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Leadership and Spirituality. Appropriate or Misplaced?

Published on 26th April 2020


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Certified NLP Trainer. Professional Coach and Corporate Trainer.

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Kiki Ng

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At the mention of the word ‘Leadership’, one might conjure up a picture of a person; dagger-like eyes, heart of steel, making tough decisions and saving an organisation from the ruins of a financial crisis. The many quotes on leadership repeatedly mention direction, empowerment and delegation. Oxford Dictionary uses words like command, control, rule, power and mastery to describe leadership.

Spirituality, on the other hand, means having a profound level of mental or emotional communion with self and others that is neither physical nor material based, and of having a deep purpose and meaning in life. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a religion (an organised, institutional membership) or being religious. It recognises that our purpose in life has greater value than making money, or passionately chasing after a dream. Many employers I’ve met shun the thought of introducing spirituality at work, and some strongly suggest that spirituality has no place in the corporate world. 

As work life becomes overly demanding and stressful, most of us have come to appreciate value-based answers to achieve personal sanity, and we realise that our inner wisdom is the only source that will sustain our adaptation and stability in the long run. The modern workplace we seek is not only a place to work, but, for some people, also a place where they can form friendships and socialise. As a result, the workplace has become a source of emotional connectivity for some people, according to Dr. Joyce E.A. Russell. “Workers are searching for a deeper meaning for life at work,” she writes. Russell, Vice Dean and the Director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, defines spirituality as “the force that gives meaning to our lives (our private activities)”. 

Leadership and Spirituality at workplace

Leaders who are spiritual lead by example. They have high integrity, elevated flexibility for change, immeasurable respect for diversity, and they inspire employees to be the same. They are humble and emphatic, making them great coaches; an essential leadership skill.

Organisations with spiritual values conduct health and wellness programs and organise talks by spiritual leaders to help employees cope with stress, illness, divorce and death, organising support groups for employees and recognising employees for not only their efforts at work, but also outside of work and in the community. 

Research shows that the benefits of spirituality in the workplace include improved morale, increased worker satisfaction, stronger employee commitment, and increased productivity. Spirituality and leadership in the workplace can also lead to a great competitive advantage. In “A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America,” co-author Ian Mitroff found that employees who work for organisations that they consider to be spiritual are less fearful, less likely to compromise their values, and are more able to throw themselves into their jobs.

Leadership Spirituality at workplace

Essential to spiritual leadership are:  

Let us look at some top ten leadership quotes:

Do you see any spirituality in them? 

What is your perspective of spirituality in leadership? 

Look at the pictures in this article. Do you feel better dealing with them if you knew they were spiritual people, or otherwise?

Sources for further reading: