What Is Corporate Soul

When I use the term corporate soul, I refer to the intangible qualities that make a business different from any other, even from another business that possesses similar material assets and provides the same product to the same market. A company's "soul" is its spirit, its personality, its culture and the values by which it firmly stands no matter what the cost. A company's soul is the reason why its customers stay loyal to it and why its best employees never leave it. A company's soul is an intangible goldmine, and the real secret to developing its worth lies with leaders of great human character.

As good as an organization's structure and operational processes are, they won't give the organization an edge that others can't copy. Only an organization's leader can give it this unassailable edge: an authentic "personality", a corporate soul. Southwest Airlines has had a soul for a long time, it was infused into the company by its founder, Herb Kelleher, who terms what I call soul, "personality and spirit". He says: "Despite what the experts say, air travel is not a commodity business. We market ourselves based on the personality and spirit of ourselves[1]." No business need be a commodity business competing only on price. Every business can market itself based on its personality and spirit -- in other words, its soul.

Is corporate soul then just a marketing tool? Not at all. Its commercial value depends entirely on its authenticity. In Lead by Greatness I explain how to discover and articulate your organization's soul, and how to use it.

[1] Kelleher, Herb "A Culture of Commitment" Leader to Leader. 4 (Spring 1997): 20-24

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