leadership

Three Secrets to Becoming a Trusted Leader

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by Jim Funk

Teamwork couple climbing helping handTrust must be earned. But how do leaders earn the trust of colleagues, superiors, and the people they lead? To begin with, leaders must be competent. If they don’t possess strong leadership capabilities it is difficult to trust that they will lead their team to achieve the desired results. Secondly, they must have character. Leaders are not only skill sets, but they are people who bring their whole selves and their character traits to their leadership roles. It is the leader as a person who earns the trust of others. And finally, to be trusted, leaders must be vulnerable. They must be willing to be transparent, humble and honest in admitting their mistakes, and acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers.

This may sound good in theory, but to find out how this plays out in the real world I interviewed leaders of three successful organizations who are highly trusted by the people they work with.

  1. Competency

Leaders earn trust by demonstrating their competence. Grant Marsh is the General Manager of The Guild House, one of the restaurants owned by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants based in Columbus, Ohio. Grant earned the respect of several of his team members one evening by demonstrating the competencies of prudent decision-making, effective conflict management, and holding others accountable for their behavior.

As he described it, this situation was a case of “the customer is not always right.” A few guests ended up having too much to drink, and they became demanding, rude and abusive to some of the staff. Grant confronted the guests, and upon assessing the situation he made the decision to ask them to leave. They were not too happy about him taking that action, to say the least.

Some restaurant managers might be reluctant to take that step, lest the guests become angry and later badmouth the restaurant that threw them out. But a trusted leader makes the right decision and does not allow guests to disrespect the staff. Even at a restaurant that proudly proclaims they serve “a lot of love on every plate,” staff should be able to trust that their leader will have their backs. In addition, Grant pointed out that such a decision will also be respected by other guests who witness it, and will build trust with them as well.

  1. Character

When leaders have to make difficult decisions and lead employees through tough times, things go much smoother when they are trusted because of their character. Blake Dye is President of St.Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis. At St.Vincent, as well as in another facility he previously led, he is consistently described by his fellow executives as a person of character who is highly trusted. I met with Blake to discuss his leadership more in depth, and as we talked, I listened for aspects of his character that enabled him to build trust so effectively.

He gave a specific example of a time when the trust he had built helped employees accept reductions in future retirement benefits, which had to be made because the plan was more costly than the organization could afford. In some workplaces, such a change would bring much discontent and erode trust in the administration, but that was not the case in Blake’s facility. In redesigning the plan, Blake first gathered input about the change and how to best communicate it. He respected peoples’ opinions, and worked with them in a collaborative way. When the decision was communicated, the leadership team was all on the same page, speaking as one voice about the reasons for the change and how employees could best manage it. And it wasn’t just lip service—it was authentic.

The character traits Blake demonstrated in this situation were his value for relationships, people, inclusivity, fairness, compassion, reliability and honesty. As Blake said when we wrapped up our conversation, these are among the character traits critical to earning and maintaining trust. Without them, not only will it be difficult to make the right decision, but there will not be trust.

  1. Vulnerability

John Mundell, President of Mundell & Associates environmental consulting firm, an Economy of Communion business, shared with me an example that illustrates the importance of being vulnerable as a leader. When a recent issue arose with a client, he called a meeting to discuss it. People were intent on offering their solutions, but they weren’t really listening to each other. As the boss, John was tempted to make a final decision and bring the discussion to an end, but he realized his solution wasn’t necessarily the ideal choice. He decided to make sure everyone in the room had a chance to share their thoughts.

After being silent for most of the discussion, one of the youngest and least experienced members of the team finally spoke up. She offered a combination of the ideas that had been presented, along with her own special twist. There was a brief silence when she finished, then one of the senior managers said, in a bit of amazement, “I think she just nailed it!”

As they left the meeting that morning, John knew it was a teaching moment for everyone. No one, not even the boss, always has the right answer. Given the opportunity, anyone can make significant contributions. But that only happens when leaders can be vulnerable and give their colleagues a chance to shine.

Holistic Leadershipholistic-leader-competencies-trusted

In my Holistic Leadership competency model, being trusted is one of nine characteristics critical to successful leadership and successful organizations. If you are a leader, how would your employees rate you on your competence, character, and vulnerability? Consider asking these questions in your next employee engagement survey, or in a 360° appraisal of your performance. The answer just might be a good indicator of how highly you are trusted!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Are You an Ethical Leader? How Do You (Really) Know?

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Man Reading the Definition of EthicsMost leaders consider themselves to be ethical, but some of the behaviors that underlie the core competency of Integrity may not be as easy as they sound. There are pressures in business to make financial, personnel, contracting and other decisions every day that carry ethical implications—everything from honesty in reporting travel expenses, hiring contractors in accordance with IRS regulations, following general accounting standards, accurately projecting and reporting earnings, paying all taxes that are owed, and so on. Unfortunately, we have all heard about the careers of individual leaders, as well as the viability of entire organizations, that have gone down the tubes due to ethical lapses.

There are many forces out there which make ethical leadership a challenge at times. There are pressures to make decisions quickly, produce reports that are favorable for stockholders and potential investors, make things look good to the boss, to the board, and to company employees. There is a very real temptation to spin things positively, in ways we may think others will like, or in some cases in order to be self-serving.

How can leaders be consistently ethical, and even agree on what it means to lead ethically? In describing the characteristics of my Holistic Leadership compholistic-leader-competencies-ethicaletency model, I propose that “ethical” leaders effectively use critical thinking skills, as well as their acute sense of right and wrong, to make ethical choices and “test” them before moving forward. When it comes to making decisions that affect people, it is a matter of treating others the way we would like to be treated—known as the golden rule. By “testing” decisions, I mean validating decisions with other leaders who are looking through an ethical lens, and in some cases talking with key stakeholders who will be affected by the decision to learn what they would consider to be fair or unfair.

Doing the Right Thing

Let’s look at a couple of examples. I spoke with business owner John Mundell, President of Mundell & Associates environmental consulting firm, an Economy of Communion business. He tells a story about a time when his company was pressured to make a political contribution in order to keep a municipal contract. He decided to make a small contribution, but along with the check he sent a letter saying that the purpose of the contribution was to encourage participation of citizens in the electoral process, and not to gain preferential treatment in contracting with the agency. He asked that the only basis they should use to consider him for future work was his company’s ability to deliver high quality environmental services to those who need his services. Period.

What happened was not totally surprising to him, but it was disappointing. Five new contracts were awarded, and his company did not receive one. It turned out that officials of all five companies personally knew the high-ranking political decision makers, and they had given much larger contributions than Mundell’s company. His first thought was, “Should I have given more?” but his second thought was, “…and sell my soul?” He felt at peace that he had done the right thing, and he believed that in the end good things would eventually happen if he continued to act ethically.

As it turned out, the next day Mundell was awarded a contract by another private party based on the quality of their work, and it was double the value of the municipal contract. As he reflected on this experience, Mundell said he was reminded that we are often put face-to-face with some darker realities in the world, and we would do well to step back and view our options in the light of ethical practices and an understanding of what is right.

The Golden Rule at Work

My second example comes from the Vice President of Human Resources for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Chuck Davis. The restaurant chain is known for their core philosophy of putting associates first. I asked Davis how they put this philosophy into practice day to day, and whether that ever leads to ethical dilemmas. His answer was that they try and give associates the benefit of the doubt; they seek to understand before making assumptions, and yes indeed, that can lead to ethical dilemmas.

In one situation, an associate had been caught stealing $60 from the cash register. Davis’ first thought, a very normal HR posture, was to simply fire the associate based on his dishonest act. The owner, Cameron Mitchell, encouraged Davis to ask a few more questions. Why did he steal the money? What was his situation at the time? Investigating further, Davis discovered the associate had stolen the money to support a drug habit, which in Davis’ view was another reason to let the associate go. But as he discussed the matter further with Mitchell, when considering the associate as a person—and not simply as the bad behavior he exhibited—the question that arose was, “How can we help?”

They decided not to give up on the associate. If he would agree to get the help he needed they would give him a second chance and let him keep his job. It turned out the associate was able to make the necessary personal changes and correct his problem. According to Davis, the ethical dilemma was weighing the value of honesty with compassion for the associate’s situation. Looking at the associate as a person first, they gave him a second chance if he would do his part. And he did. They treated him the way they would like to be treated—the golden rule.

This story made me pause. In my past role as an HR executive, had I ever asked these questions when I was about to let someone go: “Why did he/she do this?” and “How can we help?”

Putting Ethical Leadership into Practice

In closing, let’s go back to the question in the title of this article. How do you (really) know you are an ethical leader? This question invites you to be brutally honest with yourself: What are your real motivations and drivers? What are your assumptions? What are your blind spots? How are you rationalizing a certain decision? Are you testing decisions with others?

In addition to this type of self-reflection, another test is to ask the question that one of my previous CEOs taught me: “If my family knew the decision I am about to make, and why, would they be proud of me?” Give this question a try—it’s a powerful way to ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing. Ethical leaders are not afraid to ask, and they are not afraid to act based on the answer.

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Leading with Virtue

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by Jim Funk

Gears Going Up Values Belief Integrity Faith Virtue

I recently conducted a workshop for a group of successful physicians about leading with virtue. At the beginning of the session, I asked the question, “What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘virtue’?” The responses varied from one of the dictionary definitions (moral excellence), to things like seeking perfection, having integrity, doing what is right, having a strong character, and being courageous.

We agreed that these are all valid descriptions of a virtuous person, and then we talked about why virtue is important in leadership. Leaders become the way they are from the inside out—meaning that who they are as a person impacts what they do and how they lead. If integrity is lacking in a leader’s behavior, it is probably because integrity is lacking in the leader. Thus, virtues are not only behaviors, but positive dispositions and attitudes that can guide leaders in making decisions that are good, right, courageous and prudent—and that will help ensure the organization’s success.

holistic-leader-competencies-virtuous“Virtuous” is one of the nine key characteristics I have identified for Holistic Leadership, which is a person-centered way to lead that considers the whole person—body, mind and spirit—in how others are directed, motivated, evaluated, rewarded, and given the opportunity to use their particular gifts and talents. This is important not only for the development of employees as people, it is also critical to organizations being able to meet its goals and objectives—to be sustainable and successful.

There are a number of virtues that I have observed to be critical to effective leadership, but I will focus on five in particular: Courage, Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Humility. What do we see in leaders who embody these virtues? Let’s use the leadership competency of effective decision-making as an example.

  • Courageous leaders are able to overcome difficulties in seeking what is good and right, even in the face of adversity and pressure to make a different decision. For example, it requires courage to stand up for what the leader believes is right, even when his or her opinion is clearly in the minority, or unpopular.
  • Leaders who practice the virtue of Prudence apply practical wisdom to their decision making. When pressured to make a quick decision, for example, the prudent leader knows when there has been the right amount of deliberation and dialogue before moving forward.
  • Just leaders are fair, and they respect the rights of all human persons. For example, they make compensation decisions that ensure their employees receive wages and benefits that are competitive, and that even the lowest paid workers at least receive a “living wage” to be able to meet their basic needs.
  • Temperance is acting in moderation, and keeping things in balance. Leaders who model work-life balance more often make the decision not to work that extra hour or two, but to go home to their families at the end of the workday.
  • Humility is not only about not exaggerating our abilities and accomplishments, but it is about affirming the innermost, true nature of who we are. Leaders who are humble do not take credit for the work others do, and they are willing to admit when they are wrong. They decide to be vulnerable.

Some might say, “Sure, I agree that these are good qualities, but what do they really have to do with organizational sustainability and getting results? Isn’t it enough to just do what needs to be done, and hold people accountable?” Let’s go back to the physicians I described earlier. Can you imagine going to a doctor who takes a certain path simply because it is easier? Prudent healthcare professionals do not make decisions that way. Rather, they make sure various treatment plan options have been thoroughly considered before deciding which one to recommend. It wouldn’t take many situations with a lack of prudent decision-making in the practice of medicine to negatively impact the trust of colleagues and patients, and the sustainability of the practice.

While this might be obvious, we can call to mind numerous cases of executive and leadership decision making that was not virtuous, and the result was usually the removal of the leader from the role, and at worst, the demise of the company.

What does it take for leaders to be virtuous? First and foremost, they need to be willing to undertake the “inner work” of becoming aware of their own character strengths and opportunities. I recommend an instrument that I have used with various leadership groups called the VIA Survey, available through the VIA Institute on Character. Ideally take the free VIA Survey and then upgrade to either the VIA Pro or the VIA Me report for a nominal cost, which gives people good feedback and insight into their particular values and virtues. There are also many resources on their website about ways to both use one’s character strengths, and to boost those that are not as strong.

Leaders need to be lifelong learners and be willing to practice in order to be virtuous. They must learn from their own experiences and those of others, as well as remain open to honest feedback. Finally, they need to be willing to practice and build the skills and behaviors of virtuous leaders. Virtues develop through practice, and from cultivating them over time. Coaching or mentoring from a leader who has moved further along in the journey of becoming virtuous can be a particularly great resource.

Do you work for a leader who you would consider “virtuous?” What was it like? How do you think they got that way? I invite you to write about your experience in reply to this blog, or e-mail me at jim@jlfunk.com with your story. I would like to hear from you!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

What Do Leaders Leave in their Wake?

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by Jim Funk

body mind spirit balance hand drawing on blackboard

We learn a lot about leadership from reporting to different bosses. Some inspire us and our teams while building trust, commitment and engagement. Under their leadership, people thrive. Other bosses drive people into the ground to get results, punish mistakes, and create fear. Under their leadership, talented people leave. So if we really look at the wake that leaders leave behind, we can decide what kind of leader we want to be and then aspire to become that.

I like to challenge leaders to evaluate their own leadership by pausing to reflect on what it is like to work for certain types of leaders. In one of my workshops I divide the team in two and ask one group to imagine working in an organization led by fear and a philosophy that only results count—not people. In this scenario, employees are simply resources to be used to get to the desired outcomes. The other group is asked to imagine working in a place where leaders put people at the center, and where creativity and teamwork is encouraged. In this scenario, people are truly valued.

After some discussion, each group then shares what it is like to work in their respective organizations. The fear-driven group typically describes the working environment this way:

  • Distrust and anger
  • Dysfunction, rumors, blame
  • Punishment for taking risks that don’t work out
  • A feeling of powerlessness, helplessness
  • A negative atmosphere, tension, disorganization
  • Less engagement and commitment

And the person-centered group? Their working environment is quite different:

  • Energy, creativity
  • Personal, timely and open communication
  • Freedom to take risks and learn from failures
  • Empowerment to help others succeed
  • A family atmosphere
  • A desire to make a personal contribution to the vision

These are nearly exact opposites. And I also found it very interesting to watch the passion that the two groups display when sharing their reports, probably because they are speaking from real-life experiences. To some degree, they relive their experiences just by talking about them. The fear-driven group has sullen faces, a tone of voice that exudes anger and frustration, and they even seem to be anxious. Conversely, the person-centered group speaks with enthusiasm, excitement, and they can hardly stop talking about how engaging and satisfying the work environment is.

What is the difference? In my leadership development work I describe person-centered leaders as “holistic” because they bring their whole selves to their leadership role—body, mind and spirit.  In doing so, they treat others as whole people too, rather than just resources.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how this plays out in the real world. What is it really like to work for a person-centered leader?

Merle Tebbe works for John Mundell, president of Mundell & Associates, an environmental consulting firm and Economy of Communion business. He tells a story about Mundell’s leadership that demonstrates how he puts into practice the person-centered principle of Economy of Communion businesses. Some time ago a former co-worker from another company was out of work and recuperating from a significant medical issue. He wanted to start his own business and get back on track as soon as he could, but he didn’t have a place to work. Mundell offered him free office space in the building so he could successfully start the business, and he allowed him to use it for several months. Later on, the company landed a project that actually required the skillset of the former employee, so he was offered his first paid work in quite a long time. The result of Mundell’s person-centered leadership? Tebbe points out that this was truly a win-win, which resulted solely from the generosity of Mundell in giving the former employee the break that he needed without expecting anything in return.

In another example, Lori Shannon reports directly to Blake Dye, president of St.Vincent Heart Center. While the Heart Center is not an Economy of Communion business, they are part of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic health system in the country. Ascension also has a principle of being person-centered, and in particular providing for those who are poor and vulnerable. Shannon says she quotes her boss frequently because she admires his style. One of her favorite quotes is a statement he made to her when she first started in her role as an executive. He said, “You know what you are doing, Lori. I am getting out of your way so you can do it. Let me know if you need anything from me.” His trust in her skills and abilities was a real compliment. She also points out that he expects his entire team to manage their work-life balance, and he sets the example himself. The result of this person-centered leadership? An engaged executive team—both individually and collectively—that successfully leads facilities that provide the best heart care in Indiana, and explore innovative technologies that are helping to establish new standards of care.

We can see in these examples that person-centered leaders like John Mundell and Blake Dye inspire and motivate others, not only because of their leadership capability, but because of who they are as people—and how they treat others. I refer to this as holistic leadership.

Do you work for a holistic leader, or have you in the past? What was it like? What difference did it make to you, to your team, and to your organization? I invite you to write about your experience in reply to this blog, or e-mail me at jim@jlfunk.com with your story. I would like to hear from you!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

9 Characteristics of Holistic Leaders

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by Jim Funk

Holistic Leader Competencies Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 8.01.49 AM

Traditional leadership competence has been about behavior—what a leader is capable of doing in the workplace. That approach describes desired actions, but it overlooks the character traits that are crucial for guiding those actions. A more complete model of leadership competence goes beyond actions to describe who the leader is as a person. I refer to this model as holistic leadership.

Holistic leaders know how to integrate their character and values into their leadership, and they understand that they bring their whole selves to their leadership role – body, mind and spirit. In observing these leaders, I have identified the following nine key characteristics that I believe set them apart from others.

Virtuous

Virtue is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as, “Conformity to a standard of right; a particular moral excellence.” It is not only the holistic leader’s behavior that is virtuous, but his or her disposition and attitude toward the good; toward what is right. When virtues become part of who a person is, the person is in turn more disposed toward virtuous actions. These show up as behaviors and decisions, which are guided by moral excellence. One particular virtue that is critical to holistic leadership is that of humility. The humble leader is able to admit faults, to ask forgiveness, and to be vulnerable and authentic.

Ethical

Leaders are frequently faced with making decisions when circumstances aren’t black and white. Critical thinking skills and an acute sense of right and wrong are paramount to being able to consistently and reliably evaluate possibilities and make ethical choices before moving forward. When it comes to the ethical treatment of people, it really boils down to treating others the way he or she would like to be treated—known as the golden rule.

Transparent

Holistic leaders are open, honest, direct and forthright in the way they act and communicate. This doesn’t mean they are indiscriminate with the timing and information that is shared. Rather, they understand when people are impacted by certain situations and they willingly share the information that matters at the appropriate time. Transparency is also linked to the virtue of humility, because holistic leaders are willing to be vulnerable and admit when they don’t have all the answers or things don’t go according to plan.

Trusted

When leaders are truthful and follow through with what they say they will do, they build strong relationships with their colleagues. This becomes the foundation for trust, which at the end of the day also enables getting work done efficiently and effectively. It is also important to recognize that trust comes not only from one’s character, but also from competence, or capability. It is one thing to make a promise, but the leader needs to be able to follow through with more than just good intentions.

Capable

This characteristic is about being able to functionally get the job done. Effective leaders must be able to craft a vision, engage others in following that vision, create a plan, execute the plan, and drive results. While character matters to a very great extent, a leader will not be effective without these competencies that deem him or her capable.

Balanced

Holistic leaders have a balanced view of others, work, teams, and themselves as a composite of body, mind and spirit. These leaders take good care of themselves while supporting others in self-care as well. This plays out in a positive work-life balance, but also as avoidance of any negative “isms” that can be extreme (e.g., workaholism, absolutism, dualism, egoism, and hedonism.)

Aware

Awareness is a critical characteristic of holistic leadership, because it is required for emotional intelligence. As described by Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, awareness of self and others is key to being able to manage one’s emotions and relationships. Leaders who are not open to feedback, do not ask for it, or do not know how to receive and process it with an open mind, continue to have blind spots that can derail them. Self-awareness also requires humility—the ability to see ourselves as we really are, even when we don’t care for some aspects of that picture.

Servant

Much has been written in recent years on the topic of Servant Leadership. Robert Greenleaf wrote, “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”* This dynamic is similar to what I described earlier for Virtuous. When being a servant becomes part of who a person is, the person is in turn more disposed toward service. Holistic leaders are servants first because they are focused on people and their needs. They know that work gets done through people, and when their needs are met they are more likely to be engaged and be at their best.

Inspired

I once got into a debate with a colleague about whether holistic leaders are inspired or inspiring. Which comes first? I believe it is both. The leader’s own inspiration becomes inspiring to others. When the leader brings inspiration along with authenticity, people can sense that the leader is genuine—the real deal. There is also an aspect of inspiration that is linked to faith. While this may or may not be religious faith, it is when leaders recognize they are part of something larger. They know that inspiration comes not only from within, but from outside oneself as well.

How Can You Develop Holistic Leadership?

If you aspire to be a leader who embodies these characteristics, or if you would like to adopt this leadership model in your organization, there are several things you can consider. Individual leadership coaching can be a very effective way of gaining self-awareness and building holistic leadership practices. And organizationally, creating a leadership competency model that spells out the expectations and development opportunities for the 9 characteristics of holistic leadership is a good place to start. But in the end, a leadership program will only be effective if it also addresses who the leader is as a person and not simply what he or she can do. That is the key to holistic leadership.

In my next blog I will talk about what it is like to work for holistic leaders who have the characteristics I am describing, including some compelling stories from members of their teams.

Source:
*Robert K. Greenleaf, The Servant Leader, 1970

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Three Ways Holistic Leadership is Different

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By Jim Funk

Leadership Development Blue Grey Square Elements

What does leadership mean to you? Is it a style? Behavior? Charisma? Engaging others? Getting results? Leadership is all of these things to some degree, and more.

But holistic leadership is different. Holistic leadership recognizes that people are multi-faceted by nature. Whether they like it or not, everyone brings their whole person to work—body, mind and spirit. Acknowledging this fact changes the way people lead, the experience for their teams, and perhaps most notably, meaningful business outcomes such as retention, productivity, and profits.

 

There are three main differences between holistic leadership and other leadership models, all based around the leader’s understanding of:

  • the purpose and dignity of work
  • the workplace community
  • self

Understanding the purpose and dignity of work

A job is important to people not only because it enables their livelihood, but also because it gives them the opportunity to make a contribution. People want and need to feel useful. Whether it’s contributing to producing something or helping people in some way, there is dignity and value in having a purpose. Holistic leaders understand that work enables people to contribute their gifts and talents to something that has meaning, and they help employees see the difference they make every day.

Understanding the workplace community

People are relational beings and have an innate need to connect with others and belong. Recognizing this, holistic leaders work hard to build and maintain positive relationships with others, while also helping people relate to one another. Work is almost never done in a complete vacuum, even when there’s only one contributor in a given role. At multiple levels there is a community of work, whether that community includes co-workers, customers, consumers, suppliers, partners, or even neighborhoods where the workplace is located. Holistic leaders see this big picture as an opportunity to instill a sense of community into the organizational culture, which creates a more meaningful and cohesive environment for employees.

Understanding self

To drive positive change around them, holistic leaders first look inside themselves. They know they are not just a set of leadership skills and behaviors; they also have a body, mind and spirit that they bring to their leadership. They take a holistic approach to their own personal development because who they are as people will impact how they lead, and how others will experience their leadership. Holistic leaders know they are continually on a journey of becoming the best leader they can be, and that they can never truly arrive at that destination. They are lifelong learners, they want and ask for feedback, and they are willing to invest in their own ongoing formation and development. They are courageous enough to face even uncomfortable truths, and are willing to do the “inner work” of continually becoming more self-aware.

When leaders understand the importance of these three elements, they are able to connect the organization’s goals with the goals of individual employees. These leaders make their coworkers and direct reports feel valued as human beings. As a result, people become more motivated to reach their full potential, and to help the organization fulfill its mission and goals.

It isn’t a complicated leadership model to follow, but so many organizations and individuals overlook the obvious. If you want to achieve excellence, lead transformational change and reach goals in your organization, start with these three principles.

My future blogs will more fully describe this leadership model and its characteristics, how leaders can become holistic leaders, and how organizations can select and develop these leaders.


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Spirituality in the Workplace: It’s not what you think!

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By Jim Funk

Spirit Tree / Astonishing light peeks through a tree on the coast.

When we enter our workplace are we expected to bring only our body and mind, and leave our spirits at the door? Much has been written about spirituality in the workplace, and there are many different interpretations of what that means. Some of my clients say there is no way that anything spiritual can be introduced into their workplaces. Others believe that recognizing the fact that the whole person—body, mind and spirit—comes with us to work provides a greater opportunity for personal, as well as organizational, transformation and development.

First of all, by spirituality I do not mean religion. While religious beliefs and faith traditions give us a way of expressing our spirituality and practicing our beliefs, our spirit is something different. The human spirit enables us to have an awareness of meaning, to form values, to have relationships with others, and to make choices through reflection and the use of our intellect. Some believers, philosophers and theologians would say our spirit connects us with God, and reflects our relationship with the Mystery that created us. But whether we believe in God, or are atheist or agnostic, most people will agree that the human spirit does exist, and that it is more than just a part of our physical being, personality and mental state. In fact, the human spirit is what distinguishes us from all other living creatures. It allows us to hope, to dream, and to yearn for a greater meaning and purpose in life.

So how and why should we talk about spirituality in the workplace, and how can it be done? Just as our physical self enables us to complete tasks, and our mind allows us to think, judge and act, our spirit gives us the capacity to bring our passions, deeply held values and motivations into our work. Recently I heard a person reflect on the life of a famous actress when he said, “She brought a wonderful spirit to her work.” What does that mean? I think it means we are in fact able to “see” and experience the spirit of people, which shows up as authenticity. When we invite spirituality to be expressed and nurtured in the workplace, we don’t mean proselytizing or converting people; rather, we simply allow time and space for people to be themselves—to be “integrated” (meaning to have integrity) without duplicity. When we are able to integrate all the aspects of our lives, how we make decisions, and how we relate to others, then we can be at our best and give our best as authentic and whole personsnot just skillsets.

When we invite spirituality to be expressed and nurtured in the workplace, we don’t mean proselytizing or converting people; rather, we simply allow time and space for people to be themselves—to be “integrated” (meaning to have integrity) without duplicity.

Some might think that spirituality in the workplace should be reserved only for faith-based or church-sponsored organizations. I worked for a faith-based organization for many years that I thought did an excellent job of spirituality at work, even in the midst of a very diverse workforce and leaders with different or no faith traditions at all. I also came to understand through that experience that people everywhere have a need for spiritual expression and development, not just in workplaces where spirituality is natural or expected. The spiritual nature of people can be respected, acknowledged and nurtured in any work environment without engaging in religious practices, but rather by making spiritual practices acceptable and normal for anyone who wishes to participate in them.

One of my clients, a for-profit company, has a moment of silent reflection before every staff meeting. During this pause everyone is free to use the time however they wish, and the client feels that it allows people to become more centered and fully present at the meeting. Recently I facilitated an off-site retreat for a government client, and I tried something similar. I invited the group to take a few moments for personal reflection and journaling on their vocation of service to others, as well as gratitude for what they personally believe is the source of that vocation or calling (e.g., how they got there). Was that praying together? No. Was that religion? No. Was that a spiritual practice? Yes. It simply provided space and a way for the spirit in each person to be expressed, in whatever way the person decided to express it.

What can you do with Spirituality in your organization?

Any workplace can recognize the body, mind and spirit of people when leaders are willing to make space and time for the whole person to come to work. Besides the examples I gave from my two clients, here are some additional ways for people to express spirituality in the workplace:

  • Designate and dedicate a space where employees can go for personal reflection on breaks. Wherever possible, offer access to green space, nature or indoor plants.
  • Encourage and give employees time off for service to the community, and/or for retreat days sponsored by their church if they belong to one.
  • Have a memorial service (non-denominational) annually for employees or their family members who have passed away in the last year.
  • Celebrate team and individual accomplishments, and acknowledge the gifts and talents that brought it about.
  • Provide a retreat day at least once a year for the executive team, the entire leadership team, and for all employees in groups.
  • Offer classes in mindfulness, tai chi, yoga, meditation, or other practices that help people experience the connection between their body, mind and spirit.

Implementing these ideas in the workplace might take extra effort, but it’s worth it. Holistic organizations that treat people as whole human beings rather than expendable “human resources” find their employees experience deeper meaning in their work, discover more of their gifts and talents, and grow personally and professionally. I’ve seen firsthand that employees are more satisfied, engaged, and happy because they feel appreciated for who they are on a personal level. Bringing spirituality into the workplace also addresses the problem of duplicity, where people feel they can’t be themselves at work and have to play a role that is different from who they actually are. Duplicity causes stress and an uncomfortable dissonance within a person. The results can range from slight dissatisfaction to actually becoming physically sick. A holistic workplace is a healthier workplace.

A holistic workplace comes from holistic leadership. My next blog post will introduce a model of holistic leadership which brings out the best in people, teams and organizations.


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.