What Is Spiritual Leadership?

Spiritual leadership involves intrinsically motivating and inspiring workers through hope/faith in a vision of service to key stakeholders and a corporate culture based on  the values of altruistic love to produce a highly motivated, committed and productive workforce. The purpose of spiritual leadership is to tap into the fundamental needs of both leaders and followers for spiritual well-being through calling (life has meaning and makes a difference) and membership (belonging); to create vision and value congruence across the individual, empowered team, and organization levels; and, ultimately, to foster higher levels of employee well-being, organizational commitment, financial performance, and social responsibility – the Triple Bottom Line.

Read on to learn more about Spiritual Leadership, its core values and beliefs, and how it can benefit you.

What is a Learning Organization?

Spiritual leadership is a model for organizational development/transformation designed to create an intrinsically motivated learning organization that maximizes the triple bottom line. A learning organization has the skills to create, acquire, and transfer knowledge, while modifying behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights. In learning organizations employees are empowered to achieve a clearly articulated organizational vision. Quality products and services that exceed expectations also characterize learning organizations. This new learning organizational paradigm is radically different from what has gone before: it is customer/client-obsessed, team-based, flat (in structure), flexible (in capabilities), diverse (in personnel make-up) and networked (working with many other organizations in a symbiotic relationship) in alliances with suppliers, customers/clients and even competitors.

The employees of learning organizations are characterized by being open and generous risk-takers who are capable of thinking in teams and motivating others to succeed. Furthermore, they must be able to abandon old alliances and establish new ones, viewing honest mistakes as necessary to learning and celebrating the noble effort, while exhibiting a “do-what-it-takes” attitude versus a “not-my-job” attitude. Committed leaders at all levels act as coaches who constantly strive to listen, experiment, improve, innovate, and create new leaders. The major challenge for the learning organization is developing, leading, motivating, organizing, and retaining people to be committed to the organization’s vision, goals, and culture.

Take a minute and see if your company is a learning organization by answering the following questions:

  1. Do you have an emotional bond with your stakeholders? Companies that prosper over the long term exude genuine affection for their customers and employees by providing a feeling of membership so that individuals feel understood and appreciated.
  2. Are you a fun place to work? The most productive companies tend to be the most playful. You don’t have to be downbeat to be disciplined. People are committed to an organization where they feel like part of the family and are highly regarded by leadership.
  3. Are you built to change? The only certainty in business today is that change must become a core capability in organizations that prosper over the long term. The best organizations may look to the past as a source of inspiration, but they don’t allow it to become an excuse for a lack of change. Instead, they pursue future productivity through the implementation of innovative strategies.
  4. Do you embrace the value of values? Today, more than ever, stakeholders demand to know; What values do you stand for? The company with the clearest sense of purpose wins. The heart of an organization’s success must include altruistic love – a sense of wholeness, harmony, and well being embraced through care, concern, and appreciation of both self and others.
  5. Are you as disciplined as you are creative? In successful organizations there is no contradiction between creativity and execution. Indeed, the most innovative companies tend to be the most disciplined through a clear and compelling vision.
  6. Do you use technology to change expectations and reshape your business? The Internet has become the most powerful tool for business experimentation ever. It transforms the learning organization – how people work together and how organizations interact with customers. There is no hope/faith in the economics of an organization disrupted by the fear-led, bureaucratic, hierarchy that can’t keep pace in this chaotic Internet-driven environment.
  7. Have you built a company of leaders? The organizations with the most confident and committed leaders, deepest in the ranks – Win! A learning organizations creates empowered teams and gives them the resources and freedom to maneuver outside the established hierarchy. It pushes decision-making authority deep into the ranks, providing employees with a sense of purpose and belonging. In doing so everyone has the opportunity to lead to the point that the distinction between leader and follower becomes blurred.

If you answered no to any of these questions, keep reading.

What is Workplace Spiritualty and how does it fit in with religion?

A person’s spirit is the vital principle or animating force traditionally believed to be the intangible, life-affirming force within all human beings. It is a state of intimate relationship with the inner self of higher values and morality as well as recognition of the truth of the inner nature of others. Today many individuals are struggling with what their spirituality means for their work since this is where they spend vast majority of their waking hours. The office is now where more and more people eat, exercise, date, drop their kids, and even nap. Many naturally look to their organizations as a communal center because they lack the continuity and connection found in other settings. Moreover, recent polls have found that American managers and leaders want a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment on the job – even more than they want money and time off.

A Call for Workplace Spirituality

Because of this, a major change is taking place in the personal and professional lives of leaders as many of them more deeply integrate their spirituality and their work. Many agree that this integration is leading to very positive changes in their relationships and their effectiveness. There is also evidence that workplace spirituality programs not only lead to beneficial personal outcomes such as increased job satisfaction, and commitment, but that they also deliver improved productivity and reduce absenteeism and turnover. Employees who work for organizations they consider to be spiritual are less fearful, more ethical, and more committed. And, there is mounting evidence that a more humane workplace is more productive, flexible and creative. Most importantly for organizational effectiveness is the emerging research that that workplace spirituality could be the ultimate competitive advantage. Because of this, there is an emerging and accelerating call for spirituality in the workplace.

Workplace spirituality is not about religion or conversion, or about accepting a specific belief system. Spirituality at work is about leaders and followers who understand themselves as spiritual beings who have a sense of calling that provides meaning and purpose for their lives. It is also about membership where people experience a sense of belonging, connectedness to one another and their workplace community. It begins with the acknowledgement that people have both an inner and an outer life and that the nourishment of the inner life can produce a more meaningful and productive outer life that can have beneficial consequences for employee well-being, corporate responsibility and sustainability, as well as financial performance – The triple bottom line.

Religion and Spirituality

The respected Dalai Lama, in Ethics for the New Millennium, speaks to the relationship between spirituality and religion.

Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims of one faith tradition or another, an aspect of which is the acceptance of some form of heaven or nirvana.  Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual prayer, and so on.  Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony—which brings happiness to both self and others.

Spirituality as manifested through these qualities provides the foundation for most, if not all, of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions. Both non-denominational spiritual practices and world religions all are fundamentally based on hope/faith in a vision of love and service of others. This explains what some people and organizations (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous) mean when they claim to be spiritual and not religious. Consequently, spiritual leadership can be implemented and practiced with or without religious theory, beliefs, and practices. In our work on leadership we have chosen to use the term spirituality to allow for its application to any organization interested in implementing workplace spirituality. However, this is in no way meant to imply that nondenominational or nontheistic spiritual practices are superior to the religious traditions and their beliefs and practices.

How does the Spiritual Leadership Model work?

Spiritual leadership is an emerging paradigm within the broader context of workplace spirituality designed to create an intrinsically motivated, learning organization.  Spiritual leadership comprises the values, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to intrinsically motivate one’s self and satisfy fundamental needs for spiritual well-being through calling and membership, which positively influences employee well-being, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, and financial performance – the Triple Bottom Line.

Essential to spiritual leadership is:

  1. Creating a vision wherein leaders and followers experience a sense of calling so that their lives have purpose, meaning and makes a difference, and
  2. Establishing a organizational culture based on the values of altruistic love whereby leaders and followers have a sense of membership, feel understood and appreciated, and have genuine care, concern, and appreciation for BOTH self and others.

As shown in the figure below, the source of spiritual leadership is an inner life or spiritual practice, such as spending time in nature, prayer, religious practice, meditation, reading, yoga, or writing in a journal. An inner life practice positively influences spiritual leadership through the development of hope and faith in a transcendent vision of service to key stakeholders that keeps followers looking forward to the future. Hope/faith in a clear, compelling vision produces a sense of calling – that part of spiritual well-being that gives one a sense of making a difference and, therefore, that one’s life has meaning. Spiritual leadership also requires that the organization’s culture be based on the values of altruistic love. Leaders must model these values through their attitudes and behavior, which creates a sense of membership – that part of spiritual well-being that gives one a sense of being understood and appreciated. The dimensions of spiritual leadership and the process of satisfying spiritual needs then positively influence the key individual and organizational outcomes that comprise the Triple Bottom Line.

 The Organizational Spiritual Leadership Model


Personal vs. Organizational Spiritual Leadership

An important distinction we make in spiritual leadership is between leading (personal spiritual leadership) and leadership (organizational spiritual leadership). Leading is concerned with leader development of personal spiritual leadership (PSL) where the emphasis is typically on individual knowledge, and skills and abilities associated with a formal leadership role, as well as the directional influence of leaders on followers.

Leadership is concerned with organizational spiritual leadership development (OSL) where the focus is on the collective social influence process that engages everyone and enables groups of people to work together in meaningful ways. Organizational Spiritual Leadership emphasizes a less leader-centric approach, focusing on engaging all group members to meet spiritual needs and enhance organizational commitment and performance. In this way, each person exercising positive influence enhancing the group’s calling, membership, and performance is considered a leader.  Spiritual leadership is thus both a cause and effect as group members interact and various formal and informal leaders in the group emerge.

The Components of the Spiritual Leadership Model

Spiritual leadership, with inner life as its source, emerges from the interaction of, hope/faith, vision, and altruistic love.

The Qualities of Spiritual Leadership


  • Broad Appeal to Key Stakeholders
  • Defines the Destination and  Journey
  • Reflects High Ideals
  • Encourages Hope/Faith
  • Establishes Standard of Excellence

Altruistic Love

  • Trust/Loyalty
  • Forgiveness/Acceptance/ Gratitude
  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Patience/Meekness/Endurance
  • Excellence
  • Fun


  • Endurance
  • Perseverance
  • Do What it Takes
  • Stretch Goals
  • Expectation of reward/victory
  • Excellence

Inner Life

An inner life or spiritual practice is important in the process of enabling personal spiritual leadership and facilitating work that is meaningful and takes place in the context of a community. Many companies are beginning to recognize the importance of supporting an employees’ inner life. Cordon Bleu-Tomasso Corporation has established a room for inner silence. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd’s (ANZ) have developed training programs focusing on “High Performance” mind techniques and “quiet rooms” for individual spiritual practice. Missouri’s Ascension Health is committed to a workplace that deepens personal spirituality through the adoption of an ethical discernment process that fosters self-reflection. These organizations and many others recognize that employees have spiritual needs (i.e., an inner life) just as they have physical, mental, and emotional needs, and none of these needs are left at the door when they arrive at work.

Spiritual Leadership

Hope/Faith. Hope is a desire with expectation of fulfillment. Faith adds certainty to hope.  Taken together, Hope/Faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. It is based on values, attitudes, and behaviors that demonstrate absolute certainty and trust that what is desired and expected will come to pass. Individuals with Hope/Faith have a vision of where they are going, and how to get there. They are willing to face opposition and endure hardships and suffering in order to achieve their goals.  Hope/Faith is also the source for the conviction that the vision, either personal or organizational, will be fulfilled.  In action Hope/Faith is like a race that has two essential components–the victory (vision) and the joy preparing for the race itself.  Both components are necessary and essential elements of Hope/Faith to generate the necessary effort to pursue the vision.

Vision. Vision refers to a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should strive to create that future. Tomasso Corporation’s vision of “Joyful and Passionate People Serving Enthusiastic Customers is an example. In motivating change, vision serves three important functions by clarifying the general direction of change, simplifying hundreds or thousands of more detailed decisions, and helping to quickly and efficiently coordinate the actions of group members. Moreover, a compelling vision energizes workers, gives meaning to work, and garners commitment, and establishes a standard of excellence. In mobilizing people a vision must have broad appeal, define the organizations destination and journey, reflect high ideals, and encourage hope and faith.

Altruistic Love. For spiritual leadership, altruistic love is defined as a sense of wholeness, harmony, and well-being produced through care, concern, and appreciation for both self and others. There are great emotional and psychological benefits from separating love, or care and concern for others, from need, which is the essence of giving and receiving unconditionally. Both medicine and the field of positive psychology have begun to study and confirm that love has the power to overcome the negative influence of destructive emotions such as resentment, anger, worry, and fear. Altruistic love defines the set of key values, assumptions, understandings and ways of thinking considered to be morally right that are shared by group members and taught to new members (See Table 1). Spiritual leaders embody and abide in these values through their everyday attitudes and behavior. (Keep reading for more on the values of altruistic love.)

Spiritual Well-Being

Calling. Calling refers to the experience of transcendence or how one makes a difference through service to others and, in doing so, finds meaning and purpose in life. Many people seek not only competence and mastery to realize their full potential through their work but also a sense that work has some social meaning or value. The term calling has long been used as one of the defining characteristics of a professional. Professionals in general have expertise in a specialized body of knowledge, ethics centered on selfless service to clients/customers, an obligation to maintain quality standards within the profession, a commitment or calling to their vocational field, a dedication to their work, and a strong commitment to their careers. They believe their chosen profession is valuable, even essential to society, and they are proud to be a member of it. The challenge for organizational leaders, which is addressed through the spiritual leadership model, is how to develop this same sense of calling in its workers through task involvement and goal identification.

Membership. Membership encompasses a sense of belonging and community; The cultural and social structures we are immersed in and through which we seek, what William James, the founder of modern psychology called man’s most fundamental need – to be understood and appreciated. Having a sense of being understood and appreciated is largely a matter of interrelationships and connection through social interaction and thus membership. At work, people value their affiliations and being interconnected to feel part of a larger community. As we devote ourselves to social groups, membership extends the meaning of our personality by enmeshing it in a network of social connections that goes out as far as the group has influence and power, and backwards and forwards in relations to its history. Ultimately, we grow greater, longer lived, more meaningful in proportion as we identify ourselves with the larger social life that surrounds us.

Cultivating Personal Spiritual Leadership

There is an old saying that you can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to implement organizational spiritual leadership without strong personal spiritual leadership.  As shown below, personal spiritual leadership requires  an inner life practice that is the source of hope/faith in a vision of service of others through personal values based on altruistic love. By committing to a vision of service to our key stakeholders, we discover a calling to make a difference in other peoples’ lives and, therefore, have a sense that our life has meaning and purpose. In living the values of altruistic love through the care, concern, and appreciation of both one’s self and others, we experience membership and a sense of belonging and being understood and appreciated. The combined experiences of calling and membership are the essence of spiritual well-being, which is the source of the individual outcomes of personal spiritual leadership – personal commitment and productivity, positive human health, psychological well-being, and life satisfaction.

The Personal Spiritual Leadership Model


Exploring Your Personal Spiritual Leadership

Chapters three and six in, Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership, are dedicated to  exploring the essence of the spiritual journey and developing the qualities of personal spiritual leadership. Personal spiritual leadership is a developmental process that follow the process of the Personal Spiritual Leadership Model. This approach assumes that all people are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. As such,cultivating personal spiritual leadership practice requires a discernment process of powerful questioning, co-creation, and visioning to deepen spirituality and connect that deepening to daily action in your organization.

Personal spiritual leadership  is a process built on specific practices and is also fluid and uniquely individual. It is a path of both spiritual deepening as you explore the meaning and practical daily application of both personal and organizational spiritual leadership. Personal spiritual leadership however is not a form of psychoanalysis, although it is a path to self discovery. It specifically focuses on the inner life and spiritual leadership components of the personal spiritual leadership model that, in combination, creates hope/faith in a transcendent vision of service to others through altruistic love.

Step One: Cultivating One’s Inner Life Through Mindfulness

Cultivating one’s inner life is a process of understanding and tapping into, a power greater than ourselves along with how to draw on that power to live a more satisfying and full outer life.  It speaks to the feelings individuals have about the fundamental meaning of who they are, what they are doing, and the contributions they are making. Inner life is the source of both Personal Spiritual Leadership  which includes individual practices (e.g., meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling, and walking in nature) and Organizational Spiritual Leadership which supports contexts (e.g., rooms for inner silence and reflection) that help individuals to be more mindful or self-aware and conscious from moment-to-moment.

In this phase of the personal spiritual leadership process you discover or reinforce your current inner life practice and its importance for the spiritual journey within the framework of the Personal Spiritual Leadership Model. This includes, as is covered in Maximizing the Triple bottom Line Through Spiritual leadership, exploring the spiritual journey as a pilgrimage through five Levels of Knowing and Being and the Three-fold Path of Spiritual Transformation. Essential to this journey is cultivating mindfulness and mindful awareness Mindful awareness is a process of waking up and becoming the “Watcher”; of being present in the now. This Watcher is your true Essence or Being. One cannot see clearly nor have an accurate view of reality if their emotional programs for happiness and cultural conditioning are clouding their awareness. Being mindfully aware is to discover new insights and possibilities, to awaken one’s capacity to live more wisely, more lovingly, and more fully. One way that is used to begin this journey is through the use of the Enneagram. To get a feel for how this works you may want to explore the Enneagram web site as well as take one of the free Enneagram self-assessments.

Step Two: The Personal Mission Statement: Spiritual Leadership in Daily Action

As we draw more and more strength from our inner life practice, we experience an inner resurrection that is manifested through the qualities of personal spiritual leadership. However, this manifestation cannot take place without a vision or destination and a compass (a set of values and moral principles). Mindful awareness as a result of our inner life practice gives us the hope/faith to re-script ourselves so the paradigms from which our attitudes and behavior flow are in harmony with our vision, purpose, and mission in life and congruent with our deepest values. The most effective way to begin this re-scripting process is through a personal mission statement, which provides both a foundation and guidance for developing the qualities of personal spiritual leadership.

An effective personal mission statement requires vision, purpose, mission and value statements that form the basis for our ethical system and the personal values based in altruistic love underlying it. It identifies our key stakeholders and their expectations, issues related to unmet stakeholder expectations, and a set of integrated goals and strategies to resolve these issues. Taken together, a spiritual program and personal mission statement provide a deep sense of peace and security from knowing that our vision and values are timeless, circumstance free, and do not change. They transcend people and circumstances encouraging us to validate them through the practice of personal and organizational spiritual leadership.

Example of worksheets that can be used as an aid in this process are given in chapter 6 of Maximizing The Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership and are also available as part of our product/workshop offerings.

Values of Altruistic Love

These values define altruistic love provide the foundation for the Spiritual Leadership Model and IISL’s culture as we work to exceed the expectations of our  key stakeholders.

Honesty – we seek the truth, rejoice in it, and base our actions on it.

Integrity – we walk the walk as well as talk the talk. We say what we do and do what we say and, if for some reason we can’t do this, we let you know as soon as possible

Humility – we are modest, courteous, and without false pride. We are not jealous, rude or arrogant and do not brag.

Courage – we have the firmness of mind and will as well as the mental and moral strength to maintain our morale and prevail in the face of extreme difficulty, opposition, threat, danger, hardship, and fear.

Kindness – we are considerate, humane and sympathetic to the feelings and needs of others.

Empathy/Compassion – we read and understand the feelings of others. When others are suffering we understand and want to do something about it.

Patience/Meekness/Endurance – we bear trials and/or pain calmly and without complaint. We persist in or remain constant to any purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. We pursue steadily any project or course we begin and never quit in spite of counter influences, opposition, discouragement or suffering.

Trust/Loyalty – in our chosen relationships, we are faithful and have faith in and rely on the character, ability, strength and truth of others. We recognize, rejoice in, and celebrate the noble efforts of others.

Forgiveness/Acceptance/Gratitude – we suffer not the burden of failed expectations, gossip, jealousy, hatred, or revenge. Instead, we choose the power of forgiveness through acceptance and gratitude. This frees us from the evils of self-will, judging others, resentment, self-pity, and anger and gives us serenity, joy and peace.

Excellence – we “do what it takes” to get the job done in meeting the needs and striving to exceed the expectations of those we serve through continuous innovation and improvement. We know that it takes 10% more effort to do a job right the first time and 90% more effort to do it over. We recognize, rejoice in, and celebrate the noble efforts of our colleagues and clients.

Fun – enjoyment, fun, and playful activity must exist in order to stimulate minds, foster creativity and bring happiness and a sense of well-being to one’s place of work. We therefore view our daily activities and work as not to be dreaded yet as reasons for smiling and having a terrific day in serving others.

How does Spiritual Leadership maximize the Triple Bottom Line?

Organizations that focus on sustainability and strategic performance measurement have been at the forefront of the movement to maximize the Triple Bottom Line.  They stress the need for a new business model that emphasizes nonfinancial predictors of financial performance such as leadership, operating/internal measures, quality, customer satisfaction, employee well-being, and social responsibility. Measuring organizational performance in this new way requires the adoption of a stakeholder approach. Organizations need to embrace the various internal and external parties that have a legitimate strategic and moral stake in the organizations performance. These stakeholders have different values, interests, and expectations as well as different relationships with other individuals, groups and organizations. The main purpose of the stakeholder approach is to define the common good of the organization, while meeting the needs and safeguarding the rights of the various stakeholders. By achieving congruence between customer, worker, and other stakeholder values and expectations, leaders will enhance, rather than detract from, corporate profitability.

The Spiritual Leadership Balanced Scorecard Business Model

The Spiritual Leadership Balanced Scorecard Business Model given in Figure 1 draws from the latest developments of the Baldrige and Balanced Scorecard approaches to performance excellence. It emphasizes stakeholder satisfaction and the spiritual leadership model as key to maximizing the Triple Bottom Line. Strategic leaders — through choices about vision, purpose, mission, strategy, and their implementation — are responsible for creating vision and value congruence across all organizational levels. In the upper third of Figure 1, the strategic management process is shown beginning with the development of a vision, purpose, and mission, followed by an internal and external analysis, which results in strategic action plans and objectives. These objectives form basis for the leading and lagging indicators that are selected for key Balanced Scorecard Performance Categories.

Leading indicators and management metrics are used to measure the performance of ongoing company operations, which are depicted in the figure’s input/output model in the center third of Figure 1. Generally, the more strategic the level of the scorecard in the organizational chart, the more results oriented and lagging are the specific measures that are reported in the scorecard. These measures comprise the quality, customer and stakeholder satisfaction, and financial Balanced Scorecard Performance Categories. For example, the quality of a firm’s products and services are outputs that are leading indicators of customer satisfaction, which in turn, is a leading indicator of financial performance. However, quality is also a lagging indicator of the efficiency and effectiveness of the organizations key production processes.

In the bottom third of the Figure 1, employee learning and growth, which is the central balanced scorecard performance category, is driven by the spiritual leadership process. This is because the learning and growth category is a leading indicator and drives the other performance categories. As shown by the dotted line from the learning and growth category to processes, employees who have a sense of well-being and are committed, productive, and socially responsible will strive to continuously improve organizational processes and produce quality products and services that satisfy customers and other key stakeholders expectations,  which ultimately drives financial performance. In turn, the learning and growth outcomes of organizational commitment and productivity, employee well-being and social responsibility are driven by the organizational spiritual leadership process. As shown by the dotted line between the strategic management and spiritual leadership processes, strategic leaders must provide the supportive context for the spiritual leadership model to operate effectively across the individual, team, and organizational levels.

Spiritual Leadership Balanced Scorecard Business Model




Triple Bottom Line Outcomes

The Spiritual Leadership Balanced Scorecard Business Model demonstrates the link from spiritual leadership to financial performance.  Relative to organizational performance and profits, the intrinsic motivation process in Spiritual Leadership that is based on vision, altruistic love and hope/faith results in an increase in ones sense of Spiritual Well-Being and ultimately increased:

Member well-being (People). In terms of people or enhancing employee well-being, mainstream medical research during the last 20 years has established the power of spirituality in maintaining health. Individuals in work groups that experience high levels of spiritual leadership and spiritual well-being through calling and membership have higher levels of positive human health, psychological well-being, and life satisfaction. More specifically, they have a higher regard for themselves and their past life, good-quality relationships with others, a sense that life is purposeful and meaningful, the capacity to effectively manage their surrounding world, the ability to follow inner convictions, and a sense of continuing growth and self-realization.

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility (Planet). Attending to the sustainability of our planet requires an ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility. Organizations based on hope/faith in a vision of service to stakeholders through altruistic love (spiritual leadership) are dedicated to being socially responsible. Corporate social responsibility feeds into and flows from the attainment of goals consistent with need for the organization and its workers to function in society as a whole.  When members of an organization have a sense of belonging (membership) and a commitment to a common purpose (calling) through spiritual leadership, the organization as a whole is more successful in meeting or exceeding all stakeholder expectations, including those focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Profit. The field of performance excellence has signaled the need to go beyond reporting financial metrics, such as profit and sales growth, to include nonfinancial predictors of financial performance such as customer satisfaction, organizational outputs such as quality and delivery, process or internal operating measures, and employee commitment and growth.  Of these performance categories, employee commitment is the central and leading indicator of these other performance categories. In other words spiritual leadership positively influences:

  1. Organizational commitment – People with a sense of calling and membership will become attached, loyal to, and want to stay in organizations that have cultures based on the values of altruistic love, and
  2. Productivity and continuous improvement – People who have hope/faith in the organization’s vision and who experience calling and membership will “Do what it takes” in pursuit of the vision to continuously improve and be more productive.

Organizational commitment and productivity  are then key for producing a high level of quality products and services, which then leads to high levels of customer satisfaction and, ultimately, financial performance – the triple bottom line.

How do I implement Organizational Spiritual Leadership?

As detailed in our book, Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership, the key activities that are necessary to implement the Organizational Spiritual Leadership Model include:

  • Administer Organizational Spiritual Leadership Survey.
  • Conduct Vision/Stakeholder effectiveness analysis with the organization’s leadership team to:
    • Create a dialog for shared organizational vision/purpose/mission/values.
    • Identify stakeholder effectiveness criteria and issues.
    • Organize empowered teams/task forces around key issues.
    • Develop and implement goals and strategies to address these issues.
    • Review/develop information systems to measure stakeholder effectiveness.
  • As appropriate, conduct Organizational Development Interventions and skills training in:
    • Team empowerment
    • Collaborative, consensus-based decision making.
    • Managing conflict.
    • Managing and overcoming resistance to change.
    • Overcoming anger, resentment and fear through forgiveness, acceptance, and gratitude.
  • Align changes with organization design variables; especially reward systems, 360 degree and stakeholder evaluations, and recruiting and selection processes. Identify those who must be asked to leave and help them exit (with love).
  • Develop and implement information systems based on the Spiritual Leadership Balanced Scorecard Business Model to maximize the triple bottom line through spiritual leadership.

These practices (1) reinforce/establish organizational spiritual leadership through a vision of service to key stakeholders and a culture of care and concern based on the values of altruistic love, (2) identify key stakeholder expectations, (3) surface issues and barriers to meeting/exceeding these expectations, and (4) establish goals, strategies, and quality-based information systems to track progress on meaningful performance measures.

The Organizational Spiritual Leadership Survey and Vision/Stakeholder Effectiveness Analysis

For organizational spiritual leadership we recommend that you first administer the Spiritual Leadership Survey and then conduct a Vision/Stakeholder Effectiveness Analysis with your organizations top leadership team before undertaking any organizational change initiatives. A broad range of standardized and custom surveys and feedback reports are available for purchase online. The results of theses surveys, when combined with the vision/stakeholder effectiveness analysis, can provide tremendous insights into your organizations current level of Organizational Spiritual Leadership plus surface key issues that, if addressed, will move your organization to the next level of performance.

Organizational Development Interventions and Skills Training

Organizational development (OD) is the planned development, improvement and reinforcement of strategies, structures, and processes that lead to organizational effectiveness. Organizational development interventions based on organizational spiritual leadership should not be initiated until the organization has established a baseline for intervention after administering the spiritual leadership survey and conducted a thorough vision/stakeholder effectiveness analysis that, in combination, identify the key issues that, if addressed, will move the organization to the next level of performance and the triple bottom line.

Common OD interventions include implementing elements of team empowerment; collaborative, consensus-based decision making; managing conflict, managing and overcoming resistance to change; and overcoming anger, resentment, worry, and fear through forgiveness acceptance, and gratitude. Finally, these changes must be aligned with key organizational design variables.

Team Empowerment

Empowerment is power sharing through the delegation of power and authority. It creates the cross-level connection between team and individual jobs and provides the basis for strong intrinsic motivation while meeting the higher-order needs of individuals. Empowered employees are more committed to the organization through trust, hope, and faith in the organization’s vision and values. In particular:

  • Empowered teams receive information about organizational performance.
  • Employees receive knowledge and skills to contribute to organizational goals.
  • Employees have the power to make substantive decisions.
  • Employees understand the meaning and impact of their jobs.
  • Employees are rewarded based upon organizational performance.

Managing Conflict

Conflict pervades our daily lives. As if the workplace weren’t busy enough, research shows that managers and employees spend about 20% of their time attempting to resolve conflicts in the organization. Conflicts take many forms in organizations. There are the inevitable clashes between formal authority and power, how resources should be allocated, how the work should be done, including jurisdictional disagreements among individuals and departments. These include subtler forms of conflict involving rivalries, jealousies, personality clashes, and struggles for power and favor.  Organizational conflict though is not all bad. It can be positive and seen as a constructive learning experience that creates involvement and positive relationships that lead to improved communication and problem solving. Yet it can also be a destructive force that diverts energy from tasks and widens differences creating irresponsible behavior, lower morale, with reduced commitment and productivity.

As we discuss in Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership, implementing this organizational development intervention requires the team members or individuals to assess and understand their conflict style and under what conditions or circumstances a certain style is appropriate. Team leaders then model an ongoing process whereby conflict situations are acknowledged and team members are encouraged to dialogue about the conflict process and how to best resolve it.

Collaborative, Consensus-based Decision Making

The fundamental building block of a learning organization is an empowered team that encourages constructive collaboration as key to effective decision making. As we illustrate in Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership, a collaborative, consensus-based process is not about reaching unanimity, but rather a situation where each party is open-minded, honest in sharing facts and opinions, and willing to participate responsibly and work toward satisfying both their and the other party’s needs. Consensus is based on the principle that every voice is worth hearing and every concern is justified. The focus here is on common ends or goals rather than differences, placing emphasis on addressing the issue rather than defeating the other party. Without consensus the quality, acceptance and the implementation and effectiveness of team decisions will suffer.

Managing and Overcoming Resistance to Change

One of the biggest problems facing today’s organizations is the failure to adapt to rapid technological and environmental change. Although there are many reasons for the failure to change and adapt, there is little doubt that effective leadership is necessary to keep change efforts moving forward.  Leaders must serve as the main role model for change and provide the vision, values, and motivation to facilitate change in followers and help their organizations adapt to external threats and new opportunities. For change initiatives to succeed there must be a shared understanding  of the stages in the change process and top leadership commitment to empowering employees and change teams throughout the organization to act on the vision for change.

Many good ideas are never implemented due to failure to anticipate or prepare for resistance to change because, no matter how good the idea, its implementation will conflict with some party’s interest and jeopardize current alliances in the organization. These conflicts, threats, and potential losses require strategies to increase the probability of a successful change transition. This calls for widespread communication, participation, involvement, and training (e.g., in the interventions we cover in Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual leadership) to help employees understand and be enthusiastic about their role in the change process.

Overcoming Resentment, Anger and Fear through Forgiveness, Acceptance, and Gratitude

Anger, resentment and fear are the most damaging emotions in personal and professional life. They emerge when people have frustrated feelings about a past or future situation. If the spiritual leadership survey reveals that there are problems with employee anger, resentment, worry, and fear, the organization may need to emphasize interventions that target the cultural values of forgiveness, acceptance, and gratitude. This OD intervention is detailed in Maximizing The Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership, which provides models, methods, and tools that both leaders and employees can draw upon to become free of anger, resentment, worry, and fear no matter what their circumstances.

Align Organization Design Variables

An organization will then need to focus on aligning key organizational design variables to implement any changes.  The basic idea behind organizational design is that there are several key variables – structure, task, information technology, people, and reward systems – that must fit or be in alignment for an organization to implement its vision, values, goals, and strategies. A change in any one of the design variables will call for adjustments in the others as they all must form an integrated whole or system. The values that comprise the organization’s culture form the glue that holds the system. Ultimately, change is fully accepted and implemented when it is steeped in the organization’s culture and becomes “the way we do things around here.” Until the new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values, the organization will digress as soon as the pressure for change is removed. This stage requires that leaders make a conscious attempt to communicate how the new approaches, behaviors and attitudes have improved organizational performance. It also requires that the people and reward system design variables are adjusted so that the next generation of leaders really reflects the new order. This is where many, if not most, organizational change efforts fail.

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