I was recently watching a YouTube video of a world-renowned expert on the topic of leadership. The story started with their experience in the military and how this contributed to their sense of humility towards the concept of authority and the qualities of leadership. As I listened more closely to the speaker I reflected on my experience & training in leadership coming to the realization what I was hearing was actually about a Spiritual Psychology of Leadership.

Throughout this videotaped discussion the tone, imagery, and pace of the conversation established the viewer’s impressions regarding the intensity of the experiences described, the clarity of the vision and values highlighted, and the humility and integrity of the speaker. The overall experience of watching this videotaped conversation was mesmerizing and yet I found myself wanting more. Instead of being satisfied with the speaker’s promotion of a transcendental experience I wanted to anchor these values, assumptions, and impressions within useful contexts that extend beyond the metaphysics of leadership.

In this wanting rests the paradox. The speaker wanted to relive the assumptions and values they inserted into their experience while in the military. They wanted more from their experience at work once they returned to the mainland. The speaker longed for more experiences that included validation, love, compassion, and inclusion. After listening to the video I also wanted more, but in a different direction.

The values promoted by the speaker are often cited by researchers and experts emphasizing the roles, characteristics, and qualities of leadership. Similar to other spiritual and self-help texts the vision surrounding this spiritual psychology of leadership helps to set the stage, principles, and values for individuals in leadership roles. But what these models often don’t quite accomplish is satisfy my questions around complexity, systems, and constraints.

Experts often cite the research that supports the conclusion that leadership can be learned. This is a good thing. How to become a leader becomes more complicated when one considers what type of leader one wishes to become, the context, and the goals pursued. Without context dependent models for developing leadership the core competencies, resources, and industry specific KPI’s needed to differentiate (and compete in) industries will remain under-emphasized. The risk of this can be observed in value-driven captured markets where rival businesses fall short of contract specifications, business benchmarks, and organizational/business learning.

System Thinking Model Leadership

What is needed are quasi Spiritual Psychology Models of Leadership that incorporate the practical and hands-on experience of leaders whose skills have already been time tested in their respective industries. Good intentions will only get you so far without a roadmap. This limitation is unfortunate but provides us an opportunity to revisit the other business tools (virtually unlimited in number) available in the pursuit of an integrated systems model.

The spirituality of the experience & meaning of work is not debated here. Understanding these values, assumptions, and insights is crucial for building a shared language of meaning, purpose, and vision. These qualities help set the direction of change, evaluate strategies & processes, as well as identify opportunities for growth and improvement. Momentum and change is dependent on our ability to recognize that the outputs of our work are not our only purpose. The process through which we realize these outcomes is just as important.

So in setting the stage for leadership development businesses have a responsibility for both forming meaningful relationships as well as building the necessary tools, resources, and core competencies necessary to be successful in their industry. Pursuing one of these at the exclusion of the others will result in lackluster performance as the business’ competitors move forward. The choice is simple: Connecting the business’ human and technical systems is key to success.

How is your business leveraging relationships and technology (tools, etc.) to realize its mission? Share your stories below.