Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Soul of a Leader by Margaret Benefiel

Something is wrong with the corporate world today. With an exclusive focus on external results, the inner life of the individual and the corporation has been forgotten. The inner strength erodes while the outer appearance, for a time, still shows life. Like a tree dying at its center, it may appear healthy until a strong wind blows it over.
The answer to our current situation, Benefiel says, is the path of soul-based leadership. There is a necessary place for spirituality in the corporate world. Corporate leaders can and should lead based on values rather than merely the bottom line. The corporate world can return to concern for the well-being of the worker and the customer in addition to profit.
Benefiel gives the reader several examples of individuals who have followed the path of soul-based leadership. Using their examples as well as an increasing amount of literature, Benefiel suggests a leader begins on the path by listening to his or her own heart. A decision is made, steps are taken, and stumbling occurs. The leader finds partners to help.
Benefiel covers the additional soul-based leadership practices of keeping the mission at the fore, practicing gratitude, battling for the soul, and breaking the cycle of violence.
At the end of her book, after the reader is convinced soul-based leadership is necessary and possible, Benefiel explains the process of spiritual transformation. Since the current culture ignores the inner reality of the soul, many corporate leaders might not know how to develop spiritually. Benefiel focuses on the classic Christian formulation of the three ways to describe the process. “The three ways - the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way – describe the journey of the spiritual sojourner from an initial spiritual awakening through many ups and downs all the way to union with God.” (P. 142) The process is not linear (one never “arrives”) but is more like a spiral of repeated and deeper experiences. The developmental process can be applied to corporations as well as individuals.
Not matter what kind of leader you are you will benefit from the admonition and encouragement in this book. Spiritual leadership is necessary for organizational effectiveness. Leaders need to pay attention to their souls and Benefiel’s book is a great place to get started.
(The Crossroad Publishing Company, ISBN-13: 9780824524807, $16.95)