Spiritual Leadership: The Servant Leader by Jim Grant


I’m willing to bet some people in leadership positions who begin to read this post even this far will roll their eyes, mutter ‘ya right,’ ‘bullshit’ and surf on to something else. “How do I know,” sadly I still meet them daily? They continue to poison organizations and people who work in them. I also know because I’ve worked for some myself. I’m willing to bet if your reading this you have too. So for those who continue to read on, I’d like to offer a few thoughts and insights around what I mean and know as Spiritual Leadership from my career as an executive and in today’s world of coaching executives.

One CEO bellowed, ‘bullshit’ when we began talking about this kind of leadership. He was surprised to learn that Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism in the 6th century B.C., was a champion a selfless and non-directive leadership around selfless service. He sucked in his breath when I explained how the ancient Tao Te Ching held three universal values. The first was “Precious Attributes” (guide a Taoist life), then “Love” (showing compassion, kindness), next, “Moderation” (simplicity, restraint, frugality) and finally, “Humility” (not competing or putting oneself ahead of others”).

In ‘salt’ and ‘pepper’ fashion, I seasoned our chat and ending up with asking if he’d heard of Abraham Maslow and his needs hierarchy? He admitted he had, but once again thought is was ‘psycho-babbly-gook-speak’ for ‘weak-kneed’ people who wouldn’t or couldn’t commit to a days work. We talked about how Maslow was offering insights into ‘other’ world-views. I shared how Maslow described humans having an inherent capacity and need to grow once their basic needs are met. Asking him further about his climb to a CEO, he admitted the personal cost was high, outlining he could see some of what we were talking about making sense. When challenged again, he agreed to own some of those self-same needs missing on his journey.

As I probed deeper about his management team, he confided how very few measure up and how he’s not confident in others to deliver when he’s away from the office. I asked if he had one that was capable and he agreed, one showed promise and was getting to be just like him. What would happen if you had six executives working together for you”? “Is having one like you more important than having the other five capable of doing amazing work for you without being like you”? A thoughtful frown blanketed his face as I continued to explain, “Maslow said, when people who lower level needs are met move into the psychological growth realms, they feel free to meet not only their growth needs, but also the needs of others.”

My biggest surprise came when his guarded gruff exterior dropped; a sincere but tentative question asked: “Jim, I’m at my wit’s end, it’s why I called you. Do you think this is possible in my company, God knows we need it”! “When do we start, the sooner, the better…”.


Jim Grant is an Executive Leadership Coach living in Helsinki Finland. If you’re interested in new ways of leading and developing yourself and your company, give him a call at +358 040 178 1030 or e-mail him at jim.grant@diversitas.fi

Posted in Yleinen.