Leading Without a Self: Implications of Buddhist Practices for Pseudo-spiritual Leadership

Louis W. Fry, Mai Chi Vu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


This paper extends Being-centered and spiritual leadership theory using non-self from the Buddhist philosophy to further our understanding of how inner life functions as the source of spiritual leadership. While spiritual leadership theory has received widespread acceptance and considerable empirical support, its developmental process and potential for being used to pursue self-centered ends remain underdeveloped. Drawing on non-self from the Buddhist emptiness theory, we identify different egoistic forms of attachment at each level of being that can lead to forms of suffering in spiritual leadership. Then we show how leaders operating at lower levels of being can fall into the trap of practicing a form of pseudo-spiritual leadership that is overly focused on self-centered or instrumental purposes and economic rationality. We then introduce mechanisms to move beyond pseudo-spiritual leadership practices and discuss implications for future theory, research, and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-57
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Early online date28 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

Cite this