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Integrating Spirituality into Leadership

Exploring Spiritual Intelligence as the Key to Organizational Excellence

Does the word “spirituality” scare the corporate and organizational world as some of my business consultant friends tell me? Should we be afraid of the feeling of being connected to oneself, to others, or even to the universe? If the term is intimidating, let’s change it to describe the same reality, replacing it with “interconnection” to grasp the essence of spirituality as I understand it and its vital role for a leader.

Spirituality is not just a philosophical concept but a way of being and behaving to find our rightful place, whether in personal or professional life, considering our essential (or primary) personality. The image of a painting comes to mind: The one by Chagall, Jacob’s Ladder, symbolizing a journey into oneself, into one’s emotions and thoughts, and the connection to the highest source of inspiration and creativity to find one’s rightful place, recognized by others or the universe.

But what is spiritual intelligence concretely?

In contrast to religions, which are moral and community-based, spirituality is ethical and individual. There is no need to adhere to a religion to access spirituality; it suffices to connect with our deepest values to understand who we are and to others who show us where we are on our path. This is why the concept of spirituality is transferable to the business world when its founders or leaders are guided by values on which a strategic vision which must meet an environmental need is based.

It has been a quarter-century since psychologists began to explore spiritual intelligence, and after defining its components, sought to measure it. Thus, we have moved from the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) to the Emotional Quotient (EQ), and now to the Spiritual Quotient (SQ) over a few decades.

And it is fortunate because, having long been the benchmark in our schools, it became obvious that the development of IQ at the expense of other forms of intelligence does not lead to optimal results in terms of decision-making: a rational intellect, no matter how brilliant, does not make a complete individual. Emotional intelligence level has also to be considered, that is, the quality of the relationships with the environment and the ability to understand other people emotions (D. Goleman, 1996).

In 2000, Danah Zohar discussed a third type of intelligence, spiritual intelligence. Only human beings possess this type of intelligence, which far transcends the religious phenomena it inspires. Spiritual intelligence encompasses several dimensions: self-awareness, ethics, openness to the world and curiosity, the art of practicing generative listening, critical and holistic thinking, and… a great humility. Spiritual intelligence is part of human equilibrium and varies from one individual to another according to personality traits.

Spirituality and Leadership

Spirituality also gives meaning to structures, and no organization can survive without understanding its place vis-à-vis its competitors, customers, institutions, and now the planet. How to lead teams if they do not feel part of something greater than the routine work offered or imposed on them? Thus, no company can survive without understanding its role, the meaning of its action, its responsibilities, in short, its place in a global and changing environment; just as an individual can become depressed if they do not understand the meaning of their life and their place in society.

But is it possible to reconcile spirituality and organization (including religious) ? leading a collective structure means planning, organizing, managing personnel, evaluating, controlling to achieve a goal that is generally to make money and objectives including that of lasting in a changing and uncertain universe. Decision-making is an integral part of all management/leadership activities, and a manager-leader often feels like walking on a tightrope when choosing between various alternatives. This is where spiritual intelligence plays a role because not only must the decision ensure the structure’s longevity by responding to the demands of the emerging future but also be capable of making teams adhere to the values underlying the decision.

To arrive at the optimal decision, leaders must engage deeply with their intuition, ensuring that their choices align harmoniously with personal values, the welfare of others, and the broader cosmos. They must overcome personal fears and past injuries, adopting a collaborative intelligence that integrates both personal insight and environmental context. Leadership in this sense is not exclusive to the naturally gifted or those in high positions; rather, it is the responsibility of every leader to foster a culture that nurtures creativity and spiritual intelligence, overcoming any fear of losing control or an overreliance on outdated methods.

The commitment to a decision within an organization is crucial, as the repercussions of dissent can be significant. This commitment process is greatly facilitated in environments where strong, shared values prevail. Human beings possess an inherent need to belong and connect with something greater than themselves, a concept supported by theorists like Maslow or Baumeister, and Leary. When individuals perceive their contributions as part of a larger mission, they are more likely to experience growth and satisfaction. This principle underpins the success of leaders who inspire their teams towards collective and meaningful achievements, leading to the pinnacle of organizational success.

Elisabeth Carrio



Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ. Learning, 24(6), 49-50.

Zohar, D. (2012). Spiritual intelligence: The ultimate intelligence. Bloomsbury publishing.

Leary, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (1995). The need to belong. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

Maslow, A. H. (July 1943). “A theory of human motivation”. Psychological Review. 50 (4): 370–396. doi:10.1037/h0054346. S2CID 53326433.

Zohar, D. (2012). Spiritual intelligence: The ultimate intelligence. Bloomsbury publishing.

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