Spirituality and Authenticity

the connection between employee engagement and leadership

Photo by Pascal Swier on Unsplash

Have you ever looked at some of the data available regarding engagement? It is actually quite interesting to consider. 15% of individuals throughout the world claim they are engaged with their work according to a study from Gallup (Clifton & Harter, 2019). 15%, only 15% of individuals worldwide self-identify as engaged in their work.

Employee engagement

“If that number were to rise to 50%, workplaces everywhere would change — and so would the world” (Clifton & Harter, 2019, p. 7).

From an organizational perspective, formal employee engagement programs are often left for large multinational corporations (MNCs) or businesses with the greatest market share. Yet, in reality, engagement is essential to any team or group — whether for-profit or non-profit by nature. Clearly, all leaders have the opportunity to increase employee engagement.

Consider some of the benefits associated with engagement such as “organizational commitment or reduced turnover, loyalty, customer service climate, emotional investment, pride in work, and job satisfaction” (Roof, 2015, p. 587). Further, research makes a connection between spirituality and engagement. Specifically, noting the positive influence spirituality offers “including job satisfaction, connectedness, attitudes, loyalty, commitment, and even directly to employee engagement itself” (Roof, 2015, p. 586).


But what is spirituality? In simple terms, spirituality involves an inner motivation toward a higher power (Roof, 2015).

Findings from Pew Research in a 2017 study of Americans show that 48% self-identify as religious and spiritual while an additional 27% self-identity as spiritual but not religious (Allen & Fry, 2019).

Spiritual fulfillment is important to individuals and a particular context or environment is a key variable. By definition, spiritual fulfillment is related to living one’s calling and higher purpose. Spiritual fulfillment is about living in alignment with one’s personal values. With the majority of Americans self-identifying as spiritual paired with the need for spiritual fulfillment, there is an opportunity for leaders to better-connected spirituality and engagement within their context. The context may be a volunteer, paid, or hybrid situation. Regardless of the context, one way to bring about spirituality is to assess the authenticity of the context.

Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash


Authenticity, to some scholars, is merely a state of mind and a feeling an individual possesses in certain contexts (Aday & Schmader, 2019). Authenticity has the potential to serve as a catalyst — a catalyst for engagement and to strengthen spirituality.


Person-Organization (PO) fit theory is of critical importance when considering authenticity within a specific context (Palframan & Lancaster, 2019). PO fit speaks to the “compatibility between people and organizations” (Palframan & Lancaster, 2019, p. 134). Individuals must see the importance of placing themselves in contexts where there is a strong PO fit.

Within the PO construct, the SAFE model is another approach to authenticity. SAFE includes (Aday & Schmader, 2019):

  • an individual is able to retain their self-concept in the context.
  • an individual is motivated within the contextual systems.
  • an individual perceives acceptance of team members within the context.


Practically speaking, how can a leader be authentic or help their team live in authenticity? Consider the following areas of reflection:

leadership Impact

Now, imagine the benefit a leader offers a context when the leader focuses on authenticity and engagement. What if, fostering engagement became the primary role of a leader? How might fostering engagement relate to spirituality? How might leaders impact, not only their organizations but also, their communities, families, and groups they interact with throughout their daily living? How might greater authenticity and greater spiritualty impact a context? This is just a brief line of questioning.

Executive coaching that integrates spiritual development is one opportunity available to leaders of any context. Executive coaching can serve as an outlet for leaders seeking to discover ways to bring greater engagement and authenticity within their environments.

What about your organization?


Aday, A., & Schmader, T. (2019). Seeking authenticity in diverse contexts: How identities and environments constrain “free” choice. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 13(6), n/a. doi:10.1111/spc3.12450

Allen, S., & Fry, L. W. (2019). Spiritual development in executive coaching. Journal of Management Development, 38(10), 796–811. doi:10.1108/JMD-04–2019–0133

Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the Manager. New York: Gallup Press.

Palframan, J. T., & Lancaster, B. L. (2019). Workplace spirituality and Person–Organization fit theory: Development of a theoretical model. Journal of Human Values, 25(3), 133–149. doi:10.1177/0971685819861216

Roof, R. A. (2015). The association of individual spirituality on employee engagement: The spirit at work: JBE JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 130(3), 585–599. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.regent.edu:2048/10.1007/s10551-014-2246-0