I pursued my Master’s degree while I was in the UK. The program was a powerful study on leadership, transformation, and the role of business in today’s society. The professor was relentless. He pushed us beyond any limits we had set and challenged our traditional western thoughts at every turn. Time had no special meaning to him and classes went well into the evening.
A non-traditional approach to business
We often gathered at the local village pub where we continued the day’s topic over a couple pints of beer. Pubs by their very nature are geared toward great social interaction. The alcohol, no doubt, acted as a conduit to our deep philosophical discussions – or so we believed as the night went on. So in the dimly lit pub with creaky hardwood floors, we sat by the warmth of the fire and declared that organizations were missing “souls”.
What is the Soul?
My favorite definition of the soul comes from Deepak Chopra. “The soul is your core consciousness…it is the ground of your being.” In essence, it is a person's moral and emotional nature or sense of identity. So, shouldn’t it make sense that an organization have a soul? That guiding force from within? The ethical philosophy that provides a foundation for the way business is conducted? It’s your identity.
The Soul is not the Mission and Vision Statement
There is a difference between a mission, vision, and a soul. A mission explains the company’s goals and objectives. A vision describes the way you want your organization to look in the future. The soul is the driver. It’s the underlying behavior that is present when you carry out the mission and vision. The soul of the organization has purpose, intent, and character. Ethics are intrinsically intertwined with all of them.
Growing from the inside out: Head, Heart, Hands, and Spirit
Developing your corporate soul is serious business. The leader’s role is to create a culture where all people:
Think with the head – Foster an environment that unleashes creativity. You want problem solvers.
Lead from the heart – A culture of empowerment will nurture and develop the people in the organization. Be genuine. Be authentic.
Work with the hands – Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Have a call to action. Learn by doing.
Have spirit – Change the atmosphere. Spark the spirit to build on a foundation through inspiration. Don’t do what is easy. Do what is right. Mirror the behavior you want to see in others.
Like I said, serious business. It requires that you pull back the rug and look at what is underneath.
Not to be confused with the music group, Collective Soul. All employees must be unified if you want to establish an organizational soul. That’s how you grow from within. Every person must see themselves as a part of something greater. The core behaviors are more than just understood. They are incorporated into daily behaviors and interactions inside and outside of the organization. Success is shared; employees must care about the success of their colleagues just as much as they care about their own success.
Don’t go Soulless
Give your organization a soul. Go beyond the mission and values. Create a spirit that drives inspiration and innovation. Be concerned with who you are and not just what you do.
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