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Workplace spirituality: profile and influence of spiritually-inspired business leaders - a cross cultural perspective

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posted on 19.05.2017, 03:18 by Purushothaman, Karthyeni
The concepts of spirituality and religion were until recently either ignored or avoided in the business world. However, in the last decade, there has been an upsurge of interest in these areas within the academic and practitioner world of business management, as Western and Eastern cultural worldviews collide in a rapidly globalising and chaotic business environment. Writers in the field of management, leadership and organisation behaviour have since begun to leap into the ‘soft management’ bandwagon where emotions and spirituality in the workplace, are currently hot topics. The work environment, which is central to the existence of most people, is increasingly seen to be a place where people engage in creative activity in search of the fundamental meaning, purpose and value in their lives. In an era of internationalization where business professionals are forced to navigate and negotiate in cultural systems which are significantly different to their own value systems this cross-cultural study was conducted in Australia and Malaysia, to provide some contrast of the two cultures with a focus in the area of spirituality at work. It advances the idea that business management theory and practice which typically embody Western secular value systems may not adequately represent the world views in Eastern cultures where religious and spiritual values hold sway even in work environments. Employing a methodology more commonly used in the fields of psychology and social sciences known as heuristics, this inter-disciplinary study offers a uniquely in-depth and profound investigation into the “inner spaces” and tacit dimensions, which are neither penetrable nor conceivable for empirical examination, with lesser methods of inquiry. Besides this unique methodology, the rigour of this research design also lies in its, longitudinal timeframe spanning over ten years, which allowed for the development of trust and rapport building to collect authentic, insightful, introspective data from fifty over participants in two countries. This research proposes a “new socio-spiritual model” incorporating spiritual dimensions as an underlying tacit force within spiritually-inspired leaders whose outer engagements are steadfastly anchored on an inner spiritual resolve. The study provides evidence to suggest that spiritually-inclined leaders’ personal values are consistent to their spiritual ideals and they influence their workplace with a blend of qualities that is deeply inspiring, motivating and meaningful to co-workers. Values such as genuine care, compassion, clarity and integrity in their core personality provides for a magnetic appeal. Co-workers appear to innately intuit and trust the genuine natures of such individuals to willingly cooperate and devotedly assist in the interest of such leadership. These spiritually- inspired individuals impacted their workplaces in two ways. Firstly, the co-workers who worked with spiritually-inspired leaders, displayed high motivation and satisfaction, enjoying a good sense of meaning and purpose at work. Secondly, the workplace environment had an inclusive climate where members experienced high trust and collegiality. The socio-spiritual model, based on tacit dimensions offer an alternative holistic viewpoint, to present a more universal management paradigm that is relevant for the modern era.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Amrik Sohal

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Faculty of Business and Economics