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Teaching With Soul

Support for the Management Educator

Judi Neal
Management Department,
University of New Haven
300 Orange Avenue
West Haven, CT 06513
(203) 932-7372

Submitted to the Journal of Management Systems

*Adapted and updated, with permission, from JME February 1997 article titled "Spirituality in Management Education: A Guide to Resources."


After presenting what the concept of spirituality in the workplace entails, this article presents a list of books and other resource materials that offer more in-depth knowledge about spirituality in the workplace. The article concludes with spiritual principles that may be useful in management education.

Gayle Porter sits in silence in her office before going into the classroom. She is saying a prayer that she might be able to be of service to the learning of the students in her course. David Banner makes eye contact with each student in the class before beginning a session. He also visualizes an electro-chemical circuit being made between himself and each of the students. This allows him to feel in touch with the energy in the classroom and to have an intuitive sense of how to work with it. Let Davidson has an inner knowing that he is an instrument of his Higher Self when he is leading a seminar, and he lets this Higher Self work through him as he keeps an awareness of the non-duality and Oneness that exists for him and his students. Don McCormick offers courses on spirituality in the workplace. He gives the management students readings from the great wisdom teachers over the centuries and has them contemplate how this wisdom can guide them in being more effective and having a greater sense of purpose in their work.

Stories like these are becoming more and more common in business schools, among management consultants and in many other workplaces. Academic and professional conferences are offering an increasing number of sessions that have words such as “Spirituality” or “Soul” in the title. There is a new openness in academia, particularly in management education, to a recognition of our spiritual nature. This recognition can be on a personal level, such as when a faculty member explores his or her own spiritual journey and struggles with what this means for their work and their teaching. It is also on a conceptual level, as both academics and practitioners explore the role that spirituality might have in bringing meaning, purpose and increased performance to organizational life.

The purpose of this article is to list some of the resources that are available to management and organizational behavior faculty and to consultants who wish to teach, train or conduct research from a more spiritual perspective. After presenting what the concept of spirituality in the workplace entails, there is a review of recent resource materials that offer more in-depth knowledge about spirituality in the workplace. This article concludes with spiritual principles that guide me in my life and in my teaching of management education.

Spirituality in the Workplace

The Latin origin of the word spirit is spirare, meaning “to breathe.” At its most basic, then, spirit is what inhabits us when we are alive and breathing, it is the lifeforce. Scott (1994) defines spirit as “That which is traditionally believed to be the vital principle or animating force within living beings; that which constitutes one’s unseen intangible being; the real sense or significance of something” (64).

Spirituality is more difficult to define, and many of the people writing on spirituality in the workplace don’t even attempt to try. However, Fairholm (1997) does provide a fairly comprehensive definition, part of which is provided here:

One’s spirituality is the essence of who he or she is. It defines the inner self, separate from the body, but including the physical and intellectual self....Spirituality also is the quality of being spiritual, of recognizing the intangible, life-affirming force in self and all human beings. It is a state of intimate relationship with the inner self of higher values and morality. It is a recognition of the truth of the inner nature of people....Spirituality does not apply to particular religions, although the values of some religions may be a part of a person’s spiritual focus. Said another way, spirituality is the song we all sing. Each religion has its own singer. (29)

Perhaps the difficulty people have had in defining spirituality is that they are trying to objectify and categorize an experience and way of being that is at its core very subjective and beyond categorizing. For this reason, some have resorted to poetry as a way of trying to capture the essence of the experience of spirituality. Lee Bolman did this very effectively in his keynote presentation on spirituality in the workplace to the Eastern Academy of Management in May 1995. Quoting the Persian poet Rumi:

All day I think about it, then at night I say it

Where did I come from and what am I supposed to be doing?

I have no idea

My soul is elsewhere, I’m sure of that

And I intend to end up there (Barks 1996)

James Autry, a successful Fortune 500 executive, wrote a poem called “Threads.” This is an excerpt from that poem:


In every office

You hear the threads

of love and joy and fear and guilt,

the cries for celebration and reassurance,

and somehow you know that connecting those threads

is what you are supposed to do

and business takes care of itself.

(Autry 1991: 32)

Defining Spirituality in the Workplace

Spirituality in the workplace is about people seeing their work as a spiritual path, as an opportunity to grow personally and to contribute to society in a meaningful way. It is about learning to be more caring and compassionate with fellow employees, with bosses, with subordinates and customers. It is about integrity, being true to oneself, and telling the truth to others. Spirituality in the workplace can refer to an individual’s attempts to live his or her values more fully in the workplace. Or it can refer to the ways in which organizations structure themselves to support the spiritual growth of employees.

In the final analysis, the understanding of spirit and of spirituality in the workplace is a very individual and personal matter. There are as many expressions of these concepts as there are people who talk or write about them. The interpretations of spirituality as it is applied to management education are just as varied. They can range from quietly practicing one’s own spiritual principles in the teaching process without ever mentioning the word “spirituality” to actually offering courses on spirituality in the workplace. It is hoped that the resources listed here will provide useful information and inspiration to management educators whatever the form of their expression of spirituality in their workplace.

Annotated Bibliography on Spirituality in the Workplace

The materials provided here were selected for their ability to inform the management educator about issues related to spirituality in the workplace. Some of them may also be useful as supplementary reading in particular management or organizational behavior classes and this will be noted. This list is not exhaustive, and suggestions are provided on where to find more in-depth information on resources related to spirituality in the workplace.

There are several sections in this review. They are:

  1. An overview of spirituality in the workplace.
  2. Case studies of leaders and consultants who have applied spiritual principles to the organizations that they work with.
  3. Resources that are aimed at helping managers and employees understand their own personal spiritual journeys in the workplace.
  4. Art and spirituality in the workplace.
  5. Spiritual principles for career development.
  6. Parables of business leaders and their spiritual journeys
  7. Leadership from a spiritual perspective.
  8. Spirituality at the team level.
  9. Systemic approaches to creating organizations that nurture the human spirit.
  10. The role of business in a changing world.
  11. Resources that offer ongoing information and support for those exploring spirituality in the workplace.
1. Overview of Spirituality in the Workplace

The books described in this section are edited books that offer a wide array of perspectives on spirituality in the workplace and provide a good overview for someone who is just beginning to explore this field.

The new paradigm in business: Emerging strategies for leadership and organization-al change edited by Michael Ray and Alan Rinzler. New York: Jeremy Tarcher, 1993.

This edited book of readings was compiled for the World Academy of Business, an organization dedicated to bridging the world of value and spirit with the world of business. Rinaldo Brutoco, one of the founders of the World Business Academy states in the preface of this book that “the Academy’s vision is that many leaders soon will come to see the primary role of business settings as incubators of the human spirit, rather than factories for the production of mere material goods and services” (xii).

There are five sections to the book. Each section has several readings by well-known new paradigm thinkers and executives. Part I looks at how the world is changing and how that shift affects business and the way work is done. Part II discusses how the old paradigm of hierarchical leadership is giving way to shared leadership and a leadership based on valuing personal development. Parts III and IV provide actual examples of organizations applying new paradigm principles and Part V presents visions of the future if the principles of the paradigm shift are followed.

I have used the introductory chapters as a source for lecture material in introducing an advanced human resources seminar for MBA students. We discussed the old and new paradigms in business and then spent the semester examining the role of human resource managers in helping organizations transition to the new paradigm. The readings in Part II are excellent supplementary reading for a leadership course. The book is also a useful resource for organizational development courses because of its emphasis on managing the change from the old paradigm to the new.

New traditions in business: Spirit and leadership in the 21st century edited by John Renesch. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1992.

Fifteen authors have been assembled in this book to present their views on the emerging role of business in creating congruence between personal values, integrity, self-respect and the way organizations are managed. The first part of the book includes five articles by authors who present the issues of spirituality in the workplace in a larger societal and global context - the “why” of spirituality in the workplace. The second part focuses on methods and frameworks for beginning the transformation of old paradigm organizations - the “how” of spirituality in the workplace. The topics of the ten articles in Part II include models of learning organizations, organizations as community, the healthy company, and the metanoic organization.

This book provides a good overview of why spirituality is an important issue to pay attention to in organizations and gives examples of what some organizations are actually doing. Some of the articles in Part I would be interesting to use in a Business and Society course and would likely lead to interesting and engaging discussion. The articles in Part II are best used as supplementary reading in a leadership or organizational development course.

2. Case studies of leaders and consultants

This section reviews five books that provide concrete examples of people who are integrating spirituality and work. The first two books are by consultants, the next book is a collection of interviews with business leaders, and the last two books are written by CEOs who applied spiritual principles and practices to their organizations.

Consultant’s journey: A dance of work and spirit by Roger Harrison. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1995.

This is an amazingly honest and profound autobiography of an organizational development consultant. The stages of Harrison’s life have paralleled the growth of the field of organizational development, and he has been a contributor to and participant in most of the technologies of the field. His career spans the use of survey feedback to his current work on organizational healing and helping organizations to evolve to higher levels of consciousness.

This is also the story of one man’s journey and his own spiritual development and healing. Harrison is very personal and self-reflective as he writes about his life and work. Readers of this book will find themselves involved in the exploration of their own journeys. This book is particularly useful in an upper level or graduate organizational development class because of its overview of the field. In one upper level management course I give students a list of books like this and ask them to write book reports that include a section on the ways in which the book helps to increase their self-awareness.

Reawakening the spirit in work: The power of dharmic management by Jack Hawley. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1993.

This is another story of a consultant’s spiritual journey, one that speaks directly to the integration of spirit and work. Jack Hawley lives what he preaches, spending 6 months of the year consulting to organizations and governments and 6 months living in an ashram in India. He begins the book with these words: “The key questions for today’s managers and leaders are no longer issues of task and structure but are questions of spirit” (1).

Using concrete examples of how he works with clients, Hawley presents the business applications of such concepts as “constant spiritual awareness,” “ revering (caring and love),” and “dharma (deep integrity).” The book concludes with chapters on inspiration and spiritual leadership in organizations. Rich in understandable models, this book provides a thought provoking resource for management educators who are exploring the application of spiritual principles to management. The appendix provides information on Hawley’s spiritual teacher Sathya Sai Baba. There is also an excellent References and Recommended Reading section.

Merchants of vision: People bringing new purpose and values to business by James E. Liebig. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1994.

For those who think that hardly anyone is practicing spiritual principles in the workplace this book will be a real eye opener. Liebig, with the blessings of the World Business Academy, set out in 1990 to answer the question, “Can good business also further the common good?” To accomplish this he interviewed 90 business women and men in 70 organizations from 14 countries. In the book he profiles 39 of the people he interviewed. The international composition of this group is striking, demonstrating that an interest in spiritual and social values in the workplace is not limited to the U.S. alone. Six common threads run through these profiles. They are: (1) enhancing social equity, (2) protecting our natural environment, (3) enabling human creativity, (4) seeking to serve higher purposes, (5) the ethical conduct of business and (6) the need for personal transformation in business leadership.

This book can be used as a supplementary text for courses in business ethics and social responsibility. It is excellent for leadership case studies. I would also recommend it to anyone in management who finds himself or herself getting too cynical about the role of business in society. The profiles of these “Merchants of Vision” provides concrete examples of business leaders who “further the common good.”

The soul of a business: Managing for profit and the common good by Tom Chappell. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.

Tom Chappell’s book and his business, Tom’s of Maine, have probably done more to inspire the spirituality in the workplace movement than any other source. The book chronicles Chappell’s early success with starting up and running an environmentally friendly business and his eventual mid-life crisis. Even though successful, he found himself asking “Is that all there is?” He became aware of a deeper spiritual hunger and enrolled in the Harvard Divinity School with the idea of recapturing his original sense of purpose that he had when he started the company. The book explains how he took the lessons he learned in his theology classes and applied them to the managing of Tom’s of Maine. He describes some of the difficult ethical decisions he had to make and how he used his spiritual principles to help him. He also details the process of educating and developing his Board of Directors so that they could understand and buy into the new, deeper level values he was proposing.

Students really seem to like this book because it combines the personal and the practical. Chappell is very interested in making a profit and he wants to do that in a way that provides meaning for himself and his employees. This book would be excellent required reading for a course on spirituality in the workplace and would make good supplementary reading for courses on management, leadership, strategic planning, or social responsibility. One colleague uses a brief article (Tom Chappell: Minister of commerce, 1994) as an assigned reading in an undergraduate management class and finds it very worthwhile.

Love and profit: The art of caring leadership by James Autry. New York: Avon Books, 1991.

Autry begins his book by providing some of his beliefs regarding work and management:

  1. Work can provide the opportunity for spiritual and personal, as well as financial, growth. If it doesn’t, then we’re wasting far too much of our lives on it.
  2. The workplace is rapidly becoming a new neighborhood, and American businesspeople are helping make it happen.
  3. Good management is largely a matter of love. Or if you’re uncomfortable with that word, call it caring, because proper management involves caring for people, not manipulating them.

(Autry, 1991: 17)

As an executive at Meredith Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, Autry has learned many personal and professional lessons over the years. He debunks many traditional management myths about how one should behave in the workplace, and through storytelling and poetry, provides a convincing argument that love and caring are what make the difference in an organization.

I worked as a manager in manufacturing firms for several years and have been an external organizational development consultant since I joined academia. I find that his stories and his philosophy ring very true in a nitty gritty kind of way. This book could serve as a supplementary text to a leadership course, or be on the reading list as a resource. I first learned of this book through a colleague who taught organizational behavior and who found himself constantly recommending this book to the students in his class who were practicing managers.

3. Resources that help individuals integrate work and spirituality

The books in this section are most useful to people who are practicing managers or aspiring managers in organizations. They offer practical steps that people can take to nurture their spirits in their workplace.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.

First things first by Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Covey has had a major impact on people in business the last few years. I first learned about his work from my students who would come to class full of praise and inspiration because they had just taken a training class at work based on Covey’s principles. In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his model is intended to move people from dependence to independence to interdependence. Structured somewhat like a workbook, Covey combines philosophy, storytelling, models, and exercises that begin with self-awareness, visioning, and goal setting, move to skills needed for working with others, and end with self-renewal. First Things First is a principle centered approach to time management. Basing their work on the wisdom literature, the authors present an approach to fulfilling four basic human needs. They describe these needs as the need “to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy” (44). The book contains an extensive bibliography on time management and a concise bibliography on the wisdom literature.

Several colleagues have reported using 7 Habits very successfully in management classes. First Things First will probably enjoy the same kind of popularity. The major weakness of these books is that the models are not based on empirical research. Their strength is that they focus on the deeper priorities in life.

The Values Workbook: Creating Personal Truth at Work by Robert Rabbin & Jo Hillyard. Foster City, CA: Forethoughts, 1997.

This is a workbook that can be used in the classroom or with clients. It is structured around twenty values, such as “Love Your Work,” “Be Who You Are,”, “Keep Fit and Healthy,” and “Gratitude.” For each value there is a short essay that helps the reader to think more deeply about the particular value. Then there are reflective questions with space for writing. There is space for the reader to create and reflect upon their own values that might not have been included in the twenty values outlined in the book, as well as a place to write other related notes or reflections.

Care packages for the workplace: Dozens of little things you can do to regenerate spirit at work by Barbara Glanz. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.

Sometimes students or clients are looking for simple, practical tips of things that they can do every day to allow more spiritual expression at work. This book is a wonderful resource for that purpose. It begins with defining spirit in the workplace and talks about why there is a need for regeneration of spirit at work. A simple model of the elements of spirituality at work are summarized in the acronym “C.A.R.E.” They stand for:

C = Creative Communication

A = Atmosphere and Appreciation for All

R = Respect and Reason for Being

E = Empathy and Enthusiasm

Each of these elements comprise a chapter in the book. In each chapter there are practical examples of things people have done in other organizations, lists of suggestions for the reader to follow, and worksheets for the reader to create their own ideas. The book is also peppered with cartoons and artwork that can be fun supplements to lectures and presentations. This can be a practical reference book for courses that explicitly address spirituality in the workplace.

4. Art and Spirituality in the Workplace

Poetry, music, and other forms of art are short-cuts to the human soul. Enlightened organizations are beginning to recognize this and to build artistic approaches into their leadership development and organizational transformation processes.

The heart aroused: Poetry and preservation of the soul in corporate America by David Whyte. New York: Currency Doubleday, 1994.

One of the challenges management educators face in meeting AACSB requirements is finding a way to design more interdisciplinary courses. This book is a valuable resource for that endeavor. Whyte uses poetry, myth, and stories to illuminate the importance of soul in the workplace. The absence of soul in the workplace, according to Whyte, causes immediate distress. He recommends that we listen to the wisdom of the poets and storytellers as a way to discover our own wisdom. This process, he says, will help us to look into the deep murky waters of our souls and to discover the energy and creativity that is so often suppressed when we deny our full humanity in the workplace.

Small decencies: Reflections and meditations on being human at work by John Cowan. New York: HarperBusiness, 1992.

The common table: Reflections and mediations on community and spirituality in the workplace by John Cowan. New York: HarperBusiness, 1993.

These books are collections of short, inspirational essays on work. Oftentimes they are stories from the author’s life as a manager and consultant and each one has a spiritual lesson embedded in it. The topics are varied, ranging from integrity and competition to leisure time and learning to trust.

I suggest reading through these essays to find the ones that move you or inspire you. You are guaranteed to find essays that address topics you are covering in your courses. Consider assigning an essay as homework reading and then having students discuss the relevance of the essay to the topic you are covering and to their own life and work experience.

Artful work: Awakening joy, meaning, and commitment in the workplace by Dick Richards. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1995.

My favorite idea from this book is that “all work is spiritual work.” Although this book is not an example of the arts, as the three previous recommendations are, it is about the idea of work as a form of art. Richards is an artist himself. He has published his photographs, exhibited his paintings and drawings, and performed readings of his poetry. He is also a management consultant with twenty years of experience and a faculty member in a business school.

The majority of this book focuses on individual approaches to spirituality in the workplace with an emphasis on integrating the four human energies at work: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Richards weaves theoretical models with illustrative stories and lists of questions the reader can use for self-exploration.

Near the end of the book he expands the discussion to the organizational level of analysis with a focus on the three domains of organization: Purpose, culture, and people. He shows how these are related to the four human energies and provides a descriptive list of the characteristics of a centered organization. He concludes with a discussion of how all these ideas relate to new concepts of leadership.

There are many courses that this book could be used in as either a supplementary text or as a reference in the bibliography in the syllabus. The most appropriate courses are Career Development, Organizational Development, and Leadership.

Creating an Imaginative Life by Michael Jones. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 1995

Michael Jones is an artist in every sense of the word. He is an accomplished musician and has created 17 CD’s of his piano music. He is an artist in his work with organizations and his creative ways of helping them to transform their thinking. And he is an artist in the poetic and lyrical way he has written this book of stories from his life and work. It becomes clear to the reader that the source of creativity is quite mystical, but that the artist has much to teach all of us about how to get into the creative consciousness that allows us to share our gifts of the world. This book can be used as a supplementary text or as an assignment for book reports. At the very least, the chapter titled “Who Will Play Your Music?” should be used in classes or training sessions that promote self-awareness and personal transformation.

5. Spiritual Principles for Career Development

I begin many of my management classes with a brief lecture on the most important management principle of all, “Know Thyself.” And it certainly is the most important principle to keep in mind when making career decisions. These three books each take a slightly different approach to self-knowledge, but the goal is the same in each - to choose work that is in alignment with your soul’s path.

Do what you love, the money will follow: Discovering your Right Livelihood by Marsha Sinetar. New York: Dell Publishing, 1987.

The concept of Right Livelihood is a Buddhist teaching. Sinetar defines it as “work consciously chosen, done with full awareness and care, and leading to enlightenment” (9). This book guides the reader through an awareness of self to a discovery of his or her unique and distinctive talents. Sinetar believes that these talents cry out for expression and that when that cry is listened to there are both inner and outer rewards. The book provides a thoughtful and practical approach to discovering one’s Right Livelihood and to making the gradual changes that allow a person to pursue what they love doing. I find that I recommend this book to students more often than any other book on this list. Perhaps its because so many of them are in the early stages of their careers and are trying to figure out what they should do. I have used it as supplemental reading in Human Resources courses, general Management courses, and Career Development courses.

Find Your Calling, Love Your Life: Paths to Your Truest Self in Life and Work by Martha Finney and Deborah Dasch. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Find Your Calling is a collection of twenty stories of people who have found their true life’s work. The book is organized in four parts beginning with stories of people who knew when they heard the call. Part 2 is stories of how to build your calling, providing examples of principles such as “Take it one step at a time,” and “Hold out for the best.” Part 3 is titled “Blessings in Disguise” and is comprised of stories of finding gold in the shadows. The last section of the book is two stories of people who have lived their calling for most of their lives. They provide an example of how to keep the call alive over time. This book is most appropriate for a career development course as a supplementary text. But management educators might also want to read it if they are having questions about whether or not education is their calling.

The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life by Laurie Beth Jones. New York: Hyperion, 1996.

The two greatest spiritual questions are “Who am ?” and “Why am I here?” The Path is a handy little book that helps people to answer these questions. In a style similar to that of a workbook, concepts are presented and are followed by self-guided exercises. Many of the exercises seem simple on the surface, such as an exercise that asks the reader about his or her parent’s dreams and the effect that they have had on the reader. If taken seriously, these exercises can promote deep insight. Upon completion of the exercises, the reader will have created a mission statement and a vision statement and will have ideas about action steps needed. This book would be an excellent supplementary text for a career development course and could be used creatively in a strategic planning course if you wanted to have students experience the similarities between creating an individual mission statement and an organizational mission statement.

6. Parables of Business Leaders

Bolman and Deal (1995) believe that stories are the best ways to pass on spiritual teaching. These two books are stories of business leaders who undergo spiritual transformation and as a result are able to transform their organizations.

Managing from the heart by Hyler Bracey, Jack Rosenblum, Aubrey Sanford, and Roy Trueblood. New York: Dell, 1990.

I first learned of this book from my M. B. A. students who were raving about it in a leadership class. This is a story about Harry Hartwell, a man who has just had a heart attack and finds himself waking up in the hospital and talking to a woman named Selena that no one else can see. She tells him that the purpose of life is “spiritual growth and learning, particularly about loving.” There are five principles that he must learn if he wants to continue living, and she is assigned to be his coach. The story is about how he learns each of these principles at work and at home and how things begin to change and improve for him. This book, and the one following, help managers to see that applying spiritual principles is not “soft” stuff at all. Instead, this approach to managing and living has bottom line payoffs on many levels.

Leading with soul: An uncommon journey of spirit by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.

This story opens with a plant manager named Steve driving up a mountain to see a woman named Maria. Steve’s mentor, John, has sent him, but Steve does not know why. She begins by asking him why he works so hard and if he likes what he is doing. He decides to answer her truthfully and tells her that the fun has gone out of what he does, and for the first time in his life he is afraid of failing. She also asks him about his spirit, and he does not know how to answer. Maria becomes Steve’s guide on his spiritual journey. This is the story of the things he learns and how he applies them to the way he leads.

The book is structured around the conversations between Steve and Maria with interludes from the authors at various stages of Steve’s journey. Reading this book is similar to being involved in an experiential exercise. The reader gets involved in the characters and the story, and then Bolman and Deal invite us to sit back and reflect on the meaning of the story for our own lives and workplaces. There is a back and forth weaving of storytelling and reflection, then more storytelling and reflection. Sometimes I found this a little disconcerting, but everyone else that I have talked with found it meaningful. One colleague said that he used to use Hawley’s book in a management class but he now uses the Bolman and Deal book because the students like it and can related to it much better.

Both this book and the Bracey et al. book have been used in undergrad and graduate courses on management, organizational behavior, and leadership. They are usually on the bibliography attached to the syllabi, although I use Bolman and Deal as a required text in the leadership course. The students seem to find it most meaningful when they read one of these books and are assigned to write a paper that includes some personal reflection on the reading. I have also created a guided meditation tape that helps students to experience their “gifts” as described in Bolman and Deal. The guided meditation is titled “Gifts from the Messenger” and can be ordered from the author.

7. Leadership From a Spiritual Perspective

Perhaps more has been written about leadership and spirituality than any other topic related to spirituality in the workplace. The books highlighted here are only a small sampling of what is available, but I believe that they are among the best on the topic. The offerings here include a book that explore what the new sciences have to teach us about leadership, a book of essays, a workbook, and three books that offer leading-edge concepts on leadership that incorporate body, mind, heart and spirit.

Leadership and the new science: Learning about organizations from an orderly universe by Margaret Wheatley. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1992.

While many of the books in this article take an individual perspective of spirituality in the workplace, this book takes what might be called a “cosmic” perspective. Wheatley, an associate professor of management at Brigham Young University, uses some of the leading ideas in the sciences to help readers understand the true nature of organizations. She applies ideas from quantum physics, chaos theory, and evolutionary biology to the issues of organizing work, people and life. Each of these “new science” theories and concepts share a systems perspective and speak to the interconnectedness of all things. A continuous theme throughout the book is the nature of complexity and the futility of trying to control systems. Instead Wheatley suggests that we learn more about the nature of self-organizing systems and place greater emphasis on the relationships that connect people and systems.

I have used this book with great success as a text (along with other texts) in MBA courses on leadership and a doctoral seminar in management. Although the book does not claim to be about spirituality in the workplace, my MBA and doctoral students and colleagues who have used it in the classroom say it is. For example, in discussing power in a chapter titled “Newtonian Organizations in a Quantum Age” Wheatley writes about love being the most potent source of power in organizations. Like many spiritual teachers she says that the most important factor to pay attention to is relationships, whether that be between people, between employees and the organization, or between us and the Universe (Wheatley 1992: 39).

Invisible leadership: Igniting the soul at work by Robert Rabbin. Lakewood, CO: Acropolis Books, 1998.

Rob Rabbin is an inspired and inspiring author and to read these essays is to be filled with a sense of awe and spirit. He has been described as radical, and perhaps that is because he writes about leadership as spiritual practice and describes the purpose of organizations as being the spiritual development of its people. He states that the most effective leaders are the leaders who are mystics, those who are aware of their spiritual nature and who are connected to the greater Mystery. Given the traditional nature of most management education, this book may be a little too far out for some, but I look forward to the day when people will accept Rabbin’s ideas as commonplace. More and more universities are beginning to offer courses on spirituality in the workplace, and this book might be a good supplementary text or be on a list of recommended readings.

Leadership from the inside out: Seven pathways to mastery by Kevin Cashman. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1998.

Starting from the premise that our ability to grow as a leader is based on our ability to grow as a person, this book offers seven paths to leadership mastery. They are:

(1) Personal mastery: Leading through authentic self-expression

(2) Purpose mastery: Leading by expressing our gifts to create value

(3) Change mastery: Leading in the flow

(4) Interpersonal mastery: Leading through synergy

(5) Being mastery: Leading through being

(6) Balance mastery: Leading by centering our life

(7) Action mastery: Leading as a whole person

Each chapter provides an overview of the principles of each form of mastery, along with reflections, and room for the reader to write their insights and commitments. Although it is designed as a workbook, it offers more models and conceptual material than most standard workbooks, making it appropriate for MBA level students and practicing managers. At the end of each chapter there are reflection questions and worksheets to help the reader turn learnings into action.

Fusion leadership: Unlocking the subtle forces that change people and organizations by Richard Daft and Robert Lengel. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 1998.

This is one of the best written and most original books on leadership that I have read in quite awhile. The concept of “subtle forces” is a paradigm-shifting way of looking at leadership. Fusion leadership is about “joining, coming together, creating connections and partnerships. It is about reducing barriers by encouraging conversations, information sharing, and joint responsibility across boundaries.” (15) The heart of the book is divided into a section on personal fusion and organizational fusion. Personal fusion is bringing the subtle forces into leadership; mindfulness, vision, heart, communication, courage, and integrity. Organizational fusion is unleashing the subtle forces in the organization through major system-wide events that are empowering. Four technologies are described, with examples. They are:

(1) Dialogue
(2) Future Search
(3) Whole-Scale Change, and
(4) Leadership Enactment.

This book manages to be both inspirational and practical at the same time.

Learning as a way of being: Strategies for survival in a world of permanent white water by Peter Vaill. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

I chose this book because Peter Vaill is one of the most wholistic and deep thinkers about the nature of spirituality in the workplace, and because it has a particularly valuable chapter on “Spiritual Learning.” Building on his earlier concept of managing in a world of permanent white water, this chapter explains how spirituality can be the source of meaning in turbulent times. The book also places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of “Being” in a society that gets so wrapped up in “Doing.”

Leading consciously: A pilgrimage towards self-mastery by Debashis Chatterjee. Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998.

Weaving ideas from the Upanishads, new physics, and organizational thinkers, Chatterjee presents a concept of leadership as personal mastery and the evolution of personal consciousness. Most books on spirituality in the workplace read like business books with a dose of spirituality. This book is the opposite. It reads much more like a spiritual book, and then gives organizational examples and the application of spiritual principles to work. It is quite stirring in its depth and may not be for everyone, but it belongs on every leadership course bibliography.

8. Spirituality at the Team Level

As far as I know, there is only one book on teams and spirituality and it is based on a very successful training program that is used in organizations.

Building team spirit: Activities for inspiring and energizing teams by Barry Heerman, New York: McGraw Hill, 1997.

Generally when we talk of “team spirit” we speak of sports teams or work teams with a strong identity and a lot of energy and commitment, but we are not thinking in spiritual terms. However, Heerman explicitly talks about spirituality in teams and has designed this book as a workbook full of learning activities to strengthen the sense of purpose, mission, and connectedness in teams. The book is structured around a six phase model of team development:

(1) Initiating strong team relationships

(2) Visioning the future

(3) Claiming goals and roles

(4) Celebrating team accomplishment

(5) Letting go of frustrations, conflicts and disappointments

(6) Serving customers and teams

For each phase there are around eight activities for the group to participate in. In addition, there is an appendix full of rich resource materials. The book is full of models, worksheets, and other practical tools for helping teams be more effective by tapping into the human spirit.

9. Systemic Approaches

The concept of spirituality in the workplace can be looked at at the individual level, the team level, the organizational level, and the societal level. At the organizational level the main concern is with how to incorporate attention to spirit in organizational transformation approaches. Three books are offered here that have very different, but compatible approaches.

Managing with the wisdom of love: Uncovering virtue in people and organizations by Dorothy Marcic. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.

How would the workplace change if we acknowledged that spiritual values are as important in the operations of organizations as they are in the lives of people who work there? This is the question that Marcic attempts to answer as she explores the relevance of spiritual laws in the workplace. In a very straightforward manner, this book discusses the relevance of love in the workplace. It provides examples of how understanding and applying “Universal Law” or spiritual principles in the workplace can lead to improved performance and increased sense of meaning for individuals and organizations.

Throughout, the book is filled with inspirational quotes from the world’s major religions as well as well-thought-out intellectual models that are useful to researchers and practitioners.

Marcic proposes five “New Management Virtues” that form the philosophical and spiritual foundation for many of the leading edge management concepts that are arising. These virtues are: Trustworthiness, Unity, Respect and dignity, Justice, and Service and humility. Specific organizational examples of these virtues in action include ServiceMaster, Texas Instruments, and Hewlett-Packard. The conclusion provides concrete steps for operationalizing spirituality in the workplace.

The living organization: Spirituality in the workplace by William Guillory. Salt Lake City, UT: Innovations International, Inc., 1997.

A “Living Organization” is defined as one which re-creates itself in response to the changing internal and external business environment (xiii). The main thesis of this book is that spirituality is the essential ingredient to ensure the short and long-term success of an organization. Guillory presents five key elements for integrating spirituality in the workplace and devotes a chapter to each. They are: (1) people, (2) service, (3) organizational self-awareness, (4) wisdom, and (5) the new leadership. In the appendices are exercises and instruments that help the reader to apply each of these key elements to the workplace.

Liberating the corporate soul: Building a visionary organization by Richard Barrett. Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998.

This book is extremely well-researched and well-organized. Barrett presents a model that includes seven levels of employee consciousness and seven levels of corporate consciousness. He talks about the importance of having a balanced organization that pays attention to all levels of consciousness and presents Corporate Transformation Tools that help an organization to do this. Replete with examples, case studies, and step by step procedures, Barrett demonstrates that values-based leadership is the way to harness the body, mind, heart and soul of employees and of the corporation as a whole, in order to become high-performing.

10. The Role of Business in a Changing World

These six books take a very macro view of the issue of spirituality and business. Each of them postulates that we are entering a new era where it can no longer be “business as usual,” and the authors each offer their vision of what the world can be like and their prescriptions for how we can get there.

Creative work: The constructive role of business in transforming society by Willis Harman and John Hormann. Indianapolis: Knowledge Systems, 1990.

Harman and Hormann state that business is the best institution to solve the social problems that are experienced globally. They claim that business has both the resources and the flexibility to do this, much more so than governments. Businesses span global boundaries and the modern corporation is one of the most adaptable organizational forms. The authors suggest that the role of work in society needs to be changed from that of economic production and consumption to learning and human development. The role of leadership is to apply spiritual principles to help bring about this societal transformation.

First and foremost this book is for management educators in that it challenges basic assumptions about the nature of work and the purpose of business. It is also very appropriate for graduate level courses in Business and Society.

The global brain awakens: Our next evolutionary leap by Peter Russell. Palo Alto, CA: Global Brain Inc., 1995.

Waking up in time: Finding inner peace in times of accelerating change by Peter Russell. Novato, CA: Origin Press Inc., 1998.

Beginning with the premise that change is occurring at an ever-accelerating rate, and that this is a natural evolutionary process, Russell focuses on the potentially negative consequences of humanity’s rapid development. He describes evolution of consciousness as an expanding phenomenon and hypothesizes that the planet is becoming conscious of itself, particularly through the proliferation of communication media and the instant exchange of information around the planet. His question is, “Will we wake up in time, will we attain a global consciousness in time, before our technology and greed make the planet unlivable for humans and other species?” Both books offer a hopeful view of the future by emphasizing personal and organizational transformation.

Conscious evolution: Awakening the power of our social potential by Barbara Marx Hubbard. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1998.

This book is very similar to the work of Peter Russell in that it explores the process of evolution and draws heavily on the sciences to examine the concept of consciousness. Its major contribution is to build on the ideas of the human potential movement of the 1960s and to extrapolate that to large groups of people, what Barbara Marx Hubbard calls “The Social Potential Movement.” She presents an action plan for transforming society by creating demonstration projects aimed at consciously evolving to our next stage of development. These projects would be in all spheres of society and there needs to be a system for communicating what is learned from these social potential experiments. Her view is broad, encompassing government, business, spirituality and religion, healthcare, the environment, science and technology and so on. Hubbard is a true visionary, and this book provides a concrete action plan to support the vision she has of a future where the human race consciously becomes co-creators with the Divine.

Building a win-win world: Life beyond global economic warfare by Hazel Henderson. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1996.

Henderson argues that we need to have a new way of thinking about the economy because our current economic focus on materialism is not sustainable in the long run. She offers the idea of “cultural DNA” that says we are programmed for the optimal design of spiritual and social development and that we are moving away from an economic model based on competition to one based on love. Economic models will move towards an incorporation of chaos theory and complex adaptive systems thinking, towards measurement systems that include quality of life and sustainable development, and towards a system integrates the value of the public sector and the private sector. Like Russell and Hubbard, Henderson is a visionary and provides concrete examples of the kind of world she sees unfolding in the future.

The reinvention of work: A new vision of livelihood for our time by Matthew Fox. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994.

This book states that all work is sacred work and that society needs to redefine and reinvent what work is to people. Fox describes the problems facing societies around the world and proposes that work should focus on the solutions to these problems. This also calls for a reinvention of the purpose of business in society. A former priest, Fox draws upon his Catholic heritage to describe how work can be more sacred and how we can build more ritual and connection to God in the work that we do in the world.

11. Other Resources on Spirituality in the Workplace

Two journals have published special issues on spirituality in the workplace recently. The Journal of Managerial Psychology , volume 9, number 2 devoted an entire issue to this topic in 1994. Two examples of articles that have been used in the classroom are “Spirituality and Management” (McCormick 1994) and “Thought Self-Leadership: Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Organizational Life” (Neck & Milliman 1994). Also in that same year the Journal of Organizational Change Management, volume 7, number 1 published their special issue on spirituality in organizations. Two articles in this issue have direct application to groups and team meetings; “In the manner of Friends: Learnings from Quaker practice for organizational renewal” (Louis 1994) and “Listening with spirit and the art of team dialogue” (Levine 1994). The Journal of Organization Change Management will be publishing another special issue on spirituality in the workplace, and the Journal of Management Education has a special issue on spirituality and management education slated for October 2000.

In addition, I have put together a bibliography of articles and books on spirituality in the workplace that is currently 27 pages long. A number of colleagues have reviewed it and made suggestions for material that should be included and I update it every few months. You can find this on the Spirit at Work website at or a hard copy can be ordered through me. The website includes articles on spirituality in the workplace, discussion forums, advice for spirit at work discussion groups, book reviews, and a comprehensive list of related websites.

I publish a quarterly newsletter called Spirit at Work that is available by subscription. It contains research results from people who are conducting studies of spirituality in the workplace, descriptions and case studies of organizations that support the spiritual growth of their employees, and stories from people who have learned to successfully integrate their spirituality and their work.

Three of the more well-known organizations that support the concepts of spirituality in the workplace are The World Business Academy (415) 342-2387, Center for Spirit at Work (203) 932-7372, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (800) 383-1394. The World Business Academy takes the position that it is the role of business to transform society, and many well-known business leaders are active members. The Center for Spirit at Work at the University of New Haven is a research and information clearinghouse on issues and events related to spirituality in the workplace The Institute of Noetic Sciences is a research organization and its members are people who are interested in the scientific study of higher consciousness. Each of these organizations have an international perspective and have been in existence for a long time.

Guidelines for Teaching Management Education From A Spiritual Perspective

When I first started to write this section I thought of it as a list of helpful hints, such as “Make sure you draw the distinction between spirituality and religion,” and “Create an environment that allows for and honors different belief systems.” But as I thought about what really helps me the most when I attempt to teach management courses from a spiritual perspective is my attempts to live my own spiritual principles in my work. This is not a topic that is commonly discussed among faculty, so I do not know how widely spread the application of these principles are. I present five principles that have been very helpful to me in trying to be an effective educator.

1. Know thyself

All spiritual growth processes incorporate the principle of self-awareness. Teaching provides a great opportunity to become more self-aware. As I prepare for each semester I examine why I design the course the way I do, I restate my beliefs about learning and education and see if they have changed at all, and I question what my basic assumptions are about the students in my courses. I constantly try to stretch and challenge myself with each class, to go beyond whatever I have done before. I am always asking myself if my behavior is congruent with my highest spiritual principles. I find that I learn more about myself when I am just on the edge of the unknown. When I design a course to be a learning environment for my own growth, the course seems to be a much more exciting learning environment for the students. When I do a course the same way I did it the last time, I find that some of the life (or perhaps spirit) has gone out of it.

I also design many of my courses to help students apply this principle to themselves. I tell them that I believe that the starting point for any manager is to “Know Thyself” and explain how the class is designed to increase their self-awareness through application of the theories being taught.

2. Act with authenticity and congruency

I believe that students learn a lot more from who we are and how we behave than from what we say. Authenticity means being oneself, being fully congruent, and not playing a role. I know many faculty who really get into the role of professor and who see teaching as a place to assert their superiority and control. They would never want students to see the more human, softer parts of them. Yet we are finding that managers who are more authentic and congruent tend to be more effective. The same should be true for faculty.

I find it a real challenge to be authentic and congruent in the classroom. For example, it is difficult for me to say that I am uncomfortable with the way a course is unfolding, particularly if I have designed it that way. Yet I have found that being in touch with feelings like this, stating them honestly, and then working with the class collaboratively to improve things makes a major difference in my learning and the learning of the students.

It is also important to create a climate where students are encouraged to behave authentically and congruently. This means that they should be comfortable expressing feelings as well as thoughts and ideas in the classroom. I am always drawing the parallels between the teacher’s role of creating a learning climate and the manager’s role of creating a climate that supports high performance. I try to explain why I do the things I do in the classroom, often drawing on my spiritual principles, and then lead a class discussion on whether or not these same principles and behaviors are applicable in organizations.

3. Respect and honor the beliefs of others

It can be very risky and maybe even inappropriate to talk about your own spirituality in the classroom. Yet if spirituality in a guiding force in your life and your teaching, and if you follow the guideline of authenticity and congruency, you cannot hide that part of yourself. I am learning that it is a fine line to walk. One of my colleagues got called into the President’s office because he used the “S” word (spirituality) in the classroom. Two MBA students complained because they felt very offended and felt it was inappropriate.

I have found that what seems to work best is to build a climate of trust and openness first and to model an acceptance of opinions and ideas that are different from mine. Then, if an appropriate opportunity comes up where I mention something about my spiritual beliefs, I emphasize that they are mine alone and that many people have different beliefs and that I respect those differences. It is extremely important to me that students do not feel that I am imposing my belief system (spiritual or otherwise) on them.

Depending on the course topic, I often try to work in some types of values assessment or values exercise that helps students understand their own values more deeply and helps them to see that other people may have very different values and beliefs.

4. Be as trusting as you can be

This guideline operates on many levels. At the classroom level I always try to create a climate of trust. I tell the students in the beginning that this is important to me and that I will trust them to do their best and trust them to tell me the truth. In one MBA Leadership class I talked about trust throughout the semester, both in terms of leadership theory and practice and in terms of the dynamics of what was going on in the classroom. Towards the end of the semester I had a crisis with a student in another class who appeared suicidal. This was just before the Leadership class was to start and there was a group presentation that evening. I left the student in the care of another faculty member for a few minutes and went to my class. I told them that we had been talking about trust all semester long and that we were going to get the chance to practice what we preach. I said that I had an emergency and couldn’t be at class. I told them that I trusted them to come up with a way to appraise the quality of the group’s presentation and to develop a method of letting me know how they did so that I could give the group a fair grade. The next day I received a list of comments from every member of the class and almost everyone of them called and told me how the class went. The majority of them said that it was the best class they ever attended!

On the personal level, this principle of “being as trusting as you can be” applies to trusting oneself, one’s inner voice, or one’s source of spiritual guidance. In my personal belief system this means trusting that there is a Higher Power in my life and that if I ask I will receive guidance on important issues. I once had a minister friend that told me that he prayed just before each sermon and asked that the Holy Spirit come through him and express God’s will through the words of the sermon. Although I don’t share this minister’s particular religious beliefs, I find this concept useful. I try to remember to take a moment before I walk into each class and ask silently that I be guided to say the things that will best help my students.

5. Maintain a spiritual practice

In the research I am doing on people who integrate their spirituality and their work I am finding an amazing diversity of spiritual practices. The most frequently mentioned spiritual practice is spending time in nature. Examples of other practices are meditation, prayer, reading inspirational literature, hatha yoga, shamanistic practices, writing in a journal, and walking a labyrinth. These people report that it is very important for them consistently commit to whatever individual spiritual practice they have chosen. The regular involvement in a chosen practice appears to be the best way to deepen one’s spirituality.

I find that when I faithfully commit to my particular spiritual practice I am calmer, more creative, more in tune with students, and more compassionate. When I let the multiple demands of a teaching job interfere with my practice I feel more stressed, off-center, I get involved in more conflict, and feel less effective in the classroom.


There is a growing trend the past few years to talk more openly about one’s spirituality and to want to integrate spiritual principles into all aspects of life - relationships, community, and work. This article has presented some resources for management educators who are interested in more fully integrating their spirituality and their teaching. The materials presented here are not exhaustive. Several faculty members on the OBTS listserve provided names of books and articles they use in the classroom but that I had not read. I have, however, included them in the bibliography at the end of this article.

Living more congruently with deeply held spiritual principles is never easy but it is extremely rewarding and meaningful. I hope that some of the resources provided here will help to make the journey a little easier.


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