end. Night exists only in relation to day and cold exists in relation to heat.
When I looked at spirituality in leadership I found a similar pattern. Spirituality is an internal process of looking in, self-awareness, being, and meaning. Leadership is an external process of doing things, actions, and accomplishing goals. Conger described as: “… the objective definitions lead us in different directions: spirit evokes images of an intangible and internal world, while leadership focuses on the visible and the external reality. Spirit is a matter of being and becoming, of creation and re-creation, while leadership is doing, acting, performing. The definition of spirit invites contemplation, analysis, and insight, while that of leadership directs our attention to visible results.” (1994, 65) I believe that we are all spiritual beings that believe in something, be it God, the Universe, Money, Power, or Atheism.
As human beings we are trying to find ways to be happy, respected, and loved. We live in a society that is attempting to balance life, family, work, while attempting to understand the meaning of life, and to find who we are. We find ourselves spending a lot of time at work, in traffic, and wishing we had more time to be with our families and friends. We are also finding that there is more to life and more to who we really are than just a description of the kind of work we do, the car we drive, the house we live in, or the amount of money we make every month. There is a part of us, inside ourselves that matter. It makes us who we are; unique individuals with needs and wants. When we go within, we find the beings that we are, our own Spirit, and our Spirituality.
As I discussed with my husband, the fact that for a variety of reasons leaders do not like to identify with the word spirituality, we came up with a more appropriate term: “holistic leadership”. The Random House Webster’s dictionary defines holism as: “the theory that whole entities have an existence other than as the mere sum of their parts.” and holistic as: “incorporating or identifying with the principles of holism.”
I looked at the leader as a whole person, with leadership and spiritual qualities. (See Appendix B). My own drawing resembled the Yin and Yang figure at the beginning of this paper. The circle represents the individual or leader with two distinct, separate, and identifiable parts, the leadership and the spiritual. The leadership moving the energy one way, while the spirituality is moving the energy in the opposite direction, yet both are a part of the same whole individual or circle.
Buck expressed well when he wrote: “It is impossible to separate leadership from the spiritual essence of a leader. It is spirituality that provides substance and solidarity to a person, not leadership. It grounds the leadership style and practice of a leader.” Conclusion
Spirituality and Leadership are becoming an important part of our culture and our organizational culture. “The great spiritual search is in the mainstream.” (Bird, 1994). Rutte states that new approaches in modern management theory such as productivity and quality improvement, human motivation, teamwork, and systems perspectives have markedly enhanced effectiveness. Yet there is another dimension that needs to be taken into consideration, and that is the one that relates management to fundamental matters of the spirit, which lie at the heart of all beings. If one of the trends in the workplace is to include and involve the whole person, not just the work role, then spiritual values can be included. Imagine working in an environment that includes and encourages respect, appreciates people’s discovery and living of their spiritual values, and that allows for a diversity of expression of individual life purposes.
Rutte believes that within this spiritual frame “the bottom line” would be profitable, because productivity would be at once high, deeply satisfying, and responsive to world problems; and personal and corporate leadership would guide inspired by an appreciation of both the temporal as well as the infinite. “Management in the survival mode has been based on command and control. The way you get people to produce is by telling them what to do and making sure it gets done. But in a spiritual workplace, productivity is achieved through nurturing the expression of the self and the spirit. Our job, as leaders, is to facilitate the discovery of spirit, to esteem it, to celebrate it, and to hold others accountable for their expression of it. Imagine what would happen if you had a company in which all the people were doing their life’s work. You would have more loyalty, more resilience, more creativity, more innovation, and a deeper sense of self-reliance, self-renewal and self-generation.” (1991, 1-2)
Today’s leaders are using the tools needed to become more spiritual. The tools can help individuals look inward and start on their own path of self-discovery, self-fulfillment, and enlightenment. The research finds a great deal of evidence for the existence of Spirituality in Leadership. However, there is still resistance to calling it Spirituality. Instead, call it “Holistic Leadership.” “Given the opportunity one evening, an average person with average aspirations asked a wise and spiritual person, “What is the spiritual part of life.” The wise and spiritual person responded in the expected peaceful and soothing voice, ” I am afraid you are mistaken. There is no spiritual part of life.” After a stunned silence, ” I have paid attention to spiritual people all my life, I have read the sacred scriptures of my faith. How can it be that there is no spiritual part of life?” The wise and spiritual person said, with the expected knowing grin, “It is all spiritual.”
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