Holistic leadership considers the whole person – body, mind and spirit. People have an innate desire and need to develop their human potential, to flourish, and to become who they were made to be. Organizations need leaders, employees, partners and suppliers who are able to reach their potential and find meaning in their work, while at the same time offer their talents in order to meet the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. Holistic leaders recognize the gifts and potential in others, and encourage them to fully develop and unleash those gifts.
One key difference between holistic leadership and other leadership models is the understanding of the dignity and development of the human person, and the understanding of the purpose and dignity of work. Not only is work done in order to produce goods and services, sustain the organization and provide a return on investment for shareholders (in the case of for-profits), but work is also seen by holistic leaders as a means for the leaders, employees, partners and suppliers to reach their full potential. In addition, the goods and services that are produced by the organization with the resources at its disposal are intended to serve the common good of society. Profit is seen as a means to this end, and not an end in itself.
Another difference is an understanding of the community of work. The holistic leader builds the community in which and by which goods and services are produced, knowing that people are not only individuals, but they use their talents and serve together toward common goals. People have both unique and communal life callings, and holistic leaders recognize that both must be attended to in order for the individuals, in community, to reach fulfillment.
Finally, holistic leadership differs in the leader’s awareness of self, and the willingness to do the inner work to become more self-aware and to develop oneself. Holistic leaders are aware that they bring not only knowledge, skills and abilities to their leadership, but they bring themselves – body, mind and spirit. They are aware that who they are will impact how they lead, and how others will experience their leadership.
How Can You Develop Holistic Leadership?
If you aspire to be a leader who embodies these characteristics, or if you would like to adopt this leadership model in your organization, there are several development strategies you can consider. Individual leadership coaching can be a very effective way of gaining self-awareness and building holistic leadership practices. And organizationally, creating a leadership competency model that spells out the expectations and development opportunities for the 9 characteristics of holistic leadership is a good place to start.