Next I am going to tackle a typically taboo subject when it comes to leadership – Spirituality. After researching the definition of I liked the one from Wikipedia the best ”
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live”. When I bring this subject in any kind of leadership forum, I can sense the cringing in the room. Most people cannot relate Leadership and Spirituality in the same breath. Are these two concepts entirely unrelated ? How is this relevant to grow as a leader. How is this relevant to function as a leader. How is this relevant to excel as a leader. The fundamental definition of leader is “to lead”. Even though there are several reasons why people follow a leader, one trait stands out consistently – “clarity of thought”. There are multiple ways people translate ” clarity of thought” – Vision, charisma and others. Clarity of thought comes from being able to discover the essence. Leaders have the ability to think and analyze. Pair this up with an innate human nature for compassion and goodness – you have the formation of a spiritual leader. In a society increasingly based on instant gratification, the means to develop the “essence’ is constrained by many factors, the least of which is time.
As we move into a new world, a new generation and beginnings of a new century, the old concept of economy based on silos of opportunity is no longer relevant. 10 years ago who would have imagined Netflix, Twitter, Facebook or for that matter the viral spread of GroupOn. New economy is about detecting new patterns, new opportunities where none knew existed. We are taught right from elementary schools to focus on linear left brain thinking. The leadership in the new world needs a balance with the right brain – the compassion, the ability to derive the essence, the focus needed to think different. This is orthogonal to the standards that our education system is based on and hence potentially what we all have been taught as leaders to embrace.
So how does Spirituality help the new leader ? Why is there a dearth of literature on leadership and its reliance on spirituality. We as a society have used spirituality and religion as synonymous terms, which makes the conversation taboo. Spirituality and Religion are inextricably and irrevocably tied together in many conversations. It starts to impose on our core values as a nation, on freedom of speech and expression. Isn’t spirituality about Integrity ? Isn’t it about finding meaning in life ? Does it not provide a bedrock of values to guide us in our everyday life ? I think of spirituality as a tool. It helps assist in creating a dialog between the two sides of the brain – reason and emotion. Leadership should be based on a balance between Reason and Emotion. That is the cornerstone of behavior with integrity. So how does religion now fit into this mold ? In my opinion religion is one of the enablers to attain spirituality and not the only one. Spirituality and religion are related but orthogonal concepts. Religion which is a path billions of people take on their journey to spirituality is for sure is an answer. Religion to an extent creates an entity outside of us to take on the responsibility. It becomes that much more easier to base our moral dilemmas, our need for forgiveness and human fallacies with something not in our person. Many religions base spiritual attainment through worshipping an external entity rather than focus on an inner self. Religion does have several advantages and can certainly be a proven path. Spirituality typically comes into play when we start to fit the pieces of a grand scheme of things – is there life after death, how did life on earth start and others. A leader’s job is “to piece a grand scheme”. It may not be as grand as eternal life, but for a team, a division or a company the type of question being answered may be as important.
As I mentioned in my earlier article, a strong leader is able to self evolve, self discover. Spirituality is a solution to become just that. Spirituality provides a strong set of beliefs that the leader can use to launch from. Spirituality helps with personal inquiry. It provides a framework for evaluating right versus wrong. As a leader decision making is an ingrained and finely honed skill. The spiritual framework enables this framework to function, to fruition and to excel.
My contention is that for a leader to excel and inspire the individual needs to have a balance between the brain, heart and intuition. Alignment of these three elements creates a much more successful leader, a passionate leader and one that has a large following. Spirituality can help with this alignment. Once aligned there is a clearer perception that can be relied on to solve problems, think new ideas, motivate teams to deliver.
In the new world I believe with passion that spirituality is a path to create a balance between several forces in our lives and focus neural synchronization between the left and right side of the brains and ultimately contribute to a more successful leadership style based on compassion. The world needs more leaders with brain-heart-intuition balance;(eliminated some words here) leaders that can create new ideas because they have a strong emotional center. The new economy is not based on old tenets of monolithic empires built on silos of power. We need ideas that nobody has thought of before. Lets acknowledge the role spirituality plays in our lives and capitalize on it to build a new generation of leaders.