Is there place for spirituality in leadership, especially in the business environment, the workplace? In fact, isn’t it already happening, with many or most being unaware?
But first, what is spirituality? Pastor Thamo Naidoo was our guest and answered this way: “Its learning how to live our
lives according to divine design; being connected to the Creator and discovering His mind for our existence in this world and how best we could be a representation of why we were created.” Louis Groenewald explained: “From a leadership point of view it is an intuitive belief in values that are unseen to the physical eye – now we are in the realm of faith. You don’t build your faith on things that you can touch and see; things that are physical, mortal or materialistic. And ultimately spirituality is a governance of all these things.”
Groenewald also stated that spirituality is not something that can be ignored and all people that achieve great things “do it through spiritual attributes, whether one acknowledges it or not.”A person might be a hardened CEO, but the “very core of his tenacity, faith and the values he espouses and lives are actually spiritual.”
Have broader societal changes paved the way for a need of more spirituality in the workplace, and hence a need for leaders to become more spiritual? There was a time when family being close by was the norm. But this support structure and source of emotional, physical and even spiritual input has changed because family are spread far and wide. One could argue that technology still brings us together, but of course this cannot be the same.
People may affiliate with a certain religion, but don’t attend Sunday meetings as they used to. Even “non-believers” cannot deny the influence of religion on the formation of their value system and beliefs as either their parents or grandparents were somehow moulded by some form of Sunday worship. The movement away from formal religion may therefore have left a void in society’s spiritual maturity.
Communities are more private and people live next to neighbours that often remain strangers for years. Children don’t play out in the streets as they used to, limiting communal interactions and development of social skills.
On top of this the workplace expects more time, energy and commitment from its employees, in a world that is more connected, competitive and stressful than ever before.
Has this broader picture weakened society’s spiritual sensitivities? And if so, what burden does this place on the leader?
Naidoo is of the opinion that we are living in a very abnormal world, certainly not the way we have been designed to live – which should be in a family environment – and which over time has been systematically deconstructed. We “just live to survive and simply meet needs. The principle of family is foundational to how the world should function,” says Naidoo. He further believes
we shouldn’t live in a “dichotomous world between secular and spiritual, because we live one life.”
Successful people he has worked with have come to realise that their lives are not meeting the deep yearnings within them – “there is an emptiness that not even religion can fill. They want to have an encounter that goes beyond what money can buy,” explains Naidoo.
Groenewald added: “If we possess a materialistic and self-indulgent objective as a first imperative in life, then we will lose our spirituality.” His view is that most leadership principles in books are highly spiritual, whether one calls them that or not. These attributes are “intuitive – you can’t touch tenacity and courage – it’s a beautiful thing.
A person who puts these attributes first before materialism and self-indulgence will find that his ability to control the materialistic elements will be profoundly better.”
According to Naidoo leaders that incorporate spirituality into their leadership will “empower their people; will want to be seen in them, through them; will bring out the best in them; will leave an inheritance for them; will be motivated by love; wanting those you lead to become better than you.” In essence Naidoo feels a healthy patriarchal leadership style is needed in the world today.
Groenewald stated that most leaders want to make a difference and do good. He added: “The more spiritual you become the more true you become to yourself. A person who does that will automatically start becoming truer to his destiny and his Creator.” So a leader that incorporates spirituality into his leadership approach will learn to “understand himself better; understand other people; and automatically orientate towards all the fine leadership principles we speak about; he will become a far better relationship person.”
I added that a leader who leads from a spiritual base will apply very mature principles such as not taking offence easily; forgiving easily; treating others like he/she wants to be treated; seeking to continually change for the better; confront issues and people in a decent yet bold way when there appear to be misunderstandings or disagreements; and will strive to improve the whole person in his team.
There is a shift towards more spiritual leadership, expressed in different models like Servant Leadership and Transformational Leadership. The challenge though is that if a leader hasn’t fully adopted these and other philosophies, and then pressure and stress intensifies, they more often than not default back towards previous paradigms like forcing, threatening, dictating or being autocratic.
Groenewald called on leaders to be true to themselves: “You can only for so long get away from the fact that there is a spiritual reality out there, no matter what form it takes for you. I think we should find the source and be true to it. I believe the ultimate source lies with our Creator. As an old man I say, be true to yourself, to those inner instincts, and you will find that the only place where you will have a fullness of peace and confidence in life is when you get closer to your source.”
We propose Seamless Leadership – an attitude of no boundaries; impossibility, big picture and universal thinking – spiritual principles that govern physical reality and performance. In today’s highly complex world the Seamless Leadership mind-set will assist leaders to evaluate, simplify, understand, decide and move forward confidently.
For more on Seamless Leadership, read here.
Listen to the conversation with Pastor Thamo Naidoo and Louis Groenewald here
Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP or @LeadershipPform.