Leading with Soul

“Their passions come only with their souls. Their souls love the hidden springs boiling and welling at the center of existence more than they love the company”. David Whyte — from The Heart Aroused, Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

I have a longstanding and some would say naïve notion that we should bring our souls to work.

For me, the soul is that most honest, passionate, beautiful, vulnerable and creative parts of ourselves. The thing that makes us unique.

By suppressing our souls as leaders and systematically discouraging the soul’s expression in others, we greatly limit our potential as human beings, (and organizations), and stifle the joy that is found in meaningful work that compliments our individuality.

The traditional view of leadership insists that we wear invisible armor to hide any hint of uncertainty, show no fear, keep a protective distance from the hearts of others and make sure our emotions are safely locked away. It’s not safe to put our-selves out there.

Yet it is only in letting ourselves be known that we can experience the significance that comes from creating our unique work of leadership art.

The soul’s story is best explored and expressed within the boundaries of an open, authentic and supportive community. Unfortunately, the place in which we spend a significant part of our lives rarely provides this kind of environment.

As leaders, we have the opportunity to create a place where this is possible.

When our souls are denied access to our work lives we begin a dividing of our inner selves that spills over into other areas. The price can be a life of quiet desperation.

I know, easier said than done. Our desire to succeed, to please those who wield authority over our careers and avoid the pain we associate with rejection are formidable barriers.

What is the value of success without fulfillment?

If all we have achieved is a title with no underlying meaning or significance then we have missed the point of leadership and will likely find it largely unsatisfying.

Bringing our soul into our work does not guarantee happiness, or success and means feeling extensively more joy and sorrow than we might otherwise experience if we just stick to the program.

It also means we could find ourselves standing in the gap where our head says run but instead we honor the fire in our soul and despite the risk, we express our truth.

Is it better to be alive and tapped into the soul’s expression or to be safe and numb?

Sadly, many of us are so well-practiced at ignoring our inner voice, guarding our status, stuffing our emotions and going through the motions we no longer remember what we are missing.

The choice affects how others experience us and respond to our leadership.

We are either an object of authority or a companion on the journey; inviting others to take part in a bigger story. We can learn, laugh, cry, grow, imagine, create and succeed together.

We can do both.

We can lead with confidence, vision, courage AND be vulnerable, authentic and connected.

When we invite people to bring their soul to work we open the door for them to create a more fulfilling life.

There is no better or more important legacy we can leave than to have influenced the lives of others in a positive way and in so doing to leave the world a better place.


Originally published at soul2work.com on October 19, 2016.