The Time Is Now For Spiritually Mature Leaders

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The year 2023, by all accounts and predictions is going to be a tough year. A year that demands self-reflection and innovation from business and leadership – finding ways to reduce operational expenses but still meet expected growth targets and profit margins.

As a Shared Value advocate, I have learned,  experienced and seen that it takes a unique type of leadership to drive meaningful change and growth for an organisation.  Leadership that needs an unparalleled level of selflessness and maturity that can only be attributed to spiritual maturity.

We have, possibly, all encountered the term “spiritual maturity” within a religious context but there is so much more that defines being spiritually mature. The spiritual maturity we are discussing here relates to leadership in a business context and I do need to mention that attending a religious service every Sunday or contributing financially to our religious institutions, does not make us spiritually mature.   

Spiritual maturity may be defined as: The gradual process of developing healthy and life-giving ways of relating one to oneself, to others, and to the environment. Exactly what is expected of leaders and every single one of us. Spiritual maturity doesn’t just happen. It requires intention, time, and effort in order to realise its benefits. Sadly, the spiritually immature live their lives not aware of the underlying spiritual forces that influence them.

I do need to give credit to author Cylon George, who defined so profoundly how we need to look at spiritual maturity and identify leaders that we can respect and trust from this perspective. Being spiritually mature, in my humble opinion, should be a prerequisite for any individual that is destined to lead.    

Profit with purpose – the creation of Shared Value – requires leadership and vision that is aligned to spiritual maturity. To get through this tough year the world and Africa is in need of spiritually mature leaders. Leaders that are morally driven by a code of ethics that they do not waiver from not matter how big the challenge.

Firstly, spiritually mature leaders are guided by a core set of principles and values that they consciously choose, to develop life habits consistent with values such as love, compassion, empathy, selfless giving, dignified living, living with integrity, respect for others, fairness, generosity, humility, etc. They avoid all things that promote negative values, and they have a heart for people and a head for business. Through self-awareness, they seek to live out these values in all areas of life and bring this into their leadership style and their organisation.

Secondly, a spiritually mature leader knows that their word means everything. And instead of providing empty promises that they cannot deliver on, these leaders are seldom quick to take on new commitments, but take time to reflect and discern whether it is consistent with their values. Their word is their honour and they deliver on their commitments.

As leaders, we need to ensure that whatever we put out there, we can make 100% sure that we can deliver on. If in doubt, do not say it, or do not make promises to gain popularity – people are quick to find out and it will affect a leader and the organisation’s credibility and reputation.

Thirdly, spiritually mature leaders are more likely to engage in self-reflection as a regular practice. This allows you to examine your actions in light of your values and motivations. Take responsibility for that which went wrong on your watch – a spiritually mature leader is also less likely to pass blame to others.

A spiritually mature leader cares deeply for the less privileged and marginalised. It is very easy to turn a deaf ear to the voices of the weak and turn a blind eye to their suffering. A spiritually mature leader is constantly aware of the needs of communities and is inspired to take action on their behalf. They understand that for a society to be healthy, it must care for the weakest among them. Healthy company, healthy society.

Lastly and most importantly: alignment to our personal values. Spiritually mature leaders have integrity,  morals and a code of ethics that guide them to never participate in corruption and that which can be ethically questioned.

They always take the high road; the journey might be more challenging, but it is the outcome and benefits that count.

Looking at our context in Africa, and more so South Africa today, do we have spiritually mature leaders that we can trust to be custodians of our society, our organisations and the future? Can you claim to be a spiritually mature leader?

*This article is the first in a series on leadership, written by Tiekie Barnard, CEO Shift Impact Africa Group and Shared Value Africa Initiative and is Tiekie’s personal view.