WeLead Circles

A peer to peer network exclusive for women leaders


Drag <span class="spamp">&</span> Drop

Drag & Drop

PageLines is a drag & drop framework that allows you to completely customize your website with drag & drop.


1. A New Era for Spirit at Work
2. Meaning, Work and Social Responsibility
3. For your Bookshelf
4. Spirit at Work, the cleaner and the exercise bike
5. It Isn’t a Question of Intention, But Who is Doing the Intending?
6. Our Editorial Team


My thanks to David Welbourn for giving me the opportunity to edit this issue. It’s been a wonderful gift for me to appreciate anew the richness of the field we work within. From Wayne Visser’s focus on meaning and CSR to John Renesch’s ability to find spiritual insight in a movie about music, the work that we’re all involved in is an indication that spirituality in the workplace is moving into a new era. As Judi Neal tells us “whatever is emerging has to embrace sustainability, social justice, diversity and conscious capitalism.” Meg Wheatley says in her book Turning to One Another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future (Berrett Koehler) “Large and successful change efforts start with conversations among friends, not with those in power.” It all begins when “some friends and I started talking…” There’s a new conversation emerging and it’s exciting to feel that we are all at the heart of it. Debby Edelstein

1. A New Era for Spirit at Work

by Debby Edelstein
Earlier this month Judi Neal, fellow editorial team member who is best known as the doyenne of the Spirit at Work movement, announced that after 14 years of personal investment into the organization, it was time for the International Centre for Spirit at Work to go dormant.

Judi has been a generous and vastly knowledgeable source of inspiration for me and for so many people around the world who are drawn to the rich tapestry of topics that comprise Spirit at Work.

Her decision to focus on her own work has prompted me to re-examine my own commitment and also to reflect on what it was that drew me to this work initially.

The truth is that I found the Spirituality at Work movement by default. Like most fish out of water in the business world, I needed to find a community where I felt comfortable. So I was attracted to the alternative thinkers who believe that work can be a place where we express our inner calling, are conscious of a sense of interdependence and feel guided by a higher purpose.

So it was with a sense of relief that I found the writing and thinking of a number of academics, free thinkers, organisational change agents and spiritual people who provided me with the inspiration to explore other ways.
What draws me to all of them is that they share a commitment to a world that respects holism, integrated thinking and humanism and rejects the artificial divide between who we are at work and who we are at home.

But my most inspiring kind of role model – and I haven’t found nearly enough – are people like the late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop. People who represent the kinds of businesses who analyze the very fundamentals around which enterprises are built and not just what their corporate social responsibility and employee wellness programmes will entail.

I believe too that there is a caveat for many of us who consult in this space. By creating models and methodologies around bringing spirit to work, we risk implying that it’s an external skill that we can buy and pay for.

Of course there are times when organisations – like individuals – need help. But it’s important to remember that the most powerful insights are available to all of us. The fact that this conversation takes place within the tough realities of the business environment is an essential component in giving rigour to the conversation.

Some years ago I attended a Spirit in Business conference in Zurich. It was a wonderfully diverse group of people who gathered – philanthropists, social responsibility activitists, consultants, ‘enlightened’ business leaders and social entrepreneurs. There were also a few individuals who described themselves as ‘fish out of water’. Most notable was a young Swiss merchant banker who didn’t feel quite at home in the midst of all the meditation and business hippies but who was probably most succinct at summing up what it was all about. “Isn’t it just about treating people decently?” he asked.

As Judi says, “We sense that something larger than ‘spirituality in the workplace’ is emerging,” and that the words we have been using have their limitations. Whatever is emerging has to also embrace sustainability, social justice, diversity, and conscious capitalism. There are new organizations being created that are tapping into this larger movement that does not yet have a name. It includes spirituality in the workplace, but is more than that. We hope that each of you are finding practical, concrete ways of getting involved in this next phase of the evolution of consciousness on the planet.”

Thank you Judi for the wonderful work you have done for us all. May the next step in your journey be everything you hope for and deserve.

2. Meaning, work and social responsibility

by Wayne Visser
Surprisingly little has been written about the search for meaning in a workplace or business context, and nothing, in my knowledge, has made the explicit link to corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is surprising, partly because meaning has been a serious topic of research and application for at least fifty years now, following the seminal work of Viktor Frankl and others, as have the fields of industrial psychology and CSR. But it is more surprising still, simply because work is where we spend about a third of lives. If meaning cannot be found in the workplace, our ability to lead a fulfilling life is seriously impaired.

The importance of understanding how work can contribute to meaning in life seems more critical now than ever before. Anecdotal evidence is mounting that people in the West are increasingly feeling a sense of existential crisis in their working lives. On the one hand, they are expecting more from their work experience, including that it will nurture personal development and self actualisation. On the other hand, they are finding the capitalist, corporate model of work to be lacking in a meaningful higher purpose, or to put it another way, the modern workplace and economy is devoid of a sense of soul.

Some may argue that this growing frustration in the Western workplace is a vindication of Karl Marx’s (1875) concept of the alienation of labour through capitalism, whereby work “does not belong to his essential being; that he therefore does not confirm himself in his work, but denies himself, feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind”.

Modern social commentators like Charles Handy are less extreme, arguing for reformation rather than revolution. In his book, The Hungry Spirit, which is subtitled “Beyond Capitalism – A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World”, Handy calls for capitalism to embrace the notion of social capital (and I would add ecological capital as well) in addition to the more traditional economic capital. He also emphasises the need for citizen companies, which demonstrate greater accountability and a restored balance between the rights and responsibilities of business.
The question remains, however, whether these ideas have any grounding in the theory of meaning on the one hand, and management theory on the other hand.

According to Frankl’s logopsychology and logophilosophy, work – doing, or as he referred to it, realising creative values – constitutes one of three paths to meaning. “As long as creative values are in the forefront of the life task,” he noted, “their actualisation generally coincides with a person’s work”. In fact, his other two paths to meaning may be equally applicable in the work situation, even if less common, namely being, or the experience of values (e.g. love, truth, beauty), and perceiving, or the adoption of constructive attitudes (especially in the face of suffering).
Frankl’s notions of work as ideally being an expression of a life task are not dissimilar to iconic industrial psychologist Abraham Maslow’s conclusions about self-actualising individuals.

Writing about the higher-order needs of his famous motivational hierarchy, Maslow used words like vocation, calling, mission, duty, beloved job, even oblation, to describe the sense of dedication and devotion to their work experienced by self-actualising people. Maslow interestingly also identified high levels of perceived meaningfulness in the lives of the self-actualising subjects that he studied.

This was not the only similarity between their conceptions of work and meaning. Both Frankl and Maslow qualify their comments by emphasising that work only becomes meaningful when it entails contribution to a cause, or society, beyond selfish needs. Maslow (1973) talks about “offering oneself or dedicating oneself upon some altar for some particular task, some cause outside oneself and bigger than oneself, something not merely selfish” and Frankl (1965) introduces his concept of responsibility by saying that “this meaning and value is attached to the person’s work as a contribution to society, not to the actual occupation as such”.

Only Oliver Philips (1979) appears to have attempted any substantive conceptual application of the Frankl’s theory of meaning to business. In a chapter entitled “A New Course for Management”, he proposes a model in which the human will meaning can be channelled in one of three directions in organisations. It can either find healthy expression in freedom of choice with responsibility (leading to self-transcendence and unique meaning), or it can be frustrated by a lack of freedom and responsibility (leading to collective neurosis and nihilism), or there can be a failure to find meaning (leading to existential frustration and reductionism).

Key influencing factors, according to Philips, are management style (authoritarian companies make successful meaning-seeking difficult), strategic horizon (focus on profits encourages short-term thinking which detracts from meaning) and job enrichment (categorizing and depersonalizing jobs makes them less meaningful). He builds on Frankl and Maslow’s ideas of self-transcendence, saying that in affluent societies, “dedication to something outside one’s self-interest is stronger motivation to work than money or power” and a person will therefore “look for new meaning potentials in work that benefits his co-workers, minority groups he identifies with and causes he considers worth supporting”. This begins to hint at the link between work, meaning and social responsibility.

In perhaps the strongest theoretical support of this link, academic Paul Wong’s (1998) Personal Meaning Profile model identifies “self-transcendence” as one of seven factors that characterises people’s perceptions about what makes an ideally meaningful life. Some of the descriptive statements associated with this factor make its relevance clear, for example: I believe I can make a difference in the world; I strive to make the world a better place; it is important to dedicate my life to a cause; I make a significant contribution to society; and I attempt to leave behind a good and lasting legacy.

Pulling the threads together now, the underlying argument in this article, which remains to be adequately empirically tested, is that one of the ways companies can address an apparent lack of purpose and meaning in the workplace, which may in turn be associated with lower levels of employee motivation, job satisfaction and worker loyalty, is to actively engage in corporate social responsibility activities. By the same token, employees that make an effort to be involved in social responsibility initiatives in their workplace, be it through volunteering on community projects or in other ways, are likely to experience an enhanced their sense of meaning in their lives

(First published as an online article entitled “Meaning, Work and Social Responsibility” in Positive Living E-Zine, International Network on Personal Meaning, September 2003.)

Wayne Visser is Research Director at the University of Cambridge Programme for Industry and was previously Director of Sustainability Services at KPMG in South Africa. Wayne Visser is an independent writer, lecturer and speaker. He is the author/editor of five books, including four on the role of business in society, the most recent of which is The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility: A Complete Reference Guide to Concepts, Codes and Organisations. www.waynevisser.com.

3. For your Bookshelf: Spirit in Work must reads

Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities By Adam Kahane (Berrett Koehler)

This is the kind of book that made me want to jump when I read it. I always know I’ve hit on something important when I have a physical reaction to information and want to run around the room. Written in an accessible, unpretentious style, Adam takes us on a personal journey into understanding the magical possibilities of diversity and the world of fostering deep transformation in groups.

He’s worked on some of the toughest problems in the world and it’s this amazing exposure that gives his work particular resonance. He’s worked in the corporate world – including the Shell Scenario Planning process – as an expert analyst and advisor to corporations and governments convinced of the need to calculate “the one right answer”. But then the real drama happens when he takes us all over the world as he facilitates high-conflict problem-solving efforts in places like Columbia during the civil war, Argentina during the collapse, Guatemala after the genocide, Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and the Basque Country.

The book also gives us an insider’s view (including a little romance) into the Mont Fleur Scenario Project in which a diverse group of South Africans worked together to effect the transition to democracy and influenced the peaceful transition out of apartheid in South Africa.

It’s a must read for anyone interested in the power of conversation to transform the world. I was left with the exhilarating and optimistic sense that this is the kind of intervention, which can make anything possible.
Debby Edelstein
Edgewalkers: People and organizations that take risks, build bridges and break new ground by Judi Neal (Praeger)
In ancient cultures, each village had a shaman or medicine man who would visit the invisible world to obtain vital information, guidance, and healing for members of the tribe. These “edgewalkers” have contemporary counterparts in today’s organizations– those individuals who don’t fit squarely into any one box. Featuring colorful interviews and practical tools to gauge and manage your own edgewalking skills, Edgewalkers explores the opportunities that are created by defying formal boundaries and fostering creativity at every level of the organization.

4. Spirit at Work, the cleaner and the exercise bike

by Debby Edelstein
Although I’m not a good role model for mindfulness while exercising, I often take a good book to read while cycling at the gym.

A few months ago, I was reading The Spirit at Work Phenomenon by Sue Howard and David Welbourn. It’s such a comprehensive and valuable overview of the Spirit at Work movement that I wish I’d found it years ago.

I have a favourite bike in a secluded corner and by donning camouflage clothing I generally find that I can enjoy some relatively undisturbed reading and cardio time. But for some reason, the title of this book attracted the attention of one of the cleaners who hovered at the handlebars asking what it was about.

I’ve always struggled with those 30 second elevator tests where you have to describe the work you do and the value you add in a few pithy sentences. So this was a great test for me.

This was someone I was fairly sure had not attended any of the workshops or conferences on bringing Soul to Work which we’ve run around South Africa for the last 8 years. He did not know about Peter Senge, Charles Handy or Meg Wheatley. Chances are he had never heard of Quality Life Company or the Spirit in Work movement.

So in between pedalling I told him that it was about making work a place where people felt they could be themselves; how by allowing people to feel that they could talk freely about their religion at work, people felt more relaxed; that when people were more relaxed and more comfortable about being themselves, they felt happier and worked better; how to bring the joy of singing in the church choir into the workplace.

He seemed to get it quite clearly and told me that I should teach the contents of the book to the gym where he worked.

“This place would be much better if people were happy,” he said.

It was a humbling experience for me. Even though I’ve always spoken about how important it is to make sure that transformation is implemented throughout the organization and not limited to strategic sessions at executive retreats, it was the first time I had to explain what I really do and think to the kind of person who is most qualified to talk about organizational culture – a person who literally works on the floor.

I’ve become more committed to seeing my work in a way that makes it accessible to everyone. It’s also made me think twice about the books I put in I put in my gym bag.

5. It Isn’t a Question of Intention, But Who is Doing the Intending?

by John Renesch
During the peak of the human potential movement I wrote a book called Setting Goals which defined the art and practice of effective goal setting. The movement was stressing the importance of intention which most of us took to mean our intention, as in our personal motive. The promise: if we could reveal our deepest intent we could manifest anything.

Many opined that even people manifesting negative circumstances in their lives should be willing to accept responsibility for causing that reality, inferring that if you did the work and cleared up your stuff you could manifest positive realities instead of negative ones. The inference: if you could “disappear” or “process” your resistance to having the life you claimed to want you would get it. This sold many workshops, trainings, therapy sessions and self-help books.

I recall several sessions with a Dianetics practitioner who, watching my galvanic skin responses on an E-meter, asked me questions as I held onto two “tin cans” in my hands. The goal was to get “clear” of any “charge” on various life issues and develop a non-reactive mind so intentions will be unencumbered.

Then came the 1980s, the decade of the “me generation.” Like many of my friends, my reality centered around my intention, my clarity, my willingness to receive, allow and own. It all still centered around my intention. We assumed the intender was the person – me, you or whomever was the subject of scrutiny.

In the new generation of human potentiality, some look for what intention they plug into, or as we used to say “what wants to happen.” This makes the intender somewhat amorphous, lacking any clear identity. So if someone gets passionate about ending hunger or peace-building in the world they might say they are tapping into hunger wanting to end or peace wanting to happen. Some liken this to a field of intentionality, like a magnetic field or morphogenetic field as in Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance,” telepathy-type interconnections among living organisms.
When elephants headed for higher ground in Indonesia prior to the 2004 Tsunami hitting the shore, when dogs get jumpy before an earthquake, when flocks of birds turn on cue all at once, we can see some form of communication/field occurring we don’t understand. Perhaps humans once had this sensitivity; I happen to believe we did. Some may still possess it.

6. Editorial team

Debby Edelstein is credited with pioneering the Soul of Business movement in South Africa. She is co-founder of QualityLife Company (www.qualitylife.co.za), which hosts the annual Soul of Business Conference: a unique gathering of leaders who are bold enough to deviate from the ‘Business as Usual’ agenda. In 1999 she initiated conversations with change agents and thought leaders in the South African business community around the role of business in transforming society.

With her husband, Dunne, she has recently established an “Alternative School for Business” – a network of learners and teachers who are committed to bringing soul to the workplace and spirit into organisations. Debby is an international speaker, writer and thinker on the new leadership, and is invited to address and participate in leading edge conferences and think-tanks around the world. Debby sits on the advisory board for the Centre for Spirituality and the Workplace in the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in Canada.

Josie Gregory PhD. is one of the founding members and chair of the Foundation for Workplace Spirituality. She holds academic and professional qualifications for a wide range of careers dedicated to helping others. She is a Senior Lecturer in Management at the University of Surrey and has a private practice in coaching, consultancy and spiritual direction. Josie’s particular areas of interest are spirituality; spirituality in work and learning environments; mysticism and humanistic education; transformative learning and change at the individual, group and organisational levels; ethics and psychotherapeutic practices and changes.

Josie was the Director of the International Conference on Organisational Spirituality (ICOS – www.icosconference.com), the precursor to the Foundation for Workplace Spirituality: www.workplacespirituality.org.uk and developed a postgraduate programme in Spiritual Development and Facilitation.

Rob Katz holds a Civil Engineering and a Masters degree in Commerce (Business Data Processing) from the University of Cape Town; and a diploma in Business Administration, which he obtained with distinction. Rob is currently studying for his DPhil covering Spiritual Leadership at the University of Johannesburg. Former roles have included being CEO of EDUCOR (the largest Private education company for Higher and Further Education and Training in South Africa), international director of Ixchange, (a previously listed software organisation), and from 1992-8 MD of Microsoft (Sub Sahara and Indian Ocean Islands). He is a member of various professional societies including the Computer Society of South Africa, the Institute of Directors and the Young Presidents’ Organisation.

He was appointed to the Council on Higher Education (CHE Board) in July 2006 (advisory body on Higher Education to the Minister of Education). He is CEO of Spiritpower, a leadership coaching and facilitation organisation.
Judi Neal received her Ph.D. from Yale in Organizational Behavior. Formerly a manager at Honeywell, she left the corporate world to become a management professor and to run her own consulting practice – Neal & Associates (www.judineal.com).

Judi is the CEO of The International Center for Spirit at Work, a professional membership organization (www.spiritatwork.org)and founder of the International Spirit at Work Award which recognizes organization who nurture the human spirit. She is the author of Edgewalkers (Praeger 2006), Creating Enlightened Organizations, and Virtues at Work: a 12 Month Program. She is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Haven School of Business. Judi is quoted frequently on spirituality in the workplace and is a popular keynote speaker.

David Welbourn was, from 1969 until his retirement in April 2006, an industrial chaplain, latterly with the Surrey and North-East Hants Industrial Mission. He is convener and coordinator of the Spirit in the Workplace Network which meets quarterly at Douai Abbey, near Reading. David has written numerous articles on ‘faith and work’, was editor of the ICF Quarterly and a member of the editorial team of its successor Faith in Business. He is author of three published book and his most recent is ‘The Spirit at Work Phenomenon’ (Azure 2004), which he co-authored with Sue Howard. He is a member of MODEM’s leadership committee. www.modem-uk.org