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Spiritual-based Leadership

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Spiritual-based leadership (SBL) is an emerging paradigm for understanding, practicing, communicating and teaching the profession of leadership, even though without doubt there have always been leaders who performed their leadership from what I here refer to as a spiritual basis.

The concept of spirituality in business may appear to be an oxymoron. Traditional managers as well as professors of management may find it difficult, even counterproductive, to combine the concepts of ‘spirituality’ and ‘business’. But in fact, research clearly demonstrates that spirituality and leadership can have a synergetic relationship to each other.

SBL’s point of departure is the individual leader’s search for meaning and self-awareness based on one’s own spirituality. It provides a perspective on leadership where a leader orients her or his self towards their deeply founded basis for understanding and relating to the organization’s – and their own – identity, purpose, values, reputation and success. As such, SBL constitutes a leadership paradigm that transcends national borders, religious belief systems and organizational ethos.

The emergence of spiritual-based leadership can also be seen as an overarching perspective on other, newer approaches to leadership characterized by concepts such as business ethics, values-leadership, corporate social responsibility and sustainability. These all tend to challenge the more traditional managerial perspective on leadership whose foundation is an almost religious belief that a corporation’s only reason for existing is to maximize its owners’ wealth.

Unnoticed by most observers of societal and organizational development, an insidious conflict has evolved during recent decades. This conflict is not manifest in the form of violent behaviour. And in contrast to wars, hostile takeovers by corporate raiders, strikes and lockouts, as well as legal and political struggles, the conflict referred to does not take place between people but within them. The conflict arises when one’s decisions and actions are not in accord with one’s inner guidance, but are motivated and dominated instead by the ego’s orientation towards personal advantage in the form of ‘success’ in the outer world: power, wealth, prestige …

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership
    The author's experiences in many organizational and cultural contexts are reflected in this book's selection from his writings during the past twenty years. They portray an evolution in his mind-set - from rational to ethical to spiritual perspectives on leadership. This evolution is not just a personal matter; it reflects developments that are taking place, although usually tacitly, at the individual and corporate level throughout the world. A primary motivation underlying the development of the book is to inspire leaders as well as teachers and students of leadership to integrate their hearts, minds and souls when making decisions, and to develop the awareness and conviction that wise and successful leadership is concerned not only with effectiveness and wealth generation, but also with contributing to the well-being and fulfilment of all those whom one serves as a leader. The book is divided into six interrelated themes: Morals and Ethics; Ethical Accounting; Values and Leadership; Identity; Responsibility; and Spiritual-based Leadership.
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