for organizations

“Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”  —Walt Whitman

discussion group

Businesses, faith communities, non-profit organizations, civic groups  ask many of the same questions and share many of the same challenges. Executives ask, “How can we motivate our people? What would it take to make this organization truly outstanding?” Heads of school ask how faculty members might be more inspiring teachers, and how parents might see themselves less as consumers and more as co-educators. Pastors and church leaders  want to know how they can grow their membership, much as business leaders aspire to grow markets. Military leaders want to develop a sense of shared responsibility and mutual interdependence throughout the ranks.  Remove the particulars from each of these situations and what is left?


  • human beings are communal animals, with a need to organize ourselves effectively
  • issues of morale and esprit de corps turn up in every organization
  • leadership is necessary but neither automatic nor self-validating
  • people in all situations tend to stay in their comfort zones until they see the benefit of moving out of them 
  • growth requires change, and change inevitably produces conflict
  • regardless of circumstances, people need some degree of respect and affirmation

The list could go on.  

Organizations have soul. Most of the time, in an effort to be successful—however we define that—organizations are only interested in the quickest fix, the latest technique, a “strategic plan,” the most cost-effective program which ends up rearranging the furniture. If that. But real life for the organization, whether it is a tribe, a political entity, a volunteer group, or a business, is a matter of being willing to undergo deep transformation. Otherwise the day will come when that organization is obsolete.  

The best of consultants in the field over the last several decades have forcefully argued the case:  Peter Senge in Fifth Discipline, and, with colleagues, in Presence:  An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society; Robert Quinn in Deep Change and Building the Bridge As You Walk On It; Margaret Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science and Finding Our Way; Ronald Heifetz in Leadership Without Easy Answers; Peter Block in The Answer to How is Yes; Chris Argyris in Leadership, Culture, Organizational Design.


Soul work on an organizational level involves something more basic than strategies and goals. It takes the shape of such things as building trust, speaking truth, learning to discern, paying attention, practicing respectfulness, being centered.  

If your organization wants to grow, you yourself as leader need to be able to grow, or the organization will continue to play games around “growth” that will amount to window-dressing. If you are committed to your own soul’s path, then there is a chance that the organization you lead or help to lead might learn how to find and listen to its soul.  


Few things can be more exilarating than being a part of an organization that knows its own soul and follows where the collective energy is powerful and creative. If you want that for your organization, let’s talk.  

Frank did a great job working with our leadership team—rector, wardens and vestry—to help us lay out clear expectations of one another and to build a revised letter of agreement that renews the framework of our relationship.

— Kenn Allen, former Senior Warden, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

     © Francis Gasque Dunn, DMin. • 1328 Park Road, NW, #32A • Washington, DC 20010 • 202.422.2329