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What Does It Really Mean To Be A Spiritual Leader In Business?


by Hilary Jane Grosskopf, author of “Awake Leadership” and “Awake Ethics

Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in the importance and emphasis on soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ) in leadership. More recently, there has been a new kind of leadership skill introduced: Spiritual Leadership (SL). As a former leader of teams in the corporate world, an entrepreneur, a leadership coach, and a yoga teacher, this new terminology sounded a bit strange at first. Then, I realized that my own sense of spirituality is actually what made me a successful leader. My spiritual practice also sustains my leadership practice at work and in life today.

So, many people ask, “What does it really mean to be a Spiritual Leader?” We often think of spiritual leaders as people like Ghandi or great yogi and meditation teachers only. However, being a spiritual leader in business is a bit different from being a great yogi or classic spiritual leader. Business leaders are not necessarily teaching others to be spiritual or leading the spiritual world, but they are using their own practice of spirituality to influence others, make sustainable progress, and build strong teams and organizations.

Spirituality is not a religion. Though all religions are welcome in the spiritual world, to be spiritual is not to be religious. To be a spiritual leader in business, there are two foundational concepts to understand. With genuine understanding of these concepts, spiritual action follows. I have found that yes, it is possible to be spiritual in business as a leader. Spiritual leadership might not be for everyone, but I hope this article gives you some insight into the benefits of exploring spirituality and integrating spirituality into your work and your life.

Concept 1: Interconnectedness.

Interconnectedness of all things is the foundational belief of spiritual seekers and leaders. If you zoom out and think about the world (and universe), everything is truly interconnected. Each action we take has an impact on someone else or something else, and so there is a reaction and a following ripple effect.

How does this belief in interconnectedness apply in the workplace? Many leaders, especially in business, employ a separatist mindset at work. Given the realities of scarcity, money, and competition, it’s easy to act selfishly and ignore the reality of interconnectedness at work. Leaders that do not remember the rule of interconnectedness fail to acknowledge others in order to save time, they hoard or hide information in order to build their own power, and they often fail to give opportunities to others in order to save time and maintain control.

Leaders that fail to remember the reality of interconnectedness in the workplace build a stagnant team instead of a growing team. Leaders that lead with a belief in interconnectedness acknowledge team members to fuel motivation and greater productivity. They give opportunities to learn and grow to fuel progress and organizational growth. They share information intelligently to cultivate connection and discussion for greater progress.

Another concept related to interconnectedness is karma, or the belief that for every action, there is a reaction and response. It’s similar to a ripple effect. Each action we take as leaders has an impact on our team members, ourselves, and the world. Belief in interconnectedness and practices that support greater interconnectedness build good karma, or fortune and happiness for everyone.

To practice interconnectedness in the workplace: 1) Acknowledge team members for achievement at weekly meetings, 2) Communicate with a positive tone, 3) Give others opportunities to grow and progress 4) Be transparent and honest 5) Clean your workspaces, leaving a space better than you found it it, 6) Listen in meetings; add to a conversation rather than replace or shoot down ideas

Concept 2: Surrender.

The second concept that spiritual leaders in business understand is that there is a greater force than humans acting at all times. In spirituality we often call this the “Universal force” or “Greater force”. This concept is different from religious forces and is more aligned with a natural force like the force of the big bang and the continuous force of nature.

Why is this concept relevant in the business world and workplace? Many leaders in the workplace suffer from clinging to control over people, situations, and outcomes. Maybe you know someone who seems to suffer from this mindset. Given the pressure to achieve results, maintain control, and gain more scope or power in business in order to “progress” or move up, many leaders suffer from this attachment. However, belief in this Universal Force allows us to surrender to the reality that we really don’t have total control over every person or situation. Spiritual leadership is about genuine belief in the capabilities of others and support of team efforts.

Though we have control over our behavior and ability to responsibly execute our tasks and objectives to a certain extent, we don’t have total control over other people or large-scale outcomes. Spiritual leaders work hard and seek to influence others genuinely but they also believe that everything has a way of working out as it should. They know their own responsibilities and trust others to do their part. They believe in supporting people, especially team members, in reaching greater potential and acting as a guide without overreaching. They believe in articulating the vision clearly and focusing on building the right team so that they can truly trust in others’ abilities.

An understanding of the Universal Force is liberating because when we can let go of the clinging to results, power, and people, we can focus on what we can truly control. We can enjoy the journey and witness more than manipulate. This is challenging in an environment that promotes territorial behavior and competition. The leadership must lead by example in delegating responsibility and building trust. This is the practice of surrender.

To practice surrender in the workplace: 1) Delegate responsibility, 2) Guide rather than micromanage, 3) Welcome, discuss, and implement new ideas from others, 4) Welcome constructive feedback, 5) Embrace change and support evolution

Spiritual leadership is an approach to leadership that is selfless yet deeply rewarding. Many leadership approaches promote individual progress and paint the goal to “rise to the top” with more power in an organization. Spiritual leadership resides at the intersection of personal growth and professional development. Spiritual leadership is about true teamwork and world-work, which fuels greater individual and collective progress. From my experience, I have found that incorporating these spiritual concepts into workplace leadership allows for better team alignment, greater motivation, lower stress, and improved productivity.


Hilary Jane Grosskopf

Hilary Jane Grosskopf is the author of “Awake Leadership: A system for leading with clarity and creativity” and “Awake Ethics: A system for aligning your actions with your core intentions“. She is a leadership strategist and founder of Awake Leadership Solutions. Her new book, “Awake Apprenticeship” is due out later this year.