Leadership : Leading with Spirit: Today's Spiritual CEO

TedTed Collins is an attorney, corporate coach, and professional keynote speaker offering seminars and workshops on corporate values and strategies, goal achieving, change, and prosperity consciousness.

"The true measure of a person is not how much he has accumulated during his lifetime, but rather, how much of himself he has given to others." Ted Collins


"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power."

Abraham Lincoln

Now more than ever, there is clearly a need to balance the "business" of leadership with the "spirituality" of leadership. While many speak in terms of "ethical", "moral" or "principled" leadership, what is really meant is a spiritual leadership that goes beyond some minimum ethical standards of the day.

The purpose here is not to point a finger at the recent failings of major corporations and the apparent lack of spirituality in their leaders. Rather, it is to glean some wisdom from the successful leaders who have created their achievements on positive, "higher awareness" leadership, serving as an example from the top down.

For some reason (or perhaps, many reasons) companies have been afraid to use the term "spiritual" in conjunction with their business. Just a few of the objections I hear from the leaders in big (and small) business include:

    • We don’t want to appear "religious"
    • We might offend our customers/vendors/employees (it’s not politically correct)
    • That old "separation of church and state" applies to business, too!
    • We’re a business, not some fluffy "new age" group
    • We’ll limit our market with "spiritual" terminology
    • "Spiritual" is too vague and might be misinterpreted

Interestingly enough, the fact remains that the most successful leaders in industry and elsewhere have all had a strong spiritual foundation on which their successes were built.

One need not look far to find great examples: the works of Conrad Hilton, many U.S. Presidents and politicians, Bob Proctor, Stephen Covey, and others who offer ways to operate not on the competitive plane, but on the creative one. People who look not to keep employees powerless, but empowered. People who clearly are in business for profit, but who also place their focus on providing a service to others and openly speak of the need for a spiritual foundation.

A brief search on the internet will yield a growing number of workshops on faith in the workplace, leadership through spiritual practices, career and faith workshops, and a virtual explosion of books, magazines and other writings. With the collapse of major corporations, wealthy CEO’s amidst bankrupt companies, and huge bonuses to officers during equally huge layoffs of employees, a wake-up call has been placed for anyone in business. Clearly, we are long overdue for a shift in the corporate environment, and there is a growing trend toward putting a spiritual balance back into business.

So, what are the practical steps toward allowing such a shift to take place?

  • Start at the top: the model for change has to begin with the CEO, other officers and, perhaps most importantly, the board of directors
  • Be open: Hiding the philosophy of the company’s visionary team will prevent the "trickle down" effect from happening, and the positive change may never occur
  • Create a win/win situation: If the spoils go the top officers and aren’t spread through all levels, the lasting effect will be short-lived. In other words, what’s in it for them?
  • Train outside your box: if you are giving a training on the ethical standards of your company, offer it to your vendors, suppliers, and key customers as well

Look at your own business and see how it scores on just a few simple items:

  1. Does its mission statement include any reference to the moral, ethical, or spiritual standards by which it is run? Is it a vague, ambiguous statement or is it clear and concise?
  2. Take a random sampling of the employees and see where they rate their own company on its sense of ethical standards and especially the standards which its leaders display (as opposed to those they espouse).
  3. Find out what your vendor’s think about dealing with your company . . . where do they rate it on a scale of ethical, moral, or spiritual standards?
  4. How do your customers rate your integrity?
  5. How do you rate your vendors, employees, and customers on their sense of integrity? (If the kind of people you’re attracting are not working from an enlightened work ethic, you should consider why you’re attracting them).

It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to start implementing spiritual standards into business. There isn’t a large capital investment, it won’t mean upgrading equipment, expanding the facilities, or creating a "spirituality committee". What it will take is:

  • a serious inward look at the five questions listed above
  • a willing CEO, officers, and board to be the active role models for the company (as Harold Geneen, former ITT CEO put it: "Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions")
  • creation of and publicity for a solid mission statement incorporating spiritual standards
  • training of current and future employees in implementing the mission statement

Okay, the last one does involve some expense, but the payoff can be tremendous. Employees who truly feel valued, trust their employers, and see their company as honest and ethical are going to be happier, more productive employees who create a more positive workplace and attract honest and ethical customers and vendors. Look around at the companies that are doing the best during recent economic downturns . . . the most successful ones are those with high employee and customer loyalty, brought about by a strong management team that focuses on treating everyone fairly, offering win/win situations, and setting the example of "do unto others" . . . in other words, companies that embody a spiritual leadership model.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines a leader as "a person who has commanding authority or influence". What it doesn’t mention is the responsibility that comes with that authority, or the standards by which that authority is to be exercised. It is the mark of a true leader who can recognize his or her own beliefs, apply them to life, and carry them into the workplace for the benefit of others. Such a leader does not live by one set of standards in their personal life and another in their work life. They understand that the same ethical, moral, and spiritual standards by which they live with their family and friends also govern their dealings in business, and they openly act in accordance with those standards, fully expecting anyone with whom they deal to act similarly.

People in positions to make substantive changes are beginning to become aware of the fact that business decisions must be driven by more than just profits. They must be driven from a holistic perspective, considering not just what is good for one part, but what is good for the whole. It is the mark of a true leader, and serves as a beacon of light for those who wish to follow their success and create the enlightened business world we all deserve.


Ted may be reached via email at health_unlimited@hotmail.com, toll-free at (1) 877 355 7439, or through his website at www.reachingthegoal.com.
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