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Spiritual Intelligence in Emerging Leadership

Spiritual Intelligence

By George Kunnath & Joseph George Anjilvelil

Our earth’s resources are depleted by the indiscriminate exploitation resulting from unbridled consumption. We confront today’s complexity rather ineptly. We live in a world that is increasingly shaped by technology, invading every facet of human life. There is an increasing notion that technology is the panacea to every problem facing the world. Those who control the means of production seldom have the choice of examining the purposes of technology in human society. Those choices are becoming harder. Judgement is on test for the agile thinker, as also for the sensitive doer.

The Newtonian world view that has swayed man is undeniable. That man is the centre of the universe and everything in the world is for his/her consumption is uncontested space in many ways. Driven by this homocentric paradigm, progress is largely measured on the basis of technological advancement, resource generation and consumption patterns.

Quotients – Intelligence, emotional and spiritual and related choices
In the last decade, the emotional intelligence movement became popular with the publication of his books. Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and his recent emphasis on radical transparency through ecological intelligence (Goleman, 2010) are works of popular reference.

Quotients are numerical values derived from notions of inherent constancy of an underlying phenomenon such as intelligence. Since the advent of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) mathematicians and statisticians in particular have been extending the measurement paradigms of the pure sciences into social sciences as well. The widespread interest in Emotional Quotient (EQ) at the workplace has loosened the grip of IQ driven processes.

However, the deep-rootedness of the rational and analytical have not shifted much. While IQ concerns itself with cognitive processes emphasizing observation and measurement, EQ addresses the affective dimension in which feelings and relationships are dealt with at a transactional level.

Spiritual Quotient (SQ) is in the realm of self-awareness and self-mastery, meaning and purpose, transcendence and expansion of consciousness. Unlike IQ and EQ, SQ has a transformative connotation. It is SQ that enables the evolution of consciousness.

When writing this article, the authors are confronted with several paradoxes at the same time. Reality has often been explained away in dualities. E.g.When we speak of the difference between the East and the West the distinction is a powerful symbolism. Beneath those labels of East and West lie nuances of the rational process of knowledge of the West and intuitive approaches of the East. Perhaps in the nature of knowledge alone, lies a choice we have seldom considered as useful. It is like being numbed by one’s context so much as to extol its virtues without a conscious discernment of alternate possibilities. Humans have developed an insatiable hunger for acquiring wealth and resources far in excess of human need, no matter where in the world we may be. A loss of connect with our universe is often a loss of understanding of one’s context.

Greed and material acquisition seem to drive individual action. The consequence has been constant wars within and between communities, nations and regions across the globe. Since the industrial revolution, the Western nations made economic progress at the cost of the majority of the people in the world. The aspirations of the underdeveloped economies are to imitate the Western economic development model. External appearances govern the nature of human aspirations. We tend to be unconscious of the exploitation of human and natural resources in the process.

The ascendancy of the free market economy has given rise to a formidable perception that money could buy anything. It negates the need to know or acknowledge the producer of our goods and services. The social connect between the bread maker and the consumer is mediated through the mercenary grocer. Decreased social connect has reduced emotional connect even further.

The recent global financial meltdown, climate change, unending wars, global terrorism, hunger and poverty demonstrate the fallacy of the post-industrial Western development model. This can be summed up in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. (1963).

”Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. Our hope for creative living lies in our ability to reestablish the spiritual needs of our lives in personal character and social justice. Without this spiritual and moral reawakening we shall destroy ourselves in the misuse of our own instruments.” - Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Within such a frame, we may conceive of a ‘like us’ and ‘unlike us’ paradigm to manage the East-West divide. Such a paradigm may be useful to solve a familiar problem but it misses perspectives of other dimensions. We may like to oversimplify choices as a way of getting around the problems or dilemmas, without really addressing issues at stake. E.g. Whose interests are more paramount in a reward or recognition program – the team’s or the individual’s? In more complex matters, there are issues of multiple dimensions in a single choice. E.g. poverty cannot be fully resolved with mere industrialisation. Natural calamities like cyclones cannot be prevented by sophisticated computing. It is the presence of mind that alerts us to such multi-dimensionality in experience.

It is here that we become sensitive to a consciousness that leads to an inner exploration of the depths of our potential. Largely drawing upon our reflective capabilities, this exploration is often embellished by traditions from religious disciplines or at least enhanced by some contemplative practice. This, at times, is an awkward exploration. Observation and measurement is yet difficult where awareness and mind-body-emotional integration happens. The dimension of seeking is immediately challenged on the frontier in which the unobservable or empirically non-verifiable is experienced.

What is Spiritual Intelligence?
People who have explored deep inner frontiers of self and higher states of consciousness describe spiritual intelligence as the highest form of human intelligence. The realisation works as a beacon for leading an enriched life. We are particularly referencing two such descriptions for easy recall, than for purposes of exclusivity or refined selection of the definition of terms.

”By SQ I mean the intelligence with which we address and solve problems of meaning and value, the intelligence with which we can place our actions and our lives in a wider, richer, meaning-giving context, the intelligence with which we can assess that one course of action or one life-path is more meaningful than another. SQ is the necessary foundation for the effective functioning of both IQ and EQ. It is our ultimate intelligence” (Zohar & Marshall 2000, pp 3-4).

Wigglesworth (2003) defines Spiritual Intelligence as “the ability to behave with Compassion and Wisdom while maintaining inner and outer peace (equanimity) regardless of the circumstances.” Love comes from a state of being, in unconditional giving and being ‘present’ fully.

Both the above definitions emphasize that integration of multiple intelligences with spiritual intelligence as the foundation that makes human functioning effective. If there were a purpose for our paper, it is this proposition that we cannot transform the world we inhabit without inner transformation. Enabling others is simultaneously an enabling within. Such a transformation, in our view, lies in the convergence of the analytical, emotional and spiritual intelligences. The more we contemplate, the more we acknowledge that these cannot be thought to exist distinctly, but only as an integrated whole. Inner transformation is self-leadership too.

For the purposes of evocation, let us look at some of the experiential outcomes of the inward journey.We relate this process with each other through words, written or spoken. These outcomes include tranquillity, meeting challenges with an open mind, facing and being with adversity irrespective of the results, as has been expressed in Indian thought as nishkama karma (action for its own sake). Owning up one’s feelings of insecurity, enables a clarity that the self is different from others yet at the same time, the self and others are one. Continuing on the inward journey the leader encounters greater challenges and by surmounting them he/she enters a deeper quest.

Predictability and control are hallmarks of science. They have also been safety valves for the living world. Although we sow and reap by season, knowing that the crop is tested through appropriate conditions of soil and climate , the yield is not within our control. Coming to terms with loss of control is like living in a zone of unpredictability. One of the greatest challenges on the way within is a confrontation with power and its non-obvious shadow of powerlessness.

When confronted with powerlessness one often surrenders to a power greater than oneself. This subordination of the will, in turn reverses the direction of the search from the outside to within oneself. This process helps to realize that love is an inner experience regardless of external approvals.

Universally, cultural traditions record a centering within oneself. Unconditional giving releases one from woeful attachments. Such detachment and acceptance of the reality as it manifests, gives birth to compassion, understanding, a fearless pursuit in life, deep forgiveness toward the self and others and a heightened sensitivity to everything around. The resultant outcomes reflect the authentic expression of an inner being which has a willingness to risk for a Purpose, living withundiluted integrity aligned to one’s beliefs and values.The openness to experience the unexpected, however challenging or chaotic that may be, is a key outcome of this transformation.

Early civilizations and cultures had an indigenous wisdom internally rooted within the human heart and externally anchored in the greater power of the universe. They listened deeply to every facet of life and the mysteries of nature. Spirituality was a way of life for them respecting everything that surrounded them. They looked at themselves as part of a larger whole, part of the universe. Every spiritual tradition in the world emphasized the need to go within to find everything one is seeking. The answers to one’s quest lies in the core of one’s being which is not separate from anything else, it is united with the Whole, the Universe.

The Material and the Spiritual
The Newtonian scientific model challenged this understanding of unity and overemphasized empirical verifiability as a prerequisite for any existence. The emphasis of the Newtonian paradigm eclipsed indigenous wisdoms of the heart and idealised everything that is cerebral. What we now witness is an oversimplification of essentially a phenomenological experience beyond the realm of the senses into observable, and look-alike frameworks of an extrinsic measurement paradigm. This has led to the propagation of ‘indices’ for phenomena such as customer satisfaction, employee engagement and learning ability in business corporations and Human Development Indices and Technology Achievement Indices even in the United Nation’s endeavours. It appears that most facets of human life have been driven by the cerebral rather than the visceral.

The rapid material progress in the West at the cost of all other dimensions of human existence created a vacuum. In the universe we humans are the only ones who kill for pleasure. Animals kill only for self-preservation – either to defend against an aggressor or for food. Human conquests are for greed, power and control. Seeking the fruits of external conquests did not yield meaning and purpose in life.

Many Westerners began to look eastward to find meaning as a departure from futile conquests. The feudalistic rituals of the institutionalized religions became redundant for the true seeker of the spirit and meaning. The inner quest for greater meaning beyond material existence gave rise to many rebels and spiritual practitioners outside the religious structures. Western seekers came to India for example, in search of peace and enlightenment. Many found the solace they sought as they traversed through the chaos and immersed deep into the ancient spiritual practices. Some others rediscovered the Zen methods and consciousness farther East.

Heavy emphasis on rationality in the Scientific Age did not result in holistic development of people.

“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.” (in Dukas and Hoffman, 1979).

Since, the treatise on Spiritual, Emotional and Analytical is an on-going one with a respectable legacy already available in literature, we choose to stress on transformative qualities that leaders could enact. As the saying goes, it is better to cover one’s feet with slippers than to carpet one’s path on this world laden with thorns and stones.

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists the world has seen acknowledges the existence of a greater power that makes us humble and surrender before it. Spiritual intelligence is a higher intelligence governing the universe. The universe’s operations are a great marvel. Every event, every process in the universe is governed by a principle or a set of principles. The manifestations of the governing principles can be observed in the operation of the universe. The planets orbit through their paths and the birds fly in the sky with no super highway crashes or mid-air collisions. The self-governing intelligence of the universe enables a organic wholeness with an intrinsic beauty, resilience and ecological grace.

Every species shares growth and development processes and yet manifests its own uniqueness. . Seeds sprout, grow, bloom, bear fruit and perish. Mammals are born, they grow, they reproduce, and they decline and die. The cycle of life continues; irrespective of the host habitat – the tectonic plates of Iceland, the fold mountains of the Himalayas or the Great Australian outback.

Man-made inventions are imperfect imitation of Nature. The most sophisticated computer is no match for the human brain. No technology can match the marvel of the universe. The worldwide Web which is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, it would appear, is modelled on the planets and stars and the interconnected nature of things in the universe.

For the design of the most sophisticated fighter planes, extensive studies are done on eagles in flight with cameras attached to their bodies to capture the angle of their flights. Whatever it may be called, a superior intelligence governs the entire universe including the humans. However, often we think that man can conquer and control the universe. In this quest for mastery and control of the universe we have forgotten that humans too are governed by the same higher intelligence that governs the entire universe.

Spiritual intelligence is not separate from the higher principle that governs the operation of the universe. In the Indian spiritual tradition any human soul (atman) has the potential to take the inner journey and be one with the whole (Brahman) universe. In this oneness the duality disappears, humans and the universe are not separate, they are one whole. When connected with one’s core we are connected to the whole. Being whole is our fundamental nature. When we experience separation from the whole due to karmic effects (akin to the collective consciousness of Carl Jung) we are unable to access the higher intelligence.

Being one with the whole gives us purpose and meaning. We become clear about our true calling and we live out our true destiny. When we are one with the whole we constantly tap into the infinite resources of the higher intelligence. Our connection with the higher intelligence guides us to live our lives for something greater than ourselves. We respect other people and everything in the universe.

Going back to nature to learn our basics again seems inevitable and precarious in our moments of choice. What if we were to remodel our corporations on the basis of the laws that govern the universe? Would that be a design choice? Individuals and organizations are taking to adventure and nature exploration. Some organizations are experimenting with workplace spirituality. While many such initiatives appear as attempts to be current with developmental practices, some leaders are undertaking an inner journey to explore intangibles that gives them meaning and anchor. Such a journey leads one to the inner core from where one learns to connect with the Whole. The communion with the Whole brings about transformation in the leader. A leader thus transformed allows oneself to be guided by the higher intelligence. These leaders help transform their groups, corporations, communities and nations. When the duality between self and others dissolves we merge into the interconnectedness of the Whole.

Spiritual Intelligence flows from personal authenticity, integrity and congruence. Every creative process at work is indicative of Spiritual Intelligence at work. When Spiritual Intelligence is at work, questions of purpose and meaning are at rest for they are continuously unfolded by the constant interplay of Spiritual Intelligence with everything in the universe. The interconnectedness of the universe ever manifests the spiritual intelligence at play. The incessant flow of energy through all animate and inanimate life forms in their various stages of creation is spiritual intelligence personified. The ever present natural order amidst apparent chaos reinforces the presence of the superior intelligence that governs the universe of which humans are a tiny spec. This realization makes humans to surrender to the greater power in the act of letting go. In this apparent loss of control we learn to accept the supremacy of the higher power that guides the destiny of the universe. A new natural order emerges and we learn a new way of living, leading and managing our lives and the surroundings. The new way is sustainable for the present, future of our planet and future generations.

Responsive leading and managing
The new way at work is rooted in the innermost core of our selves which is anchored in the Whole, the Higher Power, Superior Intelligence by whatever name it be called or the nameless, the formless, the eternal, the Shunya from which everything emanates. In the new way of living, leading and managing the leader remains continuously alert and aware. The leader is constantly tuned in and tuned into everything around. By this fine tuning with oneself and everything around, an inner compass takes over the process of leading and managing. The leader lives from the heart and his actions stems from the heart thatembody great courage and integrity.

Such an evolved leader will be like the frugally engineered Noah’s Ark, which withstood the great deluge. Quite unlike, the sophisticated Titanic that was built to lastcapsized in its maiden voyage. The spiritually intelligent leader discerns like the swan in Indian mythology which separates milk from water. The leader is rooted in the values that guide the actions and to decide to stop action when values are compromised the way Gandhi called off his peaceful agitation when violence broke out. Spiritually anchored leaders are not obsessed with personal goals. Instead they are unafraid of losing status and position for the sake of a larger goal. Their identity as a leader does not arise from an assigned role or extrinsic recognition and reward.

Power of a spiritually intelligent leader
The power of a spiritually intelligent leader springs from the deepest core which is anchored in the Source. The power does not stem from roles and position one occupies. Power derived from the role one occupies maintains a very fragile identity and is often focused on safeguarding one’s personal identity. The manipulation and control exercised in protecting one’s identity destroys the value base of the group and the organization one leads.

True power comes from a deep inner journey in which one confronts one’s shadows and integrates them. In the process, all the defences break down and the leader becomes vulnerable like a new born, yet strong as steel. A new born is highly vulnerable yet holds an inner potential to surmount all odds of a totally alien environment. The enlightened leader is aware that in deepest vulnerability lies the deepest strength. Being vulnerable means that the leader walks through the fear of getting hurt. In this process of embracing one’s vulnerability, all the energy that is used to guard the deep vulnerability is released. This newly released energy impels the leader toward enlightened action. One key characteristic of such a leader is the ability to remain cool at the height of adversity like being in the centre of the storm and not being ruffled or blown away.

How is spiritual intelligence manifested in leaders and organizations?
A spiritually intelligent leader has an inner balance.This leader is moved by universal values that fosters selfless service. He/she believes in a greater purpose and has a vision for the future. These leaders are not satisfied with accomplishing day to day routines and its apparent order and structure. On the contrary, every step and every action is towards the attainment of the mission that they set out to accomplish. Gandhi began his struggle for equality with his satyagraha movement in South Africa after being thrown out of the train for being “brown” and not “white”. This moment of reckoning, probably the most significant crisis in his life was his spiritual emergence.

The evolution of the Mahatma who led India to freedom was triggered by a critical incident. A closer look at the actions and decisions of Gandhi during the long struggle for India’s independence amply demonstrates the characteristics of a spiritually intelligent leader. There have been other leaders in the public sphere who embodied spiritual intelligence in their leadership. Martin Luther King spearheaded the civil rights movement in America and Nelson Mandela led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa with spiritually intelligent leadership.

In the business world organizations are usually founded on noble causes and values. The founders of such organizations were great leaders who looked beyond themselves. Some of these organizations have flourished and grown over centuries with successive generations of leaders carrying the cherished core values forward. They have been successful enterprises and stand out in the market place. There are other organizations which are great successes in terms of growth, profitability and shareholder value and yet, many perceive them as untrustworthy and unworthy of association.

The Leader’s Evolutionary Challenge
We looked at what a leader would be attributed with if he or she operated from a spiritual and emotional frame of mind, while applying his or her intellect. There are several contemporary and historical figures whose popular conceptions help us comprehend characteristics of a spiritually intelligent leader.

Figures like Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, JRD Tata are all reminders of a leadership that evokes a sense of spirituality. Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Sunderlal Bahuguna and Jaggi Vasudev, amongst several others keep reminding us of the yearning for a peaceful interior,an eternal angst for a deeper meaning beyond the material.

We now look at the concept of a warrior to articulate the characteristics of a spiritually intelligent leader.

The Warrior’s Way for the Spiritually Intelligent Leader
The concept of the ‘warrior’ may seem like emerging from the violence of war, but quite the contrary. The tradition of such usage may be dated back to the preparatory in Samurai traditions, where according to John Scherer (2009), “It was not about fighting (that was a last resort) but more of the practices that went into the training, preparation and sustaining of the warrior as an alive, aware and compassionate human being.” Samuel Widmer (2010) describes thus:

”The warrior is not a soldier. The soldier’s dependency on authority and his absolute obedience are totally alien to him. His battle is not the war with enmity or allegiance; his battle is a battle with himself, with the Self that he is attempting to conquer to find total freedom. His battle is a struggle for unity. In this he stands totally alone. The warrior knows that he cannot change himself; yet, he attempts to do so tenaciously. His final reward is not the change, but the flux which results from the creation of his tenacity; an energy that changes everything.”

For us as authors, it is about acting from one’s inner freedom, unafraid to be oneself with integrity and honesty. This resonates with the integral leadership concepts that Ken Wilber propounds too. We try to outline the armoury of the ‘warrior’ mode in leaders from a relevant distillation of literature and experience. We lay them as distinct attributes below.

  1. Compassionate pursuit – A distinct motivation to a cause helps the equanimity with which to regard success and failure. It does not regulate outcomes as much as guides learning on a journey to the purpose oriented direction. The essential centering in the spiritually oriented leader is from the depth of the 'heart', where compassionate endearment and enforcement of conduct ensues.
  2. Conquering fears – In psycho-analytic traditions of diagnosis, irrational fears are often the blind spot in awareness for the client. For the mindful leader though, fear is about opportunity for emboldening the self. Confronting one's fears is therefore about drawing more from one's reservoir of energy. The leader is alerted to the possibility of an 'amygdala hijack' and recovers with a heightened awareness to befriend the unknown.
  3. Conviction in solitude – The spiritual leader has the sense of devotion to one's cause in that he or she is willing to go it alone, even if nobody is likely to approve of the contribution being conceived. This is akin to what Gandhi quoted and Bunker Roy endorsed of his experience at the bare-foot college "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
  4. Deep connectedness and meaning – Being centered in the self, the leader's spiritual intelligence integrates with everything around the self. There is a deep connectedness with the environment, peace within oneselfand others; and a self-concept that emanates from the sense that one is worthy of love.
  5. Spontaneity in expression – Emotionally intelligent leaders gracefully express themselves and exude a fluency in interacting with a variety of others. Moreover, the spiritually intelligent leader responds with authenticity. Such expression often reflects the leader's depth of creativity.
  6. Vulnerability – Awareness of one's own capability does not prevent the spiritually intelligent leader from being aware of one's limitations. Demonstrating vulnerability is the evolution of transformative experience. When confronting the primal fears, blockages or rigidities appear more clearly in our defence systems. In the deepest vulnerability the leader finds the deepest strength. Thus vulnerability is a state of being.
  7. Resilience – The spiritually intelligent leader bounces back to a steadfast journey by recovering quickly from interim setbacks. To suffer the throes of crises is only a welcome challenge for the spiritually intelligent leader.
  8. Endurance – The spiritually intelligent leader exudes a staying power to go the distance even in the face of adversity and unforeseen challenges. In going the distance, however, the spiritually intelligent leader is mindful of a paramount power that the self is only part of, and yet willingly serves.

The mind-set of the last two centuries shaped by the industrial revolution continues to treat the world out there as a mechanistic production process measured by input and output. Most performance management systems in organizations are designed on the input-output parameter of the industrial production process. As a result human beings have been reduced themselves in lazy mimic of images from contemporary media. Thus, we operate outside the rhythm of nature and the universe at large.

The integrated approach involving the cognitive, affective and spiritual dimensions brings about equilibrium in life and at the workplace. Such a balanced workplace does not treat humans as the proverbial ‘cog in the machine’. A spiritually intelligent workplace designs structures and processes that support the development of integrated human beings. It facilitates the interconnectedness of fellow human beings and the universe. In effect it is orienting the human quest inward.

Our world is going through an intergenerational alignment on how legacies and current orientations poise us to Purpose and direction in our lives. The world is also shrinking with regard to the interconnectedness of tangible resources in the economy. However, the social and emotional tensions have not correspondingly abated. Our civilization is at a critical juncture of its evolution.

Every day we are confronted with a number of manmade and natural calamities. In the last two centuries humans have made great progress with new discoveries as well as conquest and exploitation of natural resources. The scientific approach has led to a belief that humans are at the centre of the universe and he/she can conquer and control the universe. Rapid material progress and culture of unchecked consumption have created an alienation and emptiness within. However, in recent decades there is an awakening unfolding that humans are part of a larger Whole. More and more people have begun a search for meaning and purpose.

The quest for meaning and purpose is inescapably an inward journey.Through constant awareness, the discerning seeker comes across a reservoir of inner potential. In the course of the inward journey the traveller discovers new dimensions of human and universal existence. Such a discovery process awakens spiritual intelligence in the voyager with a sensibility infused with warrior like qualities. These warrior like qualities enable the leader to go over the edge to venture out into the unknown. Unknown frontiers open up new perspectives to square up to the challenges faced in the ‘present’ with a vigour and vision, tempered in compassion and connectedness.

The way forward for human civilization is a shift from homocentric to cosmos centric approach. This approach brings about a balance between we humans and our environment. Our corporations, communities, cultures and science learn a new way of living and relating. Spiritually intelligent leaders with warrior like qualities exemplify respect for laws of nature. The new way of living, leading and relating pave the way for a mindful future that may enable sustainability for our coming generations and the planet.

Dukas H and Hoffman B, (1979) Albert Einstein - The Human Side, Princeton University Press.
Goleman D (2010) Ecological Intelligence - The Coming Age of Radical Transparency, Penguin, London.
King, Martin-Luther (1963) - Strength to Love, Fortress Press.
Scherer J (2009) - Five questions that Change Everything : Life Lessons at Work, Bibliocast, Colorado.
Widmer, Samuel (2010 ) - Die Kriegertexte/Die KriegerschuleSachbuchSpiritualität, Basic Editions ISBN-Nr. 978-3-9523678-0-3
Wigglesworth C (2003) - Spiritual Intelligence: What is it? How can we measure it? Why would business care?, Conscious Pursuits
Zohar Danah and Marshall Ian (2000) - SQ Spiritual Intelligence the Ultimate Intelligence, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., London

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