In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Spiritual Leadership in the Workplace

  • Introduction
  • Early Work on Spiritual Leadership
  • Leadership Quarterly Special Issue on Spiritual Leadership
  • Integrative Applications of Spiritual Leadership
  • Spiritual Leadership and Sustainability
  • Critiques of Spiritual Leadership
  • Meta-analyses of Spiritual Leadership Research
  • Books

Management Spiritual Leadership in the Workplace
Louis W. Fry
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0147


While spiritual leadership has been a subject of interest in the major spiritual and religious wisdom traditions for eons, it was the mid-1990s that spiritual leadership of individuals, teams, and organizations became the focus of scholarly research. However, it was not until a causal theory of spiritual leadership was introduced in 2003 and the Leadership Quarterly special issue on spiritual leadership in 2005 that the field gained focus and made a significant step toward achieving paradigmatic recognition. Since then, spiritual leadership theory has evolved to encompass ethical and spiritual well-being; an inner-life practice that is the source for drawing strength from a higher power to transcend one’s selfish programs for happiness to better love and serve others, the triple bottom line or employee well-being (people), sustainability (planet), and profit; the spiritual leadership–balanced scorecard business model; and, most recently, global leadership for sustainability. An ever-growing body of research, including two meta-analyses, on spiritual leadership has established the reliability and validity of the spiritual leadership survey and revealed that the spiritual leadership predicts a large number of individual and organizational outcomes across numerous countries and cultures.

Management, Spirituality, and Religion

Spiritual leadership theory is situated within the broader field of Management, Spirituality, and Religion (MSR). MSR is a relatively new area of scholarly inquiry that has drawn from areas not typically associated with the study of the psychology of religion and spirituality. MSR emerged as a dedicated area of research in the late 1990s with a focus on interdisciplinary theoretical and applied research and pedagogy related to the relevance and relationship of spirituality and religion in management and organizational life. Two broad categories of MSR research have emerged. The first, which examines the role of spirituality in the workplace, is focused on organizational cultural values that promote employees’ experience of transcendence at work, facilitating their sense of being connected in a way that provides feelings of compassion and joy. Within this context spirituality is concerned with qualities of the human spirit and that intangible reality at the core of personality, the animating life principle or life-breath that alerts us to look for the deepest dimension of human experience. It is at the heart of the quest for self-transcendence and the attendant feeling of interconnectedness with all things in the universe. Although spirituality is most often viewed as inherently personal, a fundamental proposition of MSR is that it can reside or manifest in groups and organizations. The second approach to MSR is faith-based and explores the ways in which the resources of various religious traditions and identities shape and inform engagement with diverse workplace issues. From this perspective a religion is concerned with a theological system of beliefs, ritual prayers, rites and ceremonies and related formalized practices and ideas. Faith-based approaches assume that, although religion is typically practiced in institutions which have formed and evolved over time around the spiritual experiences of one or more founding individuals, it also possible to practice one’s faith in the workplace based upon the beliefs and practices inherent in that religion.

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