Book Review: Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit

Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal


$24.95, 224 pages


Reviewed by Dion Ginanto


Often time, we see a lot of leaders achieve so many accomplishments, however they feel something empty in their life. They feel something is missing in their achievements. We often also read, watch, and listen to mass medias that several successful leaders in companies, or other institutions ended up committing suicide. Leaders who find empty space in their minds and souls will feel lonely in the crowds. They know a lot of theory about leadership, they know how to meet the goals and visions on their organizations, but one thing: spiritual/soul.

I am impressed by how Bolman and Deal make us aware that the way we live so far has created confusion. “Too many workplaces are almost devoid of meaning and purpose. They are ruled by technology, efficiency, and the bottom line, with little regard for what human beings need in order to experience personal fulfillment and success. Over time, this takes a heavy toll on motivation, loyalty, and performance. It is a read to crisis and decay-unless we find ways to reinfuse the workplace with passion, zest, and spirit” (p.6). Moreover, the social media and technology surround us have created gap in our society, and we tend to interact on line rather than in person.

Bolman and Deal offered us to go back to our nature, to re-interact to our soul and heart, to communicate to belief, as well as our spiritual concept. Leading with spiritual concept is an approach introduced by Bolman and Deal in their book “Leading with Soul”. This book is very important for us to find a harmony and quality in our leadership capacity. This book also offers the reader how to lead with love and heart. I like this book, and I hope you will like it too.

 About the Author

Lee G. Bolman is very famous on his books especially on leadership and organization. I have read several books of him and I love them all. He is not only an author, but he is also a teacher and a consultant. He was born in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a B.A. degree in history and a Ph.D. degree in organizational behavior at Yale University.

Terrace E. Deal is also an author, teacher, and consultant. Terry (his nick name) holds a B.A degree in history from the University of La Verne, an M.A. degree in educational administration from California State University at Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. degree in education and sociology from Stanford University. He lives in Saint Luis Obispo, California[1].

About the Book

            This book is so interesting, because it combines narrative stories and thoughtful knowledge about leadership. The book starts with one man’s spiritual journey to find the meaning and the essence of his on leadership style, Steven Camden. Steve is a smart corporate executive who has achieved incredible successes in his career and organization. However, both his boss and Steve feel that there is something missing in Steve’s life. “He told her needing unity, but people’s never agreeing. He said he needed a vision, but it was hard to see beyond next week. He told her he was lost. Things seemed to be falling apart. He’d never felt that way before” (p. 21). Therefore, the boss sent him to Maria, a great mentor who then brought Steve to several spiritual journeys.

            At the very beginning of the mentorship, Maria introduced the concept of spirit and faith. Maria defined sprit as the internal force that sustains meaning and hope. Maria continued that without spirit and faith, a human being would lose their way. They live without zest, they will go through the motions, but there is no passion (p. 22). Of course, Steve was so hard to accept the spiritual concept to be induced to his leadership style. He argued that he was not a church leader.

            Not only that, when Maria taught him about a new journey, a journey of the heart: “your heart is more than a pump. It’s your spiritual center. It’s courage and compassion. If you lose heart, life is empty, lonely. You’re always busy but never fulfilled” (p.27). Steve still wanted to argue. He wanted to protest, however the more he wanted to react, the more curious he was.

            From his spiritual Journey, Steve learnt the concept of leading with soul. “A journey of the soul is a quest through uncharted territory. You find your way by opening your eyes, and your heart” (p. 31). We often discuss about the importance of integrity, but we sometimes ignore that integrity itself is rooted in identity and faith. That’s one reason that spirit and soul are at the heart of the most successful leadership (p. 42).

            Then how can we find our spiritual power within ourselves? To answer this question, Bolman and Deal brings us to the incredible dialogue between Maria and Steve: (1) by ourselves: “Maria tells Steve to look both inside and outside because his quest will require both an internal exploration of soul and external search for communion (p. 63); (2) prayer: “Prayer is primary speech; it starts without words and often ends without them… it works some of the time in signs and symbols, lurches when it must, leaps when it can, has several kinds of logical disposal (p. 62); (3) meditating : “meditating includes: studying scriptures, singing hymns, following prescribed rituatls, journeying to sacred palces, and contemplating nature (p.63). In almost every religion, including Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism they practice meditative tradition” (p. 64).

            Our final output of leading with soul is that we can make a change harmoniously. Of course to make a change of our surrounding, we should be able to find ourselves and make a positive change inside our mind and soul. I do agree with Bolman and Deal that at the end, when we are already able to explore our inner being, a search of our spiritual center; only then we can lead others. Eventually, it is not our techniques, our talents, or our knowledge that matter; it is our being.

My Criticism

Regardless of the fabulous contents of this book, I have two criticisms:

  1. At the first time, I found difficulties to found which one is the dialogue, and which one is the statement. Bolman and Deal were not really clear to differentiate between the two. They do not put quotation mark on the direct sentence for both Maria and Steve. Therefore, for several international readers, they will find a little bit difficulties in understanding the dialogue. Because sometimes we are confused, which statement belongs to Maria, which questions belong to Steve, and with sentences belong to Bolman and Deal.
  2. I do not really agree that in order to find a spiritual/soul leadership quality, one needs to do a journey as well as to find a mentor. Bolman and Deal listed three steps for a spiritual journey: (1) leaving home: often physically but especially psychically and spiritually; (2) the quest: overwhelming danger and challenge, initial impulse to reject the journey; and (3) returning home: new capacities and deeper understanding. I am afraid if every future leader should be sent like Steve did, then the institution will suffer from a great loss because everybody will leave works for a journey.


Other than these two criticisms, this book offers readers useful tools to find ourselves, and to teach us to go back to our nature: spirit, heart, and soul.


Arnold (2014) asserted that organizations are complex, ambiguous, always changing, and dynamics, therefore as a leader we are demanded to have a more complex and critical thinking. In order to have a complex and critical thinking, somebody needs to find it from within. Bolman and Deal are successfully bringing the readers to understand one way to find the inner power by recognizing soul, heart, and spiritual belief.

This book is astonishing. I do recommend this book to everyone who wants to find a love, work, and harmony. As a Muslim, I also believe that our heart is the center of our being. As our prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that “Surely, in the body there is a small piece of flesh; if it is good, the whole body is good, and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted, and that is surely the heart” [Bukhari in Baianonie][2]. The three steps to find ourselves: (1) by ourselves, (2) prayer, and (3) meditation, also taught in our religion. Regardless of my belief as Muslim, this book has a universal value. This book even recognizes Allah, Jahweh, Budha, God, and whatever you want to call your God is. The most important thing is that we need to be able to dig deeply to find our soul and spirit, in order to be able to make a change by using our leadership. I do believe by leading with soul we can create a better organization within our environment.



Bolman, L.G., & Deal, T.E. (2001). Leading with soul: an uncommon journey of spirit. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Baianonie, M.I. (1997) Priority of the deeds of the heart to the deeds of the limbs. Retrieved from:





[1] Summarized from “The Authors” in Bolman and Deal (2001)

[2] Al-hadith, by Bukhari.

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