The Corporate Chaplain

The Industrial Chaplain

By Lars G. Harrison

The Industrial Chaplain serves a pivotal role in today’s demanding business climate. This individual ensures that the senior executive leadership maintain the company’s vision, mission, goals and values, ethical considerations, compliances to quality, social and environmental concerns and keeps these promises to all stakeholders

A chaplain is a member of the clergy attached to a chapel, legislative assembly or a military unit, assisting laity with religious services, spiritual issues and other humanitarian needs. What then is an Industrial Chaplain?

Industrial chaplain is a term coined by my good friend, Jim Young, a director of Public Carrier Networks at Nortel (Northern Telecom). The Industrial Chaplain is a member of the senior management team, who has been given the commission to assist the CEO and the board with carrying out the vision and leadership of the company to the employees, customers and the community, and measuring business ethics and quality standards within the organization, and the company’s relationships with their customers, and its ethical considerations and responsibilities toward the society at large, the environment, and other businesses. It is not a reactionary position similar to the function of a company’s spokesperson or director of corporate communication, but rather a facilitating and active position to drive the company to lead by example (ethical, quality, environmental, etc.).

What’s the function in detail of an Industrial Chaplain?

The Industrial Chaplain is attached to the organization to perform leadership, quality and ethical services for the organization on behalf of and for the CEO and the board. Its function might extend to a nurturing, mothering, spiritual, emotional guidance, helping employees cope, etc. But, the function that we explain here is more a function of assisting with the ethical, spiritual, leadership development, and quality attainment within the organization than performing nursery functions. It is also more to do with encouraging, motivating and convicting the organization of the vision that the CEO has set for the organization and the leadership process. The person will also aid the development of a better work environment, stimulate ideas and personal and professional growth. Although, the person does not need to hold a degree in theology or divinity, the person should be a principle, value or character based leader. In certain organizations, the person might not be the person responsible for creating the mission statement, core values, beliefs, commitments, vision etc. of the organization; but nevertheless, he or she should evaluate and ensure that these are true and kept everywhere within the organization.

What’s the benefit of having an Industrial Chaplain?

There are numerous values adding this position can give organizations, such as:

An Industrial Chaplain can be a checks and balances of the vision of the company, leadership development, quality standards, and business ethics.

  • Finding new ways of managing and encouraging change and leadership development
  • Getting the vision firmly entrenched within the organization
  • Encouraging development of ideas and new opportunities, new product or market development
  • By developing a friendlier environment and better attitude and spirit in business, thereby discouraging corporate theft
  • Making part of the CEO’s visionary and leadership work less, freeing up his time for some day-to-day operations, crisis management, and new business development or mergers & acquisitions work (although, as a leader, the CEO should spend most of his time leading, not managing).

Requirements of the Industrial Chaplain

In order to qualify for the office of Industrial Chaplain, the individual must have fulfilled certain requirements, such as:

  • Hold or be given senior rank or authority of reporting and investigating by the CEO and the board
  • Being of sound mind and of sterling character and reputation above reproach
  • Likeable personality with great understanding of business, industry knowledge, attuned to and superior knowledge of quality standards and leadership development
  • Previous consulting experience would be helpful
  • Superior communication, analytical, investigative, discerning and interpersonal skills.

Duties of the Industrial Chaplain

In order for the industrial chaplain to function at his/her best the following charges and responsibilities must be delegated:

  • Full authority from the CEO and the Board to assess and report on the company’s leadership, quality and ethical situations
  • Do a complete knowledge capture of all business process, management attitude, how vision is transmitted to all employees, assess how customers and the business and socio-political community view the company. The person will catalogue each process, determining if each employee can give a 30 word description of the vision of the company and what the company does. Assess conflicts with line of commands and how ideas flows. Evaluate potential ethical concerns and problems and report these to the CEO and board.
  • Hold sessions with groups to determine areas of concern and how vision, attitudes and business ethics are stressed, and how to improve on leadership for the internal and external organization.


Note of Caution: The IC shall not inspire and instill the vision or encourage, energize, or motivate the organizational leadership in place of the CEO, so the CEO can spend time on day-to-day operations and crisis management. CEO must be seen as the leader and ethical beacon of the organization.

  • Encourage the free flowing of ideas and attitudes (change has more to do with ideas and attitudes than with economies).
  • Compile case studies for the CEO of good examples of organizations with good leadership and business ethics
  • Assist the Quality Management with ISO 14000 series environmental quality standards and laws (coordinate with the legal department) and other ethical matters relating to the company’s social responsibility to the environment and community at large. There might also be a need for assisting with ISO 9001series quality management standards. Provide material to secure certification, if needed.
  • Provide an initial assessment of how the leadership and vision are instilled and the company’s ethical compliance.
  • Provide weekly progress reports to the senior management, after the initial assessment.
  • Provide a weekly report of new business development, trends, and new opportunities for the company
  • Assist the CEO and the Assistant to the CEO with speech writing and other material to enhance this process.

This is only a sketch of the how the industrial chaplain might be used in an organization. Its implication and function will vary between organizations and industries and would depend on numerous other factors. I do believe there is a need for an Industrial Chaplain in many organizations who will perform similar functions to what I have described.

Chap. Dr. Richard Ward, J.C.D., PH.D. , INDUSTRIAL CHAPLAIN can be reached at 530-644-4588 or 916-812-9706.


Copyright © 1996 Harrison on Leadership. All Rights Reserved.

St. John’s Management Group, CLS

A Conciliation & Industrial Chaplaincy

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Pollock Pines, California, 95726