Spiritual Management

One common question I encounter wherever I discuss the concept of spiritual management with people is, “How do you relate spirituality to management?”. The very next and obvious question that follows is, “What do you mean by spirituality?”. We have to remember that the field of academia, like many other domains, needs a rational explanation of things to put them in perspective. Rightly so, if a concept has been brought into the literary purview, especially something as subjective as the concept of spirituality; logical explanation must precede application. First question first. Why bother with spirituality in management? Management field, as it is, is replete with theories and models, many of which are yet untested. Then, why spirituality now? Doesn’t it add to the confusion? According to me, that is where the problem actually lies.

For decades, management gurus have been trying to understand and define the human dynamics of management but have rarely succeeded. The reality is that they have only been scratching the surface.

Let’s get something straight. Organisations, as entities, provide structures, systems, objectives and legal frameworks to operate a business. People run it. People make decisions, interact with each other, interact with people outside the organisation and perform their duties. And, people bring their cultural, ideological, social and other personal value sets with them into work. As much as the organisational systems try to establish a common and uniform value and behavioural system, in spite of all intents and purposes, there is no escape from human sensitivities, emotions and interaction in almost every aspect of organisational life. Where the entity-based organisational structure is inert, the human aspect of it is full of emotions, sensitivities and interactions. What most of the management gurus have been trying to do for decades, is reign in the live and vibrating human behaviour into torpid and soulless organisational system. A lot of theories and models have been built around motivation, leadership, collaboration and purpose of work but none have actually touched the core human behaviour. They could not have, for the simple reason that in order to define human behaviour and dynamics of existence, one would have to first “know” and experience it. Funny that people who try to establish theories on humam nature likely have no inkling of what it really is. Theories and models built on presumption of human behaviours or “statistical”, thought-based conceptual studies remain as such – thought-based and conceptual. Models and theories are abounded but the actual behaviour that occurs in organisations is human alone. There is a degree of conformity to organisational norms and procedures but they are not different from our own social and legal norms and procedures. Underneath all, the human life and sensitivities thrive, vibrating and alive.

So, if we are sincere about understanding human behaviour and purpose of work, we should be prepared to look deep inside human essence, what makes us human in the first place. That would be the start. Organisations and scholars alike have been trying in vain to find “uniformity” of organisational behaviour. That cannot be, for each individual is distinct and unique. You can make people follow rules and policies but you cannot instil or force a uniform human behaviour. Yet, the organisations often pretend that such uniform behaviour exists. Our purpose to work is closely linked to the question of overall purpose of existence. We are the same people when we go to work and when we are at home. It is just that we have learned to wear different masks and “act” the roles that we play in our everyday lives. The need is to reach out to the human nature, the very essence of our existence and try to “know” instead of assuming what makes us human. This is how I relate spirituality to management. Spirituality is one of the methods, one of the paths to discovering the true human nature. Such awareness can create a foundation for management approaches that really make difference and are attuned with the realities of the human nature.

Now on spirituality. First and foremost, spirituality is not a theory. It cannot be understood or logically defined. If that was the case, it will be any different from umpteenth theories that already exist. I know. The sceptics would say, “How can you implement something that cannot be defined?” If it cannot be defined, it cannot be put in any tangible theoretical framework, thus rendering the idea unviable for actual application. That is not so. It is one thing to follow the beaten path and generate radical theories for publications and funding that achieve nothing and remain just “one of the theories” out there, and it is another to tread the path of self-discovery. Before people start jumping to conclusions, I would like to stress that, in my view, spirituality is non-denominational. Whereas an ideology is “believing” and “convincing, spirituality is “knowing” and “experiencing”. When we talk about human life being dynamic and constantly transformational, it makes perfect sense to find a methodology that is dynamic and transformational to know it. There are change management theories and concepts out there but they deal with “symptoms” of change, the visible human reaction to change. They do not go the root of the emotions or reactions. Spirituality asks for that. Spirituality asks you to “find out” what is going on inside you. Nothing to do with any belief, conviction or pre-conceived ideas. Whatever is there, will come out. The fact is that we have a change process going on incessantly within us but we are seldom aware of that. Spirituality, in my view is a method for self-awareness and self-realisation. It does not matter what people believe in or what path they take. It is about knowing self. If we can attune to our own selves and observe how our daily experiences are transforming us, such awareness will be genuine, unique and first-hand. Likewise, if an organisational environment can be provided which allows for personal transformation in scope, purpose and resource, we will have a chance to really tap into the human potential and increase our knowledge of dynamics of human life.

How to achieve that will be the next step, but as I mentioned, creating an acceptable framework for management research and application is the key.

Your views and thought are invited to lighten up this discussion. Please provide your comments below. If you wish to submit a paper for this site, please use the contact form which has a file upload facility. I will be glad to publish a guest article as appropriate.

About vadmin