And the winner for today’s most overused business buzzword is . . . leadership.

The managerial side of this much-sought business characteristic has been taught in MBA courses for decades. The less tangible, personal aspect has been seen by many as an innate gift of nature, not nurture. But for veteran CEO and international business coach Stephen Payne, this innate, spiritual quality of leadership is something that can and must be mentored if business executives are to become leaders in the fullest sense.

To discuss the initial phases of this inner process for business individuals, and to explain the role today’s spiritual leaders may play in the quest, Payne is hosting “Leadership and Spirituality: Transforming the Workplace,” a two-day workshop beginning on Sunday, May 31, at 4:30 p.m. and continuing on Monday, June 1, at 8 a.m. at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Cost: $165. Visit, or call 609-203-6093.

Payne’s espousal of spiritual benefits in the workplace has been forged by his own experience as CEO and coach. Payne grew up in a family of gun makers and engineers in Birmingham, England. His great-grandfather actually sailed from Britain hoping to make guns for America’s Civil War. Opting for a more peaceful profession, Payne took his bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Aston University in 1969. He then joined PA Consulting in London, which soon transferred him to Paris to help a series of clients. He was then ordered across the Atlantic to Huntington, West Virginia, to handle that region’s CSS Railroad.

Payne continued serving clients around the globe and eventually rose to become CEO of PA Consulting. In 1994, from this heady position, a series of unfortunate events led to Payne’s leaving his firm and entering what he calls his own “Valley of Despair.” With typical resilience, he came back to found Leadership Strategies on Hunt Drive ( To date Payne’s company has helped the managing heads of many Fortune 100 corporations as well as small professional firms toward that best possible executive leadership experience.

Leading from within. Increasingly, business has come to see its primary asset as its people. That newly improved product, sales strategy, and more efficient production line all stem from highly motivated employees. For that reason, executives have striven to fertilize the creative soil of the workplace. Offices have become more personal and ergonomic; communication and assembly lines have centered around users; smoke, harassment, and other distractions have been largely eliminated.

Beneficial as these developments might be, for Payne they are only surface fixes, which leave untouched the real source that stymies workplace motivation and performance. “This CEO comes to me,” recalls Payne, “and complains that no one in his organization can make any decisions on their own. My response is, ‘How much of that problem are you willing to own, Mr. Manager?’”

Together, coach and CEO come to realize that the latter had instilled a fear of independent thinking in his employees. His overly judgmental and micromanaging approach foiled the natural creativity that would motivate personal innovation. “The key solution here” says Payne, “is that to be a good leader, you must first lead yourself. “ It is not enough for our CEO to promise to mend his ways. He must find the reason for his original behavior and labor to resolve that issue within himself.

Spiritual leadership. Payne is asking business leaders to reach such resolutions at the most profound and personal level — the spiritual. To achieve this overall change, he guides leaders toward certain realizations. “The first is accepting that you and each member of your team and company holds within himself an innate, powerful force for creative good,” says Payne. Individuals want to create and do good things. Remember, these individuals are the company’s primary asset. Therefore, it logically flows that the leader’s foremost job description is to constantly work at unleashing this force in each member of his team.

Leaders are asked to delve deep, hold up to light their most personal motivations and beliefs, and then retool them for their own, and the team’s benefit. It is a daunting, continuing journey that requires all one’s spiritual resources. It also would be improved if some expert spiritual mentors were on hand to aid with the process.

Clergy connection. The obvious choice for this kind of executive mentoring should be one’s faith leaders. But, alas, such connections are seldom readily made. For centuries, Christian clergy and other faith leaders have from their pulpits scorned the world of commerce and industry as tainted and destructive to the spirit. Business people have responded by compartmentalizing spiritual faith and all such other “warm fuzzy things” as not appropriate for the workplace.

Payne is calling for an end to this ancient turf war. The individual has been the primary loser in this battle. Both business and religious institutions seek the common goal of the individual’s overall enrichment and success.

Within the Christian realm, Payne feels, clergy have the ability to bring business leaders to the next leadership realization. “Finally,” he says, “leaders come to see that this force for creative good lies not just in themselves and in their team members, it exists all around them, and acts as a source on which all may draw at will.” This, for Christians, is seen as the power of Christ and the grace of God. However, Payne insists, it is not the labels, but the spiritual tools which must gain acceptance in each leader personally, in ways that work for him.

For the clergy to regain its rightful place as spiritual mentors of the entire person, a little education might be in order. The reverend who takes the time to learn the fiscal maneuverings, commercial strategies, and the vagaries of life in the cube farm will seem infinitely less otherworldly when he mentors an executive. Likewise, business leaders will have to individually learn to break down their life-compartmentalizing walls and turn off the “warm-fuzzy” alarms.

“It’s all about performance,” says Payne. Unleashing the spirit can fill the workplace with excited individuals, bustling in early to set some newly envisioned project into motion. ‘Tis not some fairyland workplace ideal, rather it is the logical expression of the human creative gifts with which we have all been endowed.

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