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How to Become a Soul-Centered Leader

Bob Little 

May 12, 2017

Much of Western society’s understanding of the soul (what may, otherwise, be called the psyche) is rooted in the work of the Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and the Stoics. Later ideologies relating to the concept of the “soul” largely derive from the work of these philosophers, while alternative concepts were being explored by ancient Chinese philosophers at the same time.

Whether we realize it or not, our views about the existence of the soul (argued by Plato), its non-existence (argued by Aristotle), its immortality (claimed by Plato), or otherwise are firmly rooted in the realm of ancient philosophy.

These views underpin many of the beliefs we hold about how we as human beings could, and should, behave. Consequently, they affect our understanding of how we ought to conduct our working lives and, in turn, our own personal development.

According to “Soul-Centred Leadership,” a new book from international keynote speaker and educator Michael Anderson, “Soul-centered leadership is a combination of emotional intelligence, psychology and a general type of spirituality. When people learn to lead with the power, guidance and courage of their soul, amazing things happen.

“Becoming soul-centered gives an inner confidence, so you can make decisions and lead from a place of love rather than a place of fear. As you let go of your ego-based patterns and are guided by the goodness inside yourself, you become more successful than you ever thought possible.

“Soul-centered leadership teaches business people how to harness the power of spiritual psychology in order to lead from the absolute deepest level available.

“Poor leadership results from a lack of confidence. Micromanaging, lack of trust, no transparency, and talking down to people are all examples of when leaders lack self-esteem. They need to do a job and don’t have the inner tools.”

A lack of trust between workers and their leaders  is a major organizational issue for HR and L&D professionals, not least in the impact it can have on attracting, motivating and retaining talent.

Financial Times’ associate editor Michael Skapinker believes that organizations that want to increase levels of employee trust should listen more to their front-line staff. He attributes much of the current lack of trust in the workplace to the “tearing up” of traditional contracts of employment, which has served to reduce people’s job security.

Speaking at an HR conference in Barcelona, on behalf of the FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance, Skapinker argued that, “The best managers give employees who make mistakes the chance to fix the problem by understanding the causes, the events that led to them.”

His advice to leaders who want to regain the trust of their workers is for them to stand for something, clearly say what it is that they stand for, “…and deliver on their mission, not just talk about it.”

Anderson’s soul-centered leadership solution advocates a similar, courageous and consistent approach. It encourages leaders to embrace innovation.

“You can’t tell other people to be innovative,” he says. “They can only become innovative if you encourage and support them – allowing them to be creative in their working lives.

“It’s an odd fact of business life that an organization’s youngest, lowest paid people tend to be the ones who have the most contact with that organization’s customers. It’s these people to whom the organization’s leaders – including L&D professionals who develop these people’s knowledge and skills – must give both the tools and latitude to be innovative if that organization is to be, and remain, successful in today’s competitive business world.

“It takes courage to admit that you – as a leader – don’t know it all. Maintaining a ‘know-it-all’ stance displays bad leadership – and that reduces the workers’ trust, confidence and self-esteem.

“A recent Gallup survey of employee engagement levels around Europe revealed that there’s plenty of scope for improvement. So, while conventional business wisdom advocates investing in marketing and sales to remain competitive, that money could be spent more effectively in developing the organization’s people – supporting them, and raising their engagement levels by encouraging them to be more creative and innovative in their jobs.”

Anderson says research shows that workers are motivated by the money that they receive (although this only holds true for about three months, until it no longer works as a motivating force). As he clarifies, “So, you could raise workers’ salaries every three months in order to keep them engaged – but it’s an expensive strategy.”

Echoing the view of Daniel Pink, he believes that every worker wants to achieve:

  • Mastery: They want to do a “good job,” and that means providing them with training and support.
  • Autonomy: They need to be given the systems and tools that will enable them to meet, and exceed, customers’ requirements and expectations.
  • Purpose: They want to believe in what they’re doing and need to know that it will make a positive difference.

International leadership speaker Hugo Heij supports this viewpoint: “Work needs to engage each worker’s body, head, heart and spirit – or soul.

“‘Body’ refers to turning up for work and ‘head’ means getting workers to think about what they’re doing. These two things are about processes and, so, can be managed.

“‘Heart’ means being passionate about what you do, and ‘soul’ has to do with being inspired – since you can be passionate about something but not be inspired about it. Leadership should focus on developing workers’ heart and the soul – to get them ‘on fire’ and, thus, performing to their potential.

“I’d agree with Michael Anderson that low confidence levels lead to poor leadership and that micromanaging is a recipe for not developing people who’re passionate about their work. Spirit- or soul-oriented leadership should give people responsibility – empowering them to develop mastery, autonomy and purpose.”

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One comment on “How to Become a Soul-Centered Leader”:

  1. Michael wrote:

    Hi Bob, thanks for the article! Very well done. You captured the essence perfectly.

    Warm Regards,
    R. Michael Anderson