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An Interview with Dr. Stephen Payne on the Princeton “Leadership & Spirituality” Workshop

April 13, 2009

Bradley J. Moore recently conducted an interview with Leadership Coach Dr. Stephen Payne to discuss his upcoming workshop,  “Leadership and Spirituality: Transforming the Workplace.” This workshop is designed specifically for business leaders and is taking place at Princeton Theological Seminary on May 31- June 1. 

Bradley J. Moore: OK, full disclosure Dr. Payne: I’ve been a client in your leadership coaching practice since December, 2007…so anything I say can and will be used against you…

 Stephen Payne: That seems inevitable, Brad.

BJM: I think our readers should know that you speak with a very sophisticated British accent. So everything you say sounds very commanding and authoritative to us trashy Americans. This must come in very handy with your leadership coaching business. Bloody well, then. Tell us in 30 seconds where you’re from, and what brought you here to the US of A?

SP: British accent: yes. Sophisticated: no. I’m an engineer from the formerly mighty industrial city of Birmingham, UK. We’re called Brummies. I’m a rugby, squash, and cricket- playing Brummie with formal training as a soccer hooligan-including the beer bottles. I came to the US in 1979 with a British technology company where I rose through the ranks to become CEO. 15 years ago they fired me. That event literally brought me to my knees. When I blamed God and yelled at Him for not revealing my pathway, I heard a Brummie voice clearly in my head: “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to do something for someone else sometimes?” Wham. My life started moving from taking-all to giving-all. That simple principle is now the core of my entire life, including my leadership coaching business where I have fun serving executive smart-asses like you.

From ‘taking all to giving all.” What a great story. You’re doing a seminar at Princeton Seminary for business leaders to talk about their spiritual lives. One question: Are you out of your mind? People in business generally don’t have a clue about how their spiritual lives mix with their daily work. Who would come to such a thing?

You’re right, people do compartmentalize their work and spiritual lives. It’s a tragedy when you think of how much they’re missing. Let me explain something: Even a cynic like you would agree that we serve an almighty, omnipresent God, right?

Yeah, Sure. I definitely believe that.

A God with an amazing, infinite power of intelligence that permeates the livingness of all things for their greater good, right?

Absolutely.

So that means God is already in the workplace…

OK, hold up. God is already in the workplace… Like, sitting there, right in my office? I don’t think most of us in business think about that when we check in each morning. But when you put it that way, it’s hard to argue with.

The real issue is not, Is God in the workplace? The real issue is revealing God for the greatest good of all concerned. And this is not a zero-sum game. Where God is present, there’s an infinite supply for all of us.

Now you’re messing with our standard theories of economics. It may be true that there is an infinite supply of God, but it’s counter-intuitive to how most business people operate, which is based more on scarcity of demand, a finite market share-those limiting kinds of terms and phrases.

The question is just how to reveal God. Given the fact that we have all been conditioned to think the opposite, it’s not surprising that you and so many others are cynical. That doesn’t deter me. Being spiritual at work is about how you welcome and tap-in to God’s power for the benefit of yourself and your organization-moment by moment, day by day, among all the cut and thrust of the business world. That’s what the seminar at Princeton is all about: How business leaders like you can tap into Christ to transform organizations for the better. Just pick up any newspaper and you can see the enormous need.

That’s very true. But is this some kind of sneaky sales pitch for Dr. Payne’s All-Purpose Philosophy and Soothing Salve?

Absolutely not. If there’s one thing coaching you has taught me Brad, it’s that there is no single answer. We must each integrate our faith into our leadership journey in our own unique way, guided by God. All I can do is introduce you to some frameworks for thinking that have worked for others such as you.

It definitely gives me a better perspective in thinking through the work I do, why I do what I do, and the impact I am having. I think that’s what people in business don’t have, or have never been exposed to, is this idea of a sensible framework that can help us integrate our spiritual lives into our business and leadership lives. You’re right-God is there at our jobs anyway, and we’re there; so why not make the connection?

Exactly. Don’t be so laid back about it. Make the connection with an infinitely powerful loving force that is there to support you? You bet!

To be continued…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 13, 2009 10:12 pm

    oh my… i just never put the words seminar and seminary together before…hum, very interestng.

    from L. seminarium “plant nursery,” figuratively, “breeding ground,” …

    good post, very enjoyable discussion so far.

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