Spirit at Work

by Sue Howard

The holistic development model

The holistic development model is beneficial in helping both individuals and organisations to begin to understand the territory of spirituality.

The model focuses attention on the central importance of spirituality as a core element of understanding who we are (our Being). From this awareness, it is possible to explore various dimensions of ourselves which include what we do (our Doing) and the contribution we are making to the world.

Adjusted from: The Holistic Development Model, in "The Map of Meaning, Sustaining our Humanity at Work"
2011, Lips-Wiersma, M.S. and Morris, L. Greenleaf Publishers

The model is based on published research in which people at work, from both faith and non-faith perspectives, have defined how spirituality is important to their career choices. Their responses show that spirituality is described in terms of

  • Being (the inner dimension of who you are)
  • Doing (the activities you engage in to express who you are)
  • Self (things that relate to how you understand yourself)
  • Others (the way you engage in relationships and how you understand the value of others in your life).

From these four aspects – the model creates positions for exploration, such as

  • Being Self – how do you develop and become yourself?
  • Being Others (the value of unity in relationships) – how can you bring more of this into your life?
  • Doing Self – how do you express and communicate your values and your potential?
  • Doing Others (the way in which your activities influence people) – what effect are you having in the world?

These four quadrants can be explored individually or in groups. Spending time exploring and sharing what you believe in each of these areas helps you to understand your own spirituality and how it is manifested through your life and work.

Around the quadrants is a circle which brings a sense of ‘reality’ to the reflection. This reality is composed of both our ideals and our weaknesses and imperfections. We may long for the world to be a certain way, but often we experience imperfection – in ourselves or others. How we deal with the setbacks and challenges of life is an important element of spiritual maturing.

A holistic approach to leadership

The holistic nature of spirituality as it relates to self-awareness and leadership is illustrated in the following model and accompanying case study, which show how spirituality links to the physical challenges and mental tasks that individuals and teams face within the NHS.

Case study

The National Health Service

Here, the holistic approach to leadership was used as an effective ‘way in’ to link the organisation to the spiritual aspects of its work. The spiritual aspects were then incorporated into the NHS Agenda for Change (AFC) – an important initiative within the NHS that has had a significant impact on leadership development. AFC is providing the NHS with management tools to deliver large-scale system reform, so that the patient’s experience is firmly at the centre of all the NHS does.

Consequently, the spiritual aspects have been connected into the NHS Leadership Qualities Framework as part of its Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) – a competency framework that defines and describes knowledge and skills needed for each post in the NHS.

The KSF indicators linked to spirituality are self-belief, self-awareness, self-management and personal integrity. These are all personal qualities that are central components of the NHS Leadership Qualities Framework, alongside setting direction and delivering the service.

Smith and Malcolm have worked on a leadership development programme within the NHS, using both workshops and one-to-one coaching to support to individual participants. Participants have frequently emphasised that the work they are expected to do is in conflict with the values they hold personally. In the workshops these values have been explored and articulated:

Importance of team work
Nurturing talent
Influencing people to follow you
‘Stand up and be counted’
Keep aiming for goals
Know yourself
Value others
Take risks
Leadership can apply to everyone
Learn from mistakes, use experiences to innovate change
Allow development of informal leadership in team
Need courage and vision
Be aware of leadership context

Smith and Malcolm compared these values with those of spiritual leadership and found many similarities. This helps to highlight that it’s not a matter of ‘bringing spirituality into work’, but recognising that it is an inherent part of being human and as such is present, whether explicitly acknowledged or not.

In a further workshop, delegates went on to discuss their understanding of spirituality and how it might help them to be more engaged themselves and also help their staff to be more engaged. Participants welcomed the opportunity to explore the significance and importance of the spiritual dimension to both strategy and day-to-day management issues.