Does Your Company Have a Soul?

When we think about companies that have a soul, we tend to think of all the good that they do: the philanthropy to good causes; the investments they make in their communities, or even the special benefits that they afford to their employees. In that sense, “soul” seems to be a synonym for the heart, the compassionate side of organisations; the part that focuses on others and the environment in which they exist.

What is corporate soul?

Soul refers to more than what it does. It also reflects corporate motives; what could be thought of as “the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action” ( And that causes us to recognize that companies, just like people, can have either good souls or bad ones. We tend to express this differently. We talk about organisations with soul, and without it. To have a soul at all, therefore, presupposes that it is good, and that it is good for all concerned, inside of the company as well as outside of it.
A company with no soul invariably has exchanged it for something else – usually money.  For example, some managers (think reality TV) fire people for the pleasure of doing so. In the ‘70s, companies dumped toxic waste into nearby streams. It’s not something that you hear about so much anymore, though that’s no reasons to assume that it doesn’t happen. Not everything can be included in the news.

There are perhaps three categories of organisations with respect to “soul”

  • Some had one from the beginning and still do.
  • Some started out with one, and then lost it along the way.
  • And a few – perhaps more than we’re willing to admit – started out soul-less, have remained so and gotten worse over time.
If organisations were autonomous in the sense that no one was in charge and that all that took place, from the inception of its strategies to the delivery of its products and/or services, then the soul would truly be a by-product of chance. We all know, however, that this is not the case at all. There are real people who have been involved from the beginning, and who see to it that it continues to survive and grow. These are the ones who decide what to do and why.

Moral guidance

Chris Brogan refers to the soul of a business as “the moral and intentional guidance and ‘life’ of your company.” That can’t happen without people.
In that sense, every business has a soul, and that soul – the centre of its being says everything about it. It tells us who the organisation has become. It’s what those in the discipline of organisational behaviour sometimes call its personalityt. What it does and why are determined by the collective beliefs and actions of those in charge of it, from the top to the bottom. Whatever you may think, the bottom mimics the top. The bottom is allowed to do what it does because it has the tacit approval of those at the top.
Your company has a soul. It tells everyone who comes in contact with it what you’re about; what you do and why you do it. It’s like the sandwich boards in the early 20th century. Your values are there for all to see. 
  • What are they?
  • What does your company say about you?
  • Does it demonstrate compassion for those you employ?
  • Does it look after the interests of others; of its community?
These are hard questions. They’re supposed to be. That’s because in order to have a good soul, you have to work at it. You have to decide what the good is that you’ll do first, and then make sure that your efforts are concentrated on doing it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Have you got a spoon? 
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