Spirit at Work

by Sue Howard

The Global Fitness Framework

Despite the financial crisis, wide range of urgent global issues and increasing calls for leaders to adopt a broader stakeholder focus, there is still a widespread presence in organisations of the short-term, narrow focus of maximising shareholder value – even if the importance of their corporate responsibility initiatives is publicly acknowledged. This narrow focus is underpinned by what has become an outdated business paradigm.

Increasing numbers are recognising the need for a broader focus.

The current financial crisis has shown that the ideal of a self-regulated system has led us to failure on a global level, with long-term implications to economic development and human well being. At the heart of this failure is a lack of both responsibility and leadership. We need more responsible leadership to implement a more comprehensive model for sustainable development.

In the 21st century, a new vision of leadership is needed to respond to local, regional, national, and global opportunities and challenges. More than ever, leadership must integrate across diverse individuals; across organisational functions, levels, and geography; across the sectors of business, government, nonprofits, media, academia, and the community; and across local, state, and national borders. There is a vital need today for integrative leadership. There also is a vital need for scholarly work to understand and advance the proven concepts inherent in integrative leadership.

The more we study the major problems of our time, the more we come to realise that they cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means they are interconnected and interdependent... There are solutions to the major problems of our time, some of them even simple. But they require a radical shift in our perceptions, our thinking, our values...

The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI, 2008)The Centre for Integrative Leadership (CIL, 2008)Fritjof Capra (1997, cited in Kriger and Seng, 2005)

Many calls like those quoted here seem to be looking for a new type of global leadership: leadership which recognises that individuals, groups and societies in the world are interconnected and interdependent; leadership which takes a global approach and goes beyond organisational and national boundaries. Such an approach will need to be holistic – considering the physical, mental and spiritual fitness of individuals, groups and societies.

Dr Jonathan Smith and John Rayment, from the Anglia Ruskin University, are proposing a new approach to leadership which takes into account the bigger picture and works across boundaries. They call it the Global Fitness Framework (GFF). The framework can be used to guide and inform analysis and decision-making. It uses the concept of fitness and encourages decision makers to consider the fitness for purpose of individuals, groups and societies. Fitness for purpose is considered by looking at strength, stamina and suppleness – terms commonly used for physical fitness, and increasingly for mental qualities, but rarely previously applied to the spiritual dimension.

The Global Fitness Framework

The GFF provides a model covering the range of issues identified as relevant to global leadership. The organic level relates to whether an individual, group or society is being considered; the fitness plane considers their strength, stamina and suppleness, and at the holistic depth it is the physical, mental and spiritual attributes that are being considered. Thus, each of the three aspects has three elements, giving a total of 27 individual cells.

Global Fitness Framework

The GFF’s modular nature enables users of the framework to home in on a particular cell, core or slice.

Sample focus points

The illustration shows just some of the possible focus points:

  • Focus 1 – the cell, in this example representing physical suppleness of an individual; there are 27 such cells in the framework
  • Focus 2 – the core, in this example covering physical, mental and spiritual stamina of a society; 27 such cores are available
  • Focus 3 – the slice, in this example covering physical, mental and spiritual fitness of a group, nine such slices exist.

Any combination of the above foci is possible, giving tremendous flexibility.

A great deal of work has been done around some of the cells in the framework – generally those towards the bottom front left (individual, physical, strength) – and its modular nature enables this work to be recognised and valued. Smith and Rayment contend that aspects covered by other cells – generally towards the top back right (society, spiritual, suppleness) – have been relatively neglected. Further, while the framework depicts the cells as separate and unique, all aspects of humanity are in fact inter-connected and influence each other.

Reasons for the relative neglect of certain cells in the GFF may be due to the fact that the aspects covered by them are more complex and contentious. For example, people in general are likely to have a clearer understanding of the physical fitness of an individual than they do of the spiritual suppleness of a society. Smith and Rayment maintain, however, that it is the more neglected areas that are of greater and increasing importance for leaders in the modern world.

Why do leaders ignore the spiritual dimension?

Of all the aspects within the framework, it is the spiritual dimension which is the least understood, most contentious and most often avoided aspect of leadership. The GFF adopts a broad interpretation of spirituality which links to connectedness (to self, others, nature or some higher being), provides meaning and purpose, and moves beyond consumerism, human comfort and economic measures into factors such as service for others.

In business decision-making, much attention is given to the physical aspects of the organisation, such as money, equipment and use of scarce resources (referred to in the GFF in terms of the physical fitness of the group). Business decision-making also focuses on mental processes, such as statistical analysis and risk management. But the vision and mission statements of most companies embrace the spiritual dimension. Often, however, objectives that are set, such as to maximise profit, are only intermediate level objectives, not necessarily resulting in the achievement of ultimate goals, such as increased fulfilment or helping others. There is an implied hierarchy, with spirituality at the top, covering ultimate objectives, philosophical approaches, values, and inter-relationships, on which the mental processes of decision-making and problem solving should be based.

Smith and Rayment have written a guide for leaders who wish to explore the relevance of spirituality in the workplace using the GFF. In the guide, the following questions are addressed:

  1. What is meant by spirituality?
  2. Is there a difference between a person’s own spirituality and how it is nurtured in the workplace?
  3. Why should a leader consider spirituality in the workplace?
  4. What forms of spirituality are acceptable in the organisation?
  5. What is the ultimate purpose of the organisation and does this fit with nurturing the spiritual dimension in the leadership role?
  6. How does the leader respect the choice employees have as to whether to bring the spiritual dimension of their life into the workplace?
  7. Can the leader nurture the spiritual dimension in the workplace if they do not recognise the spiritual dimension in their own life?
  8. Do all leaders in the organisation need to value spirituality in their own lives for organisations to nurture the spiritual dimension effectively?

In conclusion, spirituality tends to be largely ignored in current business. While spirituality is a complex and contentious area, it is nevertheless vital to recognise that the failure of leaders and decision-makers to consider and adopt valid stances and approaches in this area is a root cause of some contemporary global and local issues.