What has spirituality got to do with business?

April 26, 2016

Almost everything, I would say. In fact, I believe that spiritual intelligence is the single most important ‘ingredient’ in leaders today.

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Me and John Mackey at the Conscious Capitalism Conference 2016

And I’m not the only one.  Spiritual intelligence was also on the agenda for the Conscious Capitalism Conference 2016, which I recently attended. Among one of the speakers on this topic was John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, who also sees this as essential skills leaders need to embrace today.

Ask yourself this, what does the world need from businesses today? We need ethical behavior, authentic businesses, finding solutions to complex challenges, transparency, integrity, purpose….and the list of universal values goes on. All of this begins and ends with leadership. Conscious Leadership.

As John Mackey said in his talk: ”A person with a high degree of spiritual intelligence is going to have a strong ethical sense. They can feel, understand what is appropriate to do in the situation. They don’t tend to cut corners, they tend to be able to do the right thing in all circumstances.”

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John Mackey talking about SQ and Conscious Leadership

Mackey also said that when developing spiritual intelligence, you and the entire world just ripples with purpose. And we know how purpose inspires, motivates and energizes people. We need that.

In their book about conscious capitalism Raj Sisodia and John Mackey describe 4 intelligences, which are important to a conscious leader (and truly, to any human wanting to make a difference in the world).

Foremost, IQ is of course important. It is mostly what gets you in the door in the first place. You need to be smart, be able to think clearly and rational, reason, contrast and analyze. All of these analytical abilities. But although they are all valuable skills, IQ is not going to cut it.

You also need system intelligence (SYQ). Understanding how things fit together, to be able to really see the entire system as whole and how all is interlinked. System intelligence is the opposite of IQ. It is among others what enables you to think beyond trade-offs, and instead create win-win solutions for all ‘units’ involved. Most people in business think in trade-offs (if one is rich someone needs to be poor), which usually means that often someone suffers when decisions are made.  SQ

Another one is really important to climb the career ladder. This is EQ, emotional intelligence as described by Daniel Goleman. According to the Bell Lab study the difference between star performers and middle performers is not IQ, but EQ (read more). This is your emotional self- awareness, which among others help you form great relationships and show empathy. Many companies understands the importance of EQ for business, but do very little to develop it in their people.

EQ makes it easier to develop the number one skill; Spiritual Intelligence (SQ). It is actually a prerequisite. But the good news is that you only a little EQ to start developing SQ, and then they reinforce each other.

So what is spiritual intelligence – SQ? Apart from the x-factor in leaders that rock the world (or at least rock a company, which then rocks the world).

Cindy Wigglesworth, who is an expert on the topic, describes spiritual intelligence as ‘the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the situation’. In her book about SQ, Wigglesworth offers an understanding of what defines spiritual intelligent leaders.

Authenticity and integrity
Calm, peaceful and centered
Clear mission or vocation
Courageous, dependable, faith-filled
Forgiving and generous
A great teacher and or mentor
Humble, inspiring and wise

Imagine if you combine these characteristics with high IQ and SYQ? What you have is a full powerhouse of a leader, who cannot help but make the world a better place. Whether it expressed in improving a person’s life or solving the world’s challenges.

We are all born spiritual, but we are not all spiritual intelligent. Spiritual intelligence needs to be studied, practiced and developed – just like any other intelligence.

This also means that you cannot disconnect the personal from the professional (regardless of what people think). There is an undeniable connection between the state of your inner world and how effective or impactful you are in your outside world. This is why personal development of leaders and really anyone working in an organization is key to a successful company. So my hope is that all aspiring change leader will engage in this journey to spiritual intelligence. It is a sure recipe for making the world a better place.

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