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Tuesday, 19 August 2014 00:00

The Spiritual Business Leader - Part II


I would like to start this second article in the series of ‘Spiritual Business Leader’ by revisiting the definition of the word ‘Spiritual’. Web dictionary defines Spiritual as “relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”. To put it simply, it is relating to the higher purpose of Business than just the profits. It does not mean we should forego the profit motive in the Business. We can aim at a higher goal by which we definitely achieve our short term goal which is the Profitability. But, go on to achieve something higher beyond.

I would like to continue our exploration of this higher purpose in business. There are several Business men/ women who are focused on the higher purpose in business and are highly successful. I would like to borrow couple of examples from the public knowledge-base of the “Spiritual Based Leadership Research Programme” © 2006 by the Global Dharma Center (GDC). GDC retains the copy right to all excerpts from this knowledge-base.


Ricardo Levy, Co-founder and CEO of CatalyticaInc, USA

Ricardo was born in Ecuador and migrated to USA to study at Stanford University. He studied Chemical Engineering. He worked at Exxon and worked in their Corporate research laboratory. He established CatalyticaInc in 1974 along with a partner. Catalytica specialises in research and development for chemical, pharmaceutical and energy industries. They formed two subsidiary companies in Pharma and Energy sectors to whom they were providing their services. By late 90’s the Pharma company became major outsourcing supplier to the drug industry. They had three manufacturing plants and 1600 employees throughout USA. They had revenues of about 500 million $. The pharma business was later sold off to another company. They had the energy company with them. This company was based on a catalyst which they invented in the late 80’s that allowed fuel to be burned without pollution.

Ricardo defines spirituality as :the deep inner search for a fuller personal integration with a transcendent greater than our narrow self.  He looks at it as a deep connection with a force greater than himself.

According to Ricardo the purpose of Catalytica (the company he co-founded) is to create value for society. Ricardo says :Unless we have a clear sense that what we are doing has a positive societal purpose and our actions will make the world a better place, it is very difficult to achieve wholeness.

While expressing his views about financial goals of a company, Ricardo says: Financial goals to me are an outcome, not a goal. Yes, they are certainly important and if you do run out of money, then your company can not survive.

Ricardo created a Pharma company which had a sales of about $ 500 Million. So, here is a man who did not work for financial goals alone. But, achieved excellent financial results!!

Ricardo speaks about his experience of using spirituality to address a big and complex problem that he faced in the business.

When we sold the pharmaceutical company it involved the dismemberment of the business that we had built over 27 years… there were many areas to think through. It helped me throughout this period to be able to live in the unknown: to let the problem be with me and just rest there. I also followed the Jesuit practice of discernment, which is learning to quiet my mind and get in to deeper inner self. And from that place to listen to the voice of god and allow my inner spirit connected to god to give me the signals of my path.

I wrestled for weeks with this sale decision. I finally reached the point where I really felt that selling the pharma subsidiary was the right thing to do. The practical result is that once I got to the point where I had reached this internal compass marker, the ability to harness the forces around me to get all of this done was enhanced ten fold. This is actually hard to describe, but the energy of my conviction and deep sense of rightness allowed me to gather these forces and go forward, Mahatma Gandhi is such a beautiful example of this spiritual multiplier effect.

Ricardo’s spiritual values and his conviction carried the day for his company.


Nilofer Merchant, Innovation expert, USA (The Jane bond of Innovation.. as her linked in profile claims)


Her linked in profile says: 18 billion dollars. Nilofer Merchant has launched more than 100 products that netted this astounding amount. It’s this kind of collaborative leadership and business models – the type that results in innovation, and growth - that she now shares. 

She has gone from being an administrative assistant, to division leader, to CEO to board member of a NASDAQ-traded company along her 25-year career, gathering monikers such as the "Jane Bond of Innovation" along the way for her ability to guide organizations through impossible odds. 

Specifically, she’s worked for major Fortune 500 companies like Apple and Autodesk, and startups in the early days of the Web (Golive/ later bought by Adobe). Logitech, Symantec, HP, Yahoo, VMWare, and many others have turned to her guidance on new product strategies, enter new markets, defend against competitors, and optimize revenues. And, Merchant is one of the few people who can say they’ve fought a competitive battle against Microsoft and won, for Symantec’s Anti-Virus $2.1B annual business. 

According to Nilofer, spirituality is : Living fully the glory of god is being fully alive. To me this means using your gifts to the fullest, working in a position that is using all of you.

Nilofer believes in helping people to manifest the gifts within. She explains as follows:

When I was managing people while leading in my corporate positions, I always wanted to find a way to use their gifts well… I would ask them what they felt their natural gifts were, such as organising or working with teams. I tried to help discover what their base strengths were. I would then tailor their jobs so that they could use these skills and strengths optimally. … I feel that the greatest thing a leader can do is to help people manifest their gifts fully…I never wanted to spend any energy trying to get a person to do something that they did not want to do.

This has been an important part of my own spiritual development, and I have tried to pass that on as a leader.

Niloferstates the purpose of Business as: Contributing productively to the greater community, which includes the local, state, national and international sphere, serving others, using the skills and gifts god has given us all and learning and growing in to a more conscious person so that we might fully be alive.

Quite a different way to look at business compared to the narrow ways in which many business men may look at.

Nilofer says the following words regarding the creation of right type of organizational culture: What I do want for all people, whether they work specifically in my organisation or not, is to empower them to be fully engaged, fully alive and use all of the gifts they have. For me, this means having fun, laughing, being creative, having lots of great ideas and framing them in a way to share with others. This to me is experiencing a vibrant life. What I most aspire to is to help others feel passionately about their life.

Nilofer led the way in terms of walking the talk. She gives the example of a person in her company who was different: One time, we were working on a large project, and one person spent all of his time during the entire project telling everyone why it was going to fail. He was the biggest nay-sayer I had ever met in my life. But I loved him dearly and recognised that this was his way of expressing his fears and that he genuinely wanted to be helpful. I feel that fears are gifts and that they can be helpful if used properly. Because I knew he could not be productive until he felt he had really been heard. I would typically spend the first minutes of any meeting and let him share his fears. So the group really learned a lot during this process and learned better how to accept him.

The path that these two leaders are following is not the same as everyone does. In today’s Quarter to Quarter business existence where everyone is worried only about the quarterly results, the spiritual approach can be beneficial to the people involved and also deliver the quarterly results that we all seek. Ricardo Levy and NiloferMerchant  two of the  successful people in business are being spiritual and reaping the benefit of that approach. It is time that more people try out this approach.


Wednesday, 04 June 2014 00:00

The Spiritual Business Leader


Today’s Business world is steeped with stress and anxiety.  This is due to the fact that the Companies are chasing short term results and the people involved in the business are adapting ‘any means’ to get those results. The focus on Annual results has shifted to Quarterly results. Within the companies, the focus is there on monthly ,weekly and daily results ! Added to this the Economic situation is not helping the whole business climate. The top lines are not growing and bottom lines are shrinking. There is pressure to reduce cost. Many times this is read as downsizing the people. The Employees do not have as many job opportunities as they used to have.  There are many companies who have not given a raise to the Employees for second year in row !

While we may want to change all this, it may not be possible! The people involved in the Business will have to put up with the change and they will have to grow their companies in a systematic manner.

While there can be help from different Business models, Change programs and so on, there needs to be a support system for the Individual involved in the Business. A Support system which helps him/her to  change what he/she can and endure the rest.

Today Spirituality in business is gaining ground across the world. What do we mean by Spiritual?

Web dictionary defines Spiritual as “relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”. To put it simply, it is relating to the higher purpose of Business than just the profits. It does not mean we should forego the profit motive in the Business. We can aim at a higher goal by which we definitely achieve our short term goal which is the Profitability. But, go on to achieve something higher beyond.

Let us take an example of Toyota.


Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching the lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving.

Through our commitment to quality, constant innovation and respect to the planet, we aim to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile.

We will meet our challenging goals by engaging the talent and passion of people , who believe there is always a better way.

Toyota truly lives up to this Vision statement. It spends about 5% of its turnover on new technologies, it shaped its Systems based on the tenet of ‘Respect to people’.

This is one good example at a company level. There can be more good examples!

There are several people in Business across the world who are Spiritual and achieving stunning results!

Let us look at some of those examples.

Stephen Covey is the author of the best seller ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ and many other books. He is the Vice Chairman of Franklin Covey, a Global professional services firm based in the USA.

Stephen Covey explains about Spirituality as three things. 01. You are dealing with the whole person. That includes the person’s spirit or soul. 02. You are dealing with those principles which are timeless and universal 03. You are dealing with peace of conscience.  Obeying or following your conscience , means that you are true to that which you have internalised as being right and this gives you tremendous tranquillity and courage.

Stephen gives the following example for demonstrating how spirituality can help in Business.

“I was working with a large college in Ontario, Canada. They really had a terrible culture; it was characterised by turfism and fighting and interdepartmental resistances, with everyone looking out for themselves, protecting their own situation, silo thinking, and all that kind of stuff. I worked with them over a period of an year to develop a mission statement that would be supra-ordinate. By this I mean larger than one’s self , larger than one’s own institution. It took them about two years before there was broad agreement, and eventually what happened was that they developed a mission statement to become the yardstick educational institution for all of the state of Ontario – the institution others could measure themselves against.  When they really brought into that intention to leave a legacy, the littleness of their souls completely submerged and the magnanimity of soul exploded inside them.

I have these eye-opening experiences almost on a daily basis, both in my own leadership work at Franklin Covey and in my work helping leaders of other organizations.”

Stephen Covey’s views on the purpose of Business are as follows:

“Spiritual based leaders respect others and are guided by the fundamental ethic; service to others comes before serving one’s self. From an existential perspective, the raison d’etre  of organisations is to serve human needs. Really, there is no other reason for their existence. Individuals and organisations grow when they give themselves to others. Relationships improve when there is a focus on serving the other, be it at the level of the individual, the family, the organisation, the community, the society, or all of humanity. The phrase so eloquently developed by Greenleaf sums this up : Servant Leadership. (Robert Greenleaf was former Director of Management Research at the American Telecommunications company AT&T. who developed the concept of servant-leadership.)

In short: The purpose of business organisations is to serve human needs. Period!”

Stephen defines the success of organizations as :

“There are two kinds of success. Primary success has to do with strength of character and contribution to others. Secondary success has to do with formal authority and with being rich, famous, popular and positioned. So moral authority, which is the only real basis on which formal authority can ever work over time and be sustainable, is primary success.”


John R. Behner, El Salvador

John was the Country Manager of Nabisco in El Salvador till about 2005.  He worked for about 40 years before he retired.

 John defines spirituality as ‘the application of the human values – truth, right conduct, peace, love and non-violence- In your way of doing things. But it’s also more than that. It’s trying to see God in everyone and trying to interact with everyone on a very loving basis, seeing everything as being perfect, and not pointing your finger at anyone or anything. Being spiritual is being humble and trying to help’.

His spiritual theme is ‘Realising god by serving others’.

John gives an example of how the spiritual dimension helped him bond much better with his customers.

“In 1986, there was a big earthquake in San Salvador, so we got a little experience in dealing with a crisis.


One of the first things we saw was that all the super markets, which were our biggest clients, were affected; all their merchandise was all over the floor. They had a tremendous job of trying to clean what was saveable and to throw out what was broken and may be take some kind of inventory of it. We also say that our production lines were useless, because of the supermarkets could not put our products on their shelves, what good was it to produce it ? So we shut down our production lines and sent the salesmen to all the major supermarkets. They offered them a team of our production people to help them clean up. We did this very successfully, and we were the only company that did it. All the super markets were happy to get this kind of service. Which did not cost them anything. It only took about a week of very concentrated effort. It got them on their feet faster, and so we could start selling faster.

We took stock of our employees, and we had nine employees who had lost their homes. Since we had shut down the production, our maintenance department wasn’t  doing anything. So we asked these guys to go and rebuild the homes of these nine employees on a temporary basis. In an earthquake, what happens is that the floor is still there, but the roof and the walls may have fallen down. Temporary structures were put up in the nine homes, and the employees were grateful. El Salvador gets earthquakes periodically. In 1994 when we had another earthquake, we were all prepared, because we had already gone through the big one in 1986.”

John explains the purpose of Business as follows:

“The purpose of a business is to make other people happy, especially your clients and your employees”.

John explains the measure of success of business as  “Having good relationship with the employees and customers and they acknowledging it”.

It is very clear that Spiritual outlook in business can be very profitable too!

I will come back with more examples in the next edition.