Spirituality is the new frontier for integrity-driven leadership. Employees, the workplace environment and economics used to drive the operation of a business; today the workforce and their consumers or clients are looking for something more.
A number of years ago Vince Lombardi, past head coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” He had discovered the secret everyone is searching for today – the spiritual component of leadership.
Leadership and spirituality should not only co-exist but form an unbreakable bond that inspires, motivates and unleashes a connection of trust and inspiration between leader and follower, business and consumer. Some may call this spirituality the “X-Factor” or “The Creator connection” while others speak directly and openly about God as a business partner.
Spirituality is more than an idea or concept; it is a tool for attaining success as a leader and a business. A USA Today poll published three years ago found that six out of 10 employees said the workplace would benefit from having a greater sense of spirituality in their work environment. Research done on businesses by McKinsey Company in Australia found that those actively using spiritual techniques for their employees improved productivity and greatly reduced turnover. A University of Chicago study by Professor Curtis Verschoor found that businesses committed to ethical practices and principles do better financially than companies without ethics as a management component.
What is Spiritual Leadership? For many employees, spirituality simply means using values like honesty, integrity, accountability, quality, cooperation, trust, respect, and justice. It might mean service to others or treating co-workers, employees and customers in a responsible caring way. But for others there is a much deeper meaning such as the use of techniques like meditation, prayer, guided imagery, centering or deep breathing exercises and intuition. In all cases it is about the equal application and embodiment of spirituality throughout leadership and the workforce – it must be available and applied equally.
For example, Wheat International Communications Corporation in Virginia offers optional morning prayers to all employees and spiritual study lunch groups called “higher” power lunches.
Research shows that spirituality and profitability are not mutually exclusive. In fact, ethics, spirituality and integrity increase productivity, employee retention, morale, profitability and customer loyalty. However, there is a word of caution here: spirituality is not to be confused with religion. Employees are not looking for dogma and exclusivity but rather trust, connection, inclusivity, respect, and being valued as a human being.
The Spirituality Component: Spirituality is more than good versus bad or right versus wrong. It is the connection of the mind, body, heart and soul of a person and leading by example, which reflects that connection. Spirituality is as much about a leader’s excellence as it is about the leader nurturing and encouraging the best out of others.
For some, spirituality is already built in and simply needs to be applied. For others spirituality might be in a deep sleep and needs awakening. And for some, a determination needs to be made to make a significant change in their thinking and way of living to improve their quality of life and leadership philosophy. The following list gives you some ideas on how to begin this process.
Determine what spirituality means to you personally and whether you openly practice those characteristics in your day-to-day leadership. If not, why? If yes, can you improve upon it? And, are you leading spiritually by example? As you answer these questions, you will gain insight on how to reach out to your employees.
Engage your workforce in determining how to best meet their needs for more spirituality in the workplace. Have small discussion groups, short email surveys and online chats to establish what objectives would best create a spiritual philosophy for the company and the employees.
Create a quiet place within the workplace where anyone can go to meditate, pray, creatively visualize or simply be silent. Be sure everyone at every level of your business understands that this space is a “silent zone” set aside specifically for the purpose of spirituality and that everyone is encouraged, but not necessarily expected, to use that space when appropriate. Stock this room with an abundance of inspirational and spiritual reading materials based on the spiritual objectives. The most important thing is to provide a place of peace, so that your employees have the necessary means and encouragement to seek something better.
Develop informal spiritual activities such as prayer groups, lunch and learn spiritual sessions, online prayer service, yoga, and group meditation opportunities. The number of options here are almost endless. Within your workforce you will find numerous potential leaders for these, plus consider bringing in outside experts to lead such activities.
Align your actions and words. Spirituality is not “do as I say not as I do” but rather setting a high personal standard and example of what spirituality looks like because you walk your talk. Any incongruous action here on the part of leadership will completely collapse the spirituality component of integrity; trust will be broken and morale will crumble. This is one area where you cannot fake it. Either you are the real deal or don’t attempt it.
With companies like the Boeing, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Apple, Google, and IBM, leading the way with quiet rooms, prayer study groups and offering meditation, isn’t it time you added the spiritual component to your leadership and business practice philosophy?
Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.