Executives are Spiritual Stewards – Help Me Build a Collective Understanding

By Michelle Malay Carter on July 28, 2008 

Do executives understand their role as spiritual stewards?? I would love to build a collective understanding around this idea, and I invite you to pass this idea along.

Work is a psychological imperative for humans, and all work is creative as it requires discretion and judgment.

Therefore, work has the potential to be a noble, highly-gratifying expression of a human soul.?? Our unique combination of experience, talents, gifts, values, judgment, and problem solving brings about a work product that is distinct to the person offering it.?

Therefore, we make ourselves vulnerable in our work by exposing our essence to others.

Executives are accountable for their organization’s leadership systems.? All to often these systems are ill conceived or even left to default.? Day in and day out, employees’ souls are damaged at the hands of dysfunctional “people” systems.? We have created huge populations of working-wounded, and the societal costs are astronomical.

I don’t believe this is the result of maliciousness, but rather ignorance.? If this is the case, we have hope.

I’m OK.? You’re OK.? Let’s fix the system.

Filed Under Accountability, Corporate Values, Executive Leadership, Requisite Organization, Strategy, Talent Management


12 Responses to “Executives are Spiritual Stewards – Help Me Build a Collective Understanding”

  1. Totally Consumed on July 28th, 2008 11:48 pm

    Excellent post! The idea of Executives as Spiritual Stewards has a lot of potential … it needs some refinement, but I seriously think you are on to something BIG.
    ~Totally Consumed

  2. Michelle Malay Carter on July 29th, 2008 6:04 am

    Hi Totally,

    Thank you for the encouragement. I open to your suggestions for refinement.



  3. Totally Consumed on July 30th, 2008 6:31 pm

    I did a post, at Totally Consumed, on your article above: http://totallyconsumed.blogspot.com/2008/07/business-leaders-as-spiritual.html

    I hope I did it justice. I can’t wait to hear more thoughts on this topic.

  4. Michelle Malay Carter on July 31st, 2008 6:25 am

    Hi TC,

    Thanks. Yes, you did it justice.



  5. Ajith on August 5th, 2008 8:22 am

    Hello Ms Carter,

    There is this beautiful book titled “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-Based Leadership in Business” co-authored by Peter Pruzan and Kirsten Pruzan Mikkelsen together with Debra and William Miller. The book can turn out to be a guiding light in your endevors.

    Here is a site on the theme you are speaking about…


    Best Wishes,

  6. Michelle Malay Carter on August 5th, 2008 4:53 pm

    Hi Ajith,

    Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the references. I’ll check them out.



  7. Marc Choyt on August 5th, 2008 10:32 pm

    What do you mean by “spiritual stewardship?”

    To me, it is based in deep connectedness and a non-hierarchic, circle based view. It is about living a cohesive life.

    Executives are in positions of power, which is inherently not cohesive because the focus is too narrow. Their businesses exist to drive money to their shareholders at the top of the pyramid.

    I suppose that an agent (an executive) within our current cancerous model of unmitigated business growth can be a teacher, but not a spiritual steward.

  8. David Zinger on August 6th, 2008 11:42 am

    Good points about spiritual stewardship. To lead is to imply others and spiritual means something greater than yourself. Therefore, by default, as we assume leadership we are moving into the spiritual realm. Too many panic I think and reach for the latest spreadsheet instead of noticing the space between people and what that means.

  9. Michelle Malay Carter on August 8th, 2008 7:37 am

    Hi Marc,

    Thanks for stopping by. I do not see spirituality and hierarchy (or power) as mutually exclusive. The sacred texts reflect stories of people in power. Many of the lessons are about how they chose to wield that power – in service to others or in service to themselves.

    Yes, executives are accountable to make money for the shareholders but doing so by exacting flesh from the employees is not a sustainable model.

    To your point, there are some wicked executives (to use a Biblical term). I’ve also had the honor of working with some executives who take the stewardship of their shareholders/customers’ needs in combination with their employees’ needs and the needs’ of the greater community very seriously. It is encouraging and rewarding.

    Thanks for stopping by. Please come back.



  10. Michelle Malay Carter on August 8th, 2008 7:44 am

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, you’ve captured the essence of what I was saying.

    The need for humans to work/create is as basic as the need for water, food, and shelter. Granted, this doesn’t have to happen within an organizational setting, but when it does, the organization’s leaders need to understand that they are walking in sacred territory and must conduct themselves as such. I don’t know that everyone sees that.



  11. Terrence Seamon on August 8th, 2008 12:54 pm

    Yes, you are on to something, Michelle, something very elusive but very important.

    It’s elusive because there is so much distracting noise in the way that it’s hard to hear the “small voice.” It’s important because we are more than the sum of our parts. We are spiritual.

    One of my favorite definitions of spirituality comes from writer Ronald Rolheiser (The Holy Longing) who defines it as “…the fire that burns within us.” He says, “What we do with that fire, how we channel it, is our spirituality.”


  12. Michelle Malay Carter on August 8th, 2008 2:54 pm

    Hi Terrance,

    Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the definition. I like it.