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.