There is a school of thought expressing reservations about business leaders embracing spirituality, although spirituality in the workplace is gaining global momentum. Critics suggest that leaders with a spiritual inclination may be 'weak' in decision-making, as they focus more on the bigger picture, while 'natural leaders' tend to be assertive, dealing with immediate issues.
There is often confusion between the terms 'spirituality' and 'religion,' and they are sometimes used interchangeably. Although not polar opposites, they are distinct. Spirituality implies an experience connecting with something greater than oneself. It involves living everyday life, either personally or as part of an organizational regimen, with reverence and surrender, guided by deep faith in a higher power governing the universe.
On the other hand, religion refers to personal attitudes, worship, beliefs, and practices. Some individuals consider themselves spiritual but not religious, while others may be devoutly religious but lack deep spirituality.
Spirituality favors a holistic and inclusive approach, recognizing that pure consciousness (Brahman) unifies everyone, leaving no one out. Bhagavan Krishna explains in the Bhagavad Gita (4-11) that everyone unknowingly follows His path. He reciprocates in kind, depending on how people surrender to Him.
Spiritual vs. 'Natural' Leaders
Spiritual leaders exhibit an inclusive outlook and demonstrate a strong commitment to enhancing the role and well-being of everyone in the organization. Spiritual leadership emphasizes integrity, goodness, teamwork, wholeness, and interconnectedness. These leaders are compassionate and avoid degrading or criticizing others, preferring to motivate through personal example.
A recent South Korean study validated how the spiritual leadership model benefits large organizations. The study found that high levels of spirituality in leaders are positively associated with achieving organizational goals and productivity gains.
Spiritual leaders are typically people-oriented, while 'natural' leaders tend to be task-oriented. Natural leaders possess strong drive, determination, and insight into their motivations and desires. They are often result-oriented and comfortable with colleagues who have high critical thinking skills and excel in strategy-related decisions based on logic and reason. These leaders are essential in critical or crisis situations, where decisive action is needed, such as turning around a failing business.
Spirituality and Pragmatism
While leaders with a spiritual inclination may emphasize leading by personal example and inspiration, they can still be pragmatic and cultivate assertiveness. Spirituality involves striving for excellence in everything one does. True spiritual leaders serve as role models in their actions, value dissenting voices, and maintain discipline while expecting responsibility and accountability from everyone.
The story of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa illustrates the importance of authenticity. The mark of a true spiritual leader is pragmatism combined with self-awareness, known as the art of conscious leadership. These leaders temper idealism with a practical touch, ensuring they remain connected to reality.
Spiritual leaders recognize that their efforts and outcomes are rooted in the power, authority, and blessings of the divine, not solely their own abilities.
— R. Krishnamurthy