Inherently Spiritual People must be led by Spiritually Intelligent Leaders



Lalith Gunaratne
CET, MSc

August 09, 2020
The COVID pandemic has given the world a pause as we face the biological response to an ecological crisis. The crises exacerbated by the frenetic pace of the world with unfettered consumerism and economic growth has given us time to reflect on the merits of the globalized neoliberal world. The modern techno industrial complex has created a “material” human being separated from the spiritual nature of the human. This is not sustainable. 


Short-term commercial interest leads business to influence economic and social policies that hurt the environment and many people that inhabit the earth. The recent race riots in the US and global mass protests that decry systemic inequalities are endemic and related to this global crisis. 


This calls for a different kind of leadership - to move away from the self centered, competitive, individualistic narrative to a more gracious, generous, open-hearted, communal leadership which exemplifies fair-play. 


The new leader finds a balance between purely results based objective orientation at any cost with a more holistic systems-based approach which considers externalities that impact people and the environment. This is ‘power of balance’ and in the organizational world – business, government, or politics – leaders finding balance between their positional and personal power.


Here, I dare to attach the word spirituality to leadership. 


Spiritually Intelligent Leader

Spirituality is a broad concept. We could identify a spiritually intelligent person as one who has a sense of connection to something bigger than themselves, yet loves self and cares about all sentient beings – people, animals, the trees, forests – the whole planet and strives to be a kind person. A spiritual person understands their oneness with nature and empathetic to the universal human experience.


Acknowledging our spirituality helps us to find meaning in life - provides a foundation based on our values to guide us in the way we behave with self, others and the world around us. If human beings are inherently spiritual, it only makes sense that leaders become spiritually intelligent. 



As corporations impact on the sustainability of this planet, spiritually intelligent business leaders can effectively balance their IQ, emotional and spiritual intelligence to be more responsible to minimize harm to this earth and its beings.


Dr. Ronald Heifetz, founding director of the Center of Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government said to a group of business leaders at a Harvard Business School session to discuss how their spirituality helps them be powerful leaders - "There are so many pressures on you as a leader to lose your compassion and develop a thick skin, to lose your capacity for doubt and curiosity." i

Mindfulness is a way to become vulnerable to an inner reflection for self awareness. Asking “what drives me and what scares me?” - helps reflect on words and actions that can afflict self, harm others and the environment in your quest for success. Becoming more mindful and aware makes one present to be sensitive to the world around us. 


Mindfulness Leads to your Spiritual Intelligence

Becoming mindful is to quiet the mind to reflect and contemplate on how you have led based on traditional narratives of leadership based on past conditioning. That narrative may not be appropriate to meet today’s complex challenges

Being mindful is to become aware of positional and personal power you wield and how it impacts both the micro and the macro world.

Being mindful is to put a mirror on self to understand the body and the mind, emotions and to learn how you react or respond to situations.

Being mindful is to take stock of your own strengths and weaknesses with humility. That means seeking feedback from others. Being mindful is about learning to becoming vulnerable to realize that there maybe a gap between what you say and what you do.

Being mindful is to realize that deep tissue change takes time, effort and a commitment to a practice of meditation and reflection.

Being mindful through meditation – focus on the breath - helps you tame the mind to have clarity and become aware – to see and listen authentically to the community within and outside the organization.

Being mindful is learning to balance between toughness and humility – as either is a strategy done with awareness for positive outcomes.

Being mindful is to realize what brings meaning and purpose to what you do and how you impact the whole world. 

This simply is spirituality.



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