Part of what I do is witness the presence of the Holy Spirit in organizations. Sometimes I perceive a trace of the Spirit when I listen to leaders’ stories. When they tell me how they acted out of love, I know the Holy Spirit was there.
So far, the stories haven’t been about acute, life-and-death crises. They have been about ordinary events and involved everyday people.
What is extraordinary is that these leaders have gotten involved. They have decided to take staff members’ lives seriously and have engaged with them rather than dismissed their experience. Because they have acknowledged that people are the backbone of their business, they regard the welfare of their staff members as vitally important.
It’s extraordinary when leaders get involved, because many organizations’ cultures make it easier to deny suffering rather than act empathetically.* Most organizations are structured in a way that limits top leaders’ access to the lives of the people on the ‘front line.’ They have systems, policies and procedures that perpetuate distance.**
So, when I hear stories about how a leader changed the life of a staff member for the better, it tells me a lot about the leader and their organization’s culture. It tells me that the leader cares enough to hear about staff members’ daily lives. It also tells me that their organization’s culture allows them to break the rules in order to do the right thing.
Recently, Julie Thomas, President of Priority Logistics Group, told me a story that exemplifies this point. She learned that a staff member, a single mother, was trying to upgrade her life and was in the process of moving into a different apartment. The apartment did not come with a stove or refrigerator. Suspecting that it violated their HR policies but knowing that her action reflected “what love does,” Julie bought her a stove and a fridge. She probably didn’t realize it at the time, but her action was reflected in her company’s values: Service, Respect, Integrity, Improvement, Giving Back.
James Autry, retired president of Meredith Magazine Group, author and influential visionary would affirm Julie’s choice. He wrote that a loving workplace is a workplace where “management… gives everyone special treatment”.*** He also argued that a loving workplace is one where “everyone is treated with dignity and respect, with honesty and trust, and with love—the values and qualities that will make business better even when business is not going so well”.***
The Spirit can refresh us when an organizations is composed of people who are human first and members of a business next. It is blocked when people feel that their role or rules prevent them from being loving. Leaders cultivate the Living Spirit in the workplace by acting out of love and telling stories that remind us of its presence.
When have you witnessed the movement of the Holy Spirit in your organization? Share your experience by commenting below!
*Worline, M. C. and Dutton, J. E. 2017. Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
**Napier, B. J. and Ferris, G. R. 1993. “Distance in Organizations.” Human Resource Management Review, 3(4) 321-357.
***Autry, J. A. 1991. Love & Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership. New York, NJ: Morrow and Company.