Photo by Joakim Back, Available at misanthropia.net
If we accept the premise that people have a spiritual side, then how does this knowledge affect our leadership theory and practice? To answer that question, we need to direct it in two different directions: toward our workplace associates and toward ourselves.
First, we need to ask the question: “How can managers connect with the soul of their employees?” If we acknowledge that our co-workers have a spiritual nature, then we should be able to speak to them at a spiritual level. Second, we need to ask the question: “How might we as managers and leaders connect with ourselves at the spiritual level?
Regarding the first question, I suggest that the following six leadership concerns are directly related to the spiritual dimension of our associates. As such, they suggest ways that we can address their spiritual dimension.
How Can We Connect with Our Associates at the Point of Their Spirituality?
- Worth. Spirituality connotes that everyone has a fundamental value and that it is our ethical duty to preserve that inherent value. This implies that a spiritual manager will avoid handling people as mere pawns in their corporate game.
- Liberty. Having a spiritual dimension, people possess a basic right and need for freedom. Spiritual managers will dedicate time and energy to developing an atmosphere of empowerment and individual freedom.
- Ambition. As spiritual creatures, each associate has dreams about their future. These may be concealed, but a spiritual manager knows how to investigate beyond an employee’s current position to detect their deepest aspirations.
- Meaning. Spirituality is about discovering significance in your work beyond the simple objective of survival. It implies that our existence is meaningful—there is a reason why we are here. Spiritual managers assist their associates in their search for that meaning.
- Imagination. Our most eminent ideas come from the soul because “the principles of creativity are buried as seeds within all life, but humans, in particular, possess a dynamic talent toward creativity, in the likeness of our Creator.”1 A spiritual manager tries to release this internal capability in other people by developing a context where they feel secure in doing so.
- Values. Our spirit side is the place where we develop and deposit our most essential beliefs about right and wrong, the norms and assumptions that motivate our conduct—even when we are not aware that this is what is happening. A spiritual manager does not just mouth the organization’s core values, but also facilitates their associates in detecting their personal values.
Whenever we speak to this more profound aspect of ourselves and of our employees, we are dealing with the spiritual dimension. This conception of “spirituality,” however, doesn’t just enable leaders to connect with other people—it also enables them to connect with themselves.
How Can Leaders Connect with Themselves at the Point of Their Spirituality?
A spiritual interpretation of human nature helps us discover our own need for internal renovation. In The Paradox of Success, John O’Neil talks about the shadow side of leadership. He writes:
The basic questions we encounter when we look deeply into the shadow are spiritual questions.2
This dark side may be compared to a submarine ready to torpedo the professional life of a leader when the appropriate opportunity presents itself. If we don’t deal with our own spiritual torpedoes, we may find that our battleship is sinking and wonder how it happened. Avoiding this requires self-awareness and may even require professional help. One thing is for sure, if we brush aside the shadow of our spirit, it will sooner or later surface with the capacity to destroy our lives and our careers.
During this experience of spiritual contemplation, we must ask ourselves three questions: (1) “Why do I exist?” (2) “What is my calling in life?” and (3) “What is the significance of what I do?” Answering these questions—all of which are fundamentally spiritual—encourages our innovative capability, which can restore our leadership capacity and indicate the direction for the organization as a whole.
What do you think? Can leaders relate to their peers and subordinates at the spiritual dimension? Do you have some examples you could share where you have seen this happen?
1Andrejev, V. (2004) Creativity & the meaning of ‘image’ from the perspective of the Orthodox icon. Theology Today 61(1), 53-66. Retrieved January 30, 2006, from eLibrary.
2O’Neil, J. R. (1993). The Paradox of Success: When Winning at Work Means Losing at Life. New York: G. P. Putman’s Sons, p. 177.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.