Why We Shouldn't Be Afraid To Embrace The Spiritual Side Of Leadership
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a leader. No matter where you look today, authentic leadership seems to be in short supply.
There are a lot of “bosses” out there, to be sure. But what I struggle to see, in business, politics, and life, are true leaders who bring us together, inspire us to achieve great things, and bring out the best in us.
While there are a number of issues that have contributed to this leadership deficit, I believe that one in particular stands above the rest: leaders have neglected their souls.
Speaking about leadership and business in spiritual terms is uncomfortable to discuss in public. In business, we’re supposed to stick to the facts and leave discussion of our inner feelings and motivations for private.
However, this approach is both misguided and counterproductive. Leadership is about more than telling people what to do; it’s about serving others and helping to people to be the best they can be.
Dealing with people’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations is a major component of running a business as well as fundamentally spiritual experience, no matter how you look at it.
I think that leaders have been conditioned to ignore this aspect of life. As a result, we feel lost, apathetic, and often even nihilistic about the role we play in business, politics, and life in general.
The only way to fix this is for leaders to start looking inward. When I refer to the soul of leadership, I’m talking about the connection to something greater than one’s self, be it mission, ideal, or creed.
Reject the myth of strength
First and foremost, leaders must stop falling victim to the myth of strength. All too often, we think that we must be strong, resolute, and absolutely confident in our decisions in order to be an effective leader.
The truth, however, is that we’re all vulnerable, fallible, and weak. Everyone stumbles, and it is in our admission of vulnerability that we find strength.
The myth of strength leads to arrogance, paranoia, and poor decisions. Leaders spend so much time trying to prove that they’re in charge that they fail to focus on others, be they employees, clients, constituents, or family.
My challenge to fellow leaders is to reject this behavior and instead embrace vulnerability. It sounds counterintuitive, but leading from a place of vulnerability inspires trust and respect among those in your charge. Most importantly, it takes the focus off of the self and repositions it on others, which is, of course, the core of leadership.
Always appeal to a higher power
Why do we get up each morning to spend our precious time working? The easy answer is money. Obviously, we all need money to support our lives and survive in modern society.
However, if you’re only motivated to do a job so that you can survive, it’s only a matter of time before you burn out. As humans, it’s incredibly difficult to do something “just because.”
We yearn for something more, whether it’s the divine or something more tangible. Without a higher call, work and life quickly becomes meaningless.
The best leaders are those who can rally people around something greater. Whether it’s Churchill defending society against the atrocities of the Axis Powers in World War Two, or Steve Jobs inspiring people to “put a dent in the universe,” leaders can achieve amazing things by appealing to mankind’s call towards the spiritual.
Never neglect the spiritual side of life
The ability to attract and inspire people comes from an unshakable internal faith. Whether it’s faith in God, society, or the ability of humankind, it is faith that makes people want to follow a leader.
The content of a leader’s character and soul permeates their very being and spreads to those around them. That’s why leaders must look inside and nurture that which drives them. A leader who lacks passion, or is merely chasing a paycheck or position, is doomed to fail.
We must recognize that we as humans are spiritual beings, and want to reach for something more in life. Leaders who have soul know this and use it to great effect.
I’m a firm believer that this spiritual side of business should stand on equal footing with strategy, because why we do something is just as important as how we do it.
Our society needs authentic leadership now more than ever. The apathy, divisiveness, and pettiness that seems to have taken hold must be vanquished if we are to thrive as a people.
Hopefully, if leaders remember to foster the spiritual side of life, we can move forward, stronger than before.