Spiritual Intelligence and Leadership

Spiritual Intelligence is one of the latest buzzwords in the leadership field. It is increasingly recognised that leaders not only need emotional intelligence but also spiritual intelligence. Depending on how we define spiritual leadership, it can be seen as a crucial component of authentic leadership necessary to cope with a dramatically changing world constantly threatened by toxic behaviour.

In essence, spiritual intelligence is the quest for better understanding of two key foundation principles of authentic leadership:

  • The inner self: The quest for self-knowledge is a crucial component of inner peace and confidence. Such inner peace is the foundation of authentic behaviour that is not corrupted by compliance with fears, doubts and the corrupted opinion of others. The inner self is a world of self-discovery where the age old question is asked: Who am I? It is the world of seeking after the divine heritage that beats in our souls. The inner self is where we find the courage to do the right thing and to let the consequences follow.
  • The world of universal principles and law: The world of universal law determines the consequence of our behaviour. It is the source of wisdom and knowledge of where our inner self actions fit in. We are never alone. The quest for understanding universal principles and law is synonymous with the quest for essences and simplicity of principles and behavioural models. Concurrent better understanding of the inner self as well as universal principles generates situational confidence that empowers us to establish a mindset positive movement. The impossible becomes possible to us.

The quest for spiritual intelligence is an exciting journey of continuous learning, fulfilment and mastery of the dynamics of positive movement. In other words, spiritual intelligence is the source of dynamic authentic leadership power that enables us to overcome toxic behaviour.   

Defining  spiritual intelligence

The word ‘spiritual’ is often associated with the metaphysical – ‘beyond the physical’, religious’ and ‘sacred’. ‘Intelligence’ has synonyms such as aptitude, intellect, brain power and acumen. All these synonyms for both words have relevance in the definition of spiritual intelligence.

As a result of his research, the Old Man’s understanding of spirituality and spiritual intelligence has changed significantly over the years. His journey started off with the common perception of spirituality being a kind of ‘spiritual mindedness’ or ‘spiritual sensitivity’ with no real connection to the practical world out there. His understanding has evolved into the following illustration of spiritual intelligence as applied to the work environment:

All occupations are driven by two main elements. 1) Our knowledge (training, skills, experience, qualifications) and 2) Our motivational drive (desires, attributes of character, attitude towards serving others, compassion, courage, tenacity, etc.). As example, a medical doctor is considered to be a highly qualified professional. However, his qualifications and experience do not mean much without the day to day drive and ability to apply these skills. A doctor who does not care in a responsible manner for his patients can become a monster by misuse of his position of power and trust. That part of the doctor that enables him or her to move a patient’s health in a positive direction is really the substance of spiritual intelligence. A CEO who has a mindset of seeking after power over people instead of power with people and stake holders can become a cancer in our society. A politician who puts patronage and personal position above principle can be a trigger for toxic behaviour amongst many.

Broadly speaking then, that deep-rooted part in each of us that empowers us to move situations in a positive direction is the spiritually intelligent portion of our being. You and I can call this part of us by many expressions, such as good character, emotional maturity, Christian, motivation, and many more. The fact is that in the modern world we need more than ambition and drive to leave a worthwhile heritage.

Authentic and toxic behaviour

The more we research authentic leadership amongst us, the more we come to the conclusion that we need to drill down to the root causes of both authentic as well s toxic leadership. These root causes are mostly of a very personal nature and impact on the inner being of a person. Toxic behaviour tends to be generated by a person’s allegiance to societal (outer) factors whereas authentic behaviour is generated by the inner person’s values and attributes of character.

Spiritual intelligence is the study and mastery of factors that determine the inner peace and confidence of a person. No quest is more important in life. The more we study spiritual intelligence with the intention of supporting the innermost person, the more we find out that such a quest is directly related to understanding of universal principles and laws that apply to all of us. For many of us this quest is but a reflection of a sincere seeking for clarity and faith in our relationship with the Creator of our spirit and our divine potential.

A coming together of key factors

In the past generations it was probably far more feasible as a leader with purely functional abilities – the ability to get the job done with no real perceived need to over-elaborate i.r.o. so-called soft skills, such as people feelings, honesty and fairness, compassion, the environment, modern social media and many other considerations. Times have changed. It has become increasingly more difficult for leaders in all areas to get away with wearing masks and living double lives. In the past organisations could get away with contracting a sociopath to run affairs because they got the job done, they were prepared to bleed others dry in order to achieve their objectives. It is getting more and more difficult to do this. The need for far more mature leaders with far more self-knowledge and driven by far more authentic values has escalated all over the world. This is now the age of personal accountability:

  • Hence the rise of a new generation seeking after more reliable and authentic leaders that they can trust.
  • Hence the rise of the need for spiritually intelligent leaders, who are authentic and values driven and get results because they are able to juggle all the ‘new balls of expectations’ in the air.
  • It takes more than technical skills and ambition to succeed in the modern high paced, in our face and highly pressured environment.

Spiritual intelligence is the coming together of several key elements that may have appeared disjointed and irrelevant in the past.

Good luck in your quest for spiritual intelligence!

The Old Man

Louis Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on louis@leadershipplatform.com for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




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