Spiritual-Based Leadership

Louis W Fry & Melissa Sadler Nisiewicz, Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership, Stanford University Press, 2013

Louis Fry is a distinguished management scholar and founder of the International Institute for Spiritual Leadership which advises companies on new business models that emphasise the triple bottom line through personal and organisational spiritual leadership. His latest book, Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line Through Spiritual Leadership uses the emerging fields of spiritual leadership, conscious capitalism and workplace spirituality to provide tools and methods for developing business models that will maximize the triple bottom line. The underlying principle is that ‘organizations exist to serve people and not to make people serve it’ (p.223).

The first half of the book explains the ‘spiritual leadership model’. At the heart of the model is an ‘inner life’ developed through spiritual practice (e.g. reflection, meditation). Spiritual practice produces a vision based in hope and faith of service to others through the values of altruistic love. This then leads to spiritual wellbeing, defined as having a ‘calling’, where one’s life has meaning and purpose, with the ability to make a difference as well as having a sense of ‘membership’ (to feel understood and appreciated). Similar to the other works reviewed, Fry and Nisiewicz show that spiritual well-being (through calling and membership) can improve an organisation’s triple bottom line through increased commitment and productivity, improved employee life satisfaction and corporate responsibility. The model is also informed by the work of Peter Senge 1 (e.g. the ‘intrinsically motivated’ learning organisation) and Ken Wilber 2 (the use of Integral theory to describe the stages of spiritual leadership development).

The second half of the book describes how to implement organisational spiritual leadership. It explains how to shift corporate culture in a model similar to that described by Zohar and Marshall, where values drive attitudes which in turn drives behaviours and creates the organisation’s culture. The chapters provide models, tools, practices and interventions to help leaders reinforce appropriate values and to remove toxic behaviours from the workplace (including a spiritual leadership balanced scorecard for measuring performance across the triple bottom line). The book draws on examples from companies that have implemented new business models based on spiritual leadership and argues that this can be done while achieving growth in revenue and other financial and performance metrics.

This book provides one model and approach to develop sustainability leaders for the future, but will also be useful for people at all levels, including the c-suite. This book gives us an insight into what a successful business of the future may look like. It provides advice on the business leadership models and strategy for an organisation that is designed for a world which has tired of ‘business as usual’ and is searching for authentic approaches that place the care of people and society at the core of their purpose.

The book is a call for action to individuals and leaders to embrace the ‘higher’ spiritual intelligence needed to find ‘meaning and calling in life and make a difference in the lives of others’ (p.292) and for organisations to meet the challenge of how to ‘co-create a conscious, sustainable world that works for everyone’ (p.293). The best way to describe this book is that it provides a pathway for organisations to improve their triple bottom line in a way that authentically cares for their employees, society and other stakeholders. It provides a step by step guide to develop the personal and organisational spiritual leadership that will be necessary to be effective in this century. It takes us beyond corporate responsibility and its recent permutations such as Creating Shared Value 3, to approaches based on an SQ informed consciousness, one that is needed to develop a truly sustainable world for future generations.


1 Peter Senge The Fifth Discipline: the Art and Practice of the learning Organisation, Crown Business, 2006
2 Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology, Shambhala, 2000
3 M. Porter & M. Kramer, ‘Creating Shared Value’, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011

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