The following is an excerpt from my new book, Virtuous Leadership: The Character Secrets of Great Leaders.

“Spiritual growth requires the development of inner knowing and inner authority. It requires the heart, not the intellect.” — Gary Zukav

A developing paradigm that connects leadership and spirituality is known as spiritual leadership theory. In this sense, the term “spiritual” refers to acknowledging and nurturing the essence or animating energy that underpins human nature. The majority of the thought presented in this area is drawn from the disciplines of leadership ethics and values and religious theology and practice. Motivating and inspiring followers to love and serve others is a key component of spiritual leadership.

To date, a wide range of institutions, including secondary schools, a university, military units, local governments, police, and for-profit enterprises, have tested the notion of spiritual leadership. According to the findings of these studies, the spiritual leadership model has a beneficial impact on employee life happiness, organizational dedication and productivity, various work unit performance metrics, and sales growth.

Internal Development and Character

Inner-life practices help people develop their essential values as well as the character development elements of self-identity, self-awareness, the feeling of agency, and self-control. An inner life practice that gives people insights into who they are, where they find meaning in life (purpose), how they want to live a life that matters, and the importance of their contributions is the root of spiritual leadership. People can improve their inner life by doing things like spending time in nature, praying, meditating, reading inspirational books, doing yoga, adhering to religious traditions, looking up role models, keeping a journal, working out, and reflecting on their experiences.

Identities and Core Beliefs.

Establishing the essential beliefs and self-identity required for the character is rooted in love and service to others requires inner-life practices, such as self-reflection. People get insights into their identities through inner reflection, outside criticism, and observation of role models. Core values and beliefs become integrated with self-identity when people utilize them to define who they are and set developmental goals. Their thoughts, motivation, and conduct are then positively impacted by a greater knowledge of their basic beliefs and self-identity.

Feeling of Agency.

A person’s feeling of agency or commitment to fortify his or her character and to live and lead by sound fundamental principles that advance the common good is also increased through inner-life practices. Assuming control of their character-building journeys and having the confidence to be open and honest with themselves are prerequisites for this. People who have agency actively participate in activities that strengthen their character. The transition from independent, self-focused identities to interdependent, other-focused identities is aided by the agency. A person becomes more susceptible to finding significance or a calling in working toward loftier objectives that benefit the greater good as a result of this shift in how they define themselves about serving others. Additionally, the agency that is built via inner-life activities helps people make moral decisions and act in ways that are consistent with their underlying beliefs and sense of self.

Self-Awareness.

Inner-life techniques help people become more self-aware by strengthening their capacity to observe and regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. People can transition from having excellent intentions to acting honorably with the help of their capacity to observe and comprehend their thoughts and the origins of their sentiments. For instance, mindfulness, which one develops via inner-life activities, is the capacity to pay attention to and be open to what is occurring in one’s immediate experience with care and discernment. Through mindfulness, one learns to recognize self-imposed, false assumptions and limitations that impede growth as well as to acquire insight into the real path that ultimately leads to the expansion of potential and contentment. An individual’s moral and ethical decisions and acts are guided by their understanding of their values and beliefs.

Self-Regulation.

Inner-life practices also help people become more adept at understanding and managing their emotions, thoughts, and—most importantly—behavior. One learns about cognitive patterns, emotional triggers, and motivations for their actions through introspection and mindfulness. These insights make the ability to constantly match one’s thoughts and behaviors with one’s underlying beliefs and self-identity and display character.

Spiritual Direction

The character development components of social awareness, self-motivation, fundamental values, and self-identity are all facilitated by spiritual leadership. The combination of a leader’s vision, genuine concern for the welfare of the group (altruistic love), and hope and faith produces spiritual leadership. Leaders who create compelling visions based on upholding organizational principles while serving a higher purpose give their followers guidance, motivation to accomplish a noble goal, and, most importantly, a sense of purpose in their work.

This assists leaders in fostering trust and boosting worker motivation by showing genuine concern for the well-being and growth of group members. Last but not least, executives who are upbeat give their team members optimism and faith in a better future for both the company and themselves. The optimism and faith that people have in a better future give those with whom they work the drive to excel and change for the better, and it also strengthens their loyalty to the company.

A deep motivational force within employees to improve themselves and the organization is sparked by a leader who fosters an organizational climate that is characterized by caring, a vision that inspires people to serve a higher purpose, and group members’ hope and faith regarding their professional and personal development. These higher-order influences on spiritual leadership behaviors are quite comparable to transformational leadership behaviors such as individual consideration and inspiring motivation.

Altruistic Love, Fundamental Principles, and Sense of Self.

Altruistic love is characterized for spiritual leadership as a profound concern, love, and admiration for oneself and others that results in a sense of wholeness, harmony, and well-being. Honesty, integrity, humility, courage, and compassion are qualities that often encourage altruistic love. Leaders who embody these principles are more likely to lead in a way that shows their genuine care and concern for their followers, creating an environment that encourages trust.

Altruistic love, which underpins care, concern, and appreciation in the workplace, encourages candor and encourages employees to take calculated risks to reach their full potential. This profound level of concern is comparable to unconditional positive regard, as defined by Carl Rogers in 1961. When leaders value their employees for who they are and encourage them to develop their full potential, people tend to flourish.

Putting Spiritual Leadership into Action

To nurture character development through hope/faith in a vision to serve others through altruistic love, consultants and leaders might employ a variety of strategies. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’ description of the vision generation process is highly effective for articulating an organization’s basic values and purpose, fostering consensus, and constructing an enthralling future state. This method encourages group members to consider their values, beliefs, and identities as well as those of the organization.

Members are prompted to reflect on their reasons for holding certain values and views, as well as their identities and how these values and beliefs are expressed in the workplace. People must consider their life’s purpose and significance as well as their ability to make a difference to imagine a future end-state that is deserving of their efforts. A climate that meets people’s spiritual needs is more likely to be created by organizations that use this process to clarify their core values, align employees’ understanding of them, and win members’ commitment. Participation at all levels is essential to the success of the vision formulation process.

It makes sense for leaders to encourage people to adopt Collins and Porras’ process to design their personal development plans, which will then incorporate their life visions. An individual’s vision, like an organization’s, can give group members the path to take so they can achieve their potential selves, the reason for moving in that direction, and the drive to keep growing.

The search for meaning through moving beyond self-interests to associate with and serve something bigger that advances the common good is at the core of the vision. This connection to something greater can include being a member of an organization that serves others or the general good. Alternatively, the association with something bigger than oneself may involve a supreme, sacred, and divine power or deity, depending on one’s religious views. This relationship with a higher power or deity can give people meaning and purpose, prosocial principles, guidelines for living, and a source of strength and consolation while facing challenges.

Leaders who are upbeat about the future of the company and the people they lead can increase the hope and faith of their followers. They must provide a positive example, grow the group and the organization to meet emerging difficulties, guarantee that all operations are conducted morally and ethically, and articulate a compelling future (vision) for all group members and the organization. The optimism and faith of a group’s members that they will become better team members and individuals in the future is increased by leaders who believe in the potential of their team members, serve as positive role models, and invest in developing this potential.

Additionally, leaders can encourage optimism in employees’ personal development plans by requiring them to define unique goals. Leaders examine these developmental plans with employees during recurring developmental counselling meetings to assess progress, decide whether and how to offer more support, create backup plans, and change goals as necessary. These admirable actions show leaders’ belief in a better future, which may strengthen group members’ faith, hope, motivation, and resiliency in pursuing their own goals.

Through fidelity and unselfish service, leaders show their genuine love and concern for others. They take care of their workers’ best interests, offer them support when they make errors, and spend time coaching and mentoring them to help them grow as individuals. Regular developmental counselling sessions led by compassionate leaders result in insightful discussions and resource-friendly development plans. Additionally, they make themselves available to their staff by roaming around and maintaining an open-door policy.

Caring leaders solicit the opinions of the group’s participants, encourage their initiative, share information with them to foster transparency, and involve them in the process of formulating the strategic direction. Offering flexibility in the work schedule to accommodate family needs, providing different career tracks for employees with different family obligations, establishing a coaching program, creating a wellness team to provide input on how to improve the work environment, hosting periodic retreats and social events to foster team spirit are all additional ways to show care for others.

Good Spiritual Health

Spiritual leadership supports the group’s members’ spiritual well-being regarding membership and meaning/calling. People can discover meaning in their job and even in their lives when leaders present a compelling vision based on principles and service to a higher purpose. Individuals must put aside their self-interests to work together for a goal bigger than themselves to serve a better purpose. Group members shift from being egocentric to becoming other-centric to achieve a higher goal of advancing the welfare of all members.

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