The Soul-Purpose: 7 Leadership Qualities

Are you a leader with soul?

According to Deepak Chopra in his book, The Soul of Leadership, leaders that lead from the soul share  particular traits. He has conveniently organised these into the acronym LEADERS:

L = Look and listen

Do this with your senses, being an unbiased observer who has not judged anything in advance. Do this with your heart, obeying your truest feelings. Finally, do this with your soul, responding with vision and deep purpose.

E = Emotional bonding

Leading from the soul means going beyond melodrama and crisis mode, getting rid of emotional toxicity to understand the specific needs of your followers.

A = Awareness

This means being aware of the following questions that underlie every challenge: Who am I? What do I want? What does the situation demand? A leader must ask these questions of himself and inspire his team to ask for themselves.

D = Doing

A leader must be action-oriented. In whatever he does he must serve as a role model, held responsible for the promises he has made. This requires persistence and tenacity but also the ability to view any situation with flexibility and humour.

E = Empowerment

The soul’s power comes from self-awareness, which is responsive to feedback but independent of the good or bad opinion of others. Empowerment isn’t selfish. It raises the status of leader and follower together.

R = Responsibility

This means showing initiative, taking mature and considered risks rather than reckless ones, walking the talk, having integrity, and living up to your inner values. Seen from the level of the soul, a leader’s greatest responsibility is to lead the group on the path of higher consciousness.

S = Synchronicity

This is a mysterious ingredient from the unconscious that all great leaders harness. Synchronicity is the ability to create good luck and find invisible support that carries a leader beyond predicted outcomes to a higher plane. In spiritual terms, synchronicity is the ultimate ability to connect any need with an answer from the soul.


Centralised cultures revolve around a single, charismatic, powerful leader and so every school solar system needs a bright star to provide the energy, spirit and essence.

To be a soul leader is to be the source and vital force behind a school’s thoughts, words, and actions. This means providing the purpose, vision, values and culture, mission, strategy, and action so that your school can be a successful educational organisation. A soul leader drives the narrative and use their own storytelling to create a stronger sense of community (Mead, 2014) and guide critical transformation.

These are the people that have the heart and soul to keep the system moving and flourishing. They always have wholeness, service and connectedness at the forefront of what they do and they lead with focus, passion, wisdom, courage and integrity (Bolman and Deal, 2011). Infusing soul into leadership is about serving students and the school as a whole.

According to Leonard Doohan (2014) in Spiritual Leadership, there are 10 core values of a spiritual leader:

  1. A sense of call and inner integrity
  2. Nourishing the shared vision and inspiring commitment to it
  3. Faith in the shared vision
  4. Relentless pursuit of the common mission
  5. Humility toward one’s own views
  6. Profound sense of community and human interdependence
  7. Making a difference in others’ lives
  8. Challenging others to do their best
  9. Having courage to say what needs to be said
  10. Ability to maintain distance from task and people

What is clear from this framework is that if you want to lead with soul then your first responsibility is to the health and integrity of your students and your organisation. Your soul-purpose is to make your school great and to keep it thriving and to do this you have to love, listen and leap and create a chain of trust, reflection and meaningful connection.

This type of leadership is characterised by defending integrity, goodness, team spirit, knowing, wholeness, and interconnectedness. It is also an important resource to intrinsically stimulate performance, knowledge sharing behaviours and innovation behaviours across a school to create a soul chain.

Soulful leaders display unconditional care and love for their community and those on the receiving end of this are more likely to feel psychologically safe to share knowledge and skills, and then to generate and implement novel ideas.

Soul-empowered leadership is essentially servant leadership where actions are guided by the common good and common vision. Leaders with soul are enlightened and empowering, always learning, always caring, and always ready to take the school where it has never been before.

Heart, hope, and leaps of faith, rooted in soul and spirit are necessary for today’s school leaders. Soulful leadership doesn’t mean you have to sell your soul either. They lead with efficiency and for them, they don’t cut corners, they value the necessity of struggle and every detail matters.

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