University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business


Research Rationale

  • Many people are sceptical about the mix of business and spirituality. Some people are positive about business and sceptical about spirituality: "You can't really be competitive in business if you're spiritual." Some people are positive about spirituality and sceptical about business: "Business greed is too corrupting for spirituality to make a difference." Our intention is to address views such as these by investigating if and how business can be effective while operating from a consciously held spiritual basis.
  • Traditional business goals typically focus on financial/productivity gains. Texts from spiritual traditions worldwide propose that there is a much more profound role for human endeavor that of selfless service to society and the spiritual upliftment of everyone. Our intention is to help investigate how business goals can be defined and prioritized from a spiritual basis, and how businesses can thrive and evolve from that basis.
  • The students and faculty at universities as well as consultants and organizational leaders require examples of, and knowledge about, spiritual-based leaders in work organizations. Our intention is to provide an easily accessible knowledge base and website, which will include stories and real-life examples for class work, teaching, and publications.
  • There may be significant, demonstrable differences among spiritual-based leaders in their perspectives, qualities, and attributes. The practices and processes of spiritual-based leaders might also vary depending on the type of organization (family owned, publicly traded, etc.) and the cultural traditions of the society the organization operates in. Our intention is to develop an understanding of these diverse types of spiritual-based leaders and to identify a framework within which people can consciously develop themselves as spiritual-based leaders.


We have defined the following key terms for this research program:

Spirituality is defined by people throughout the world in varied ways, and may or may not be based on participation in an organized religion. As such, we have chosen to honor all definitions of spirituality, rather than to create our own specific definition. Some of those include:

  • Tapping into a deeper meaning in life that transcends our physical existence
  • Having a relationship with the Source of creation (i.e. God, Higher Power, Allah, Jehovah, Brahman, etc.)
  • Experiencing Divine Love
  • Living in harmony with the essential nature and inter-connectedness of all creation
  • Inquiring into the nature of one's true Self
  • Living all aspects of life according to a set of religious principles

A Leader is one who serves and guides others, inspires visions, defines goals and objectives, creates ideas, and makes decisions as shaped by his/her individual competencies and character.

A Spiritual-Based Leader is a leader whose character is grounded in a consciously held spiritual view of life and who leads from that spiritual basis.

Leadership incorporates: (1) the leader's competencies and character; and (2) the learnable processes, methods, and practices that the leader uses to serve, guide and inspire people to achieve shared goals that serve the needs of all stakeholders.

Spiritual-Based Leadership incorporates: (1) the character and competencies of a spiritual-based leader; and (2) the processes, methods, and practices that honor the essential nature of life and contribute to the spiritual development of the organization's stakeholders.