Building Inner Leadership Capacity
In organizations we are consumed with conversations about “what” and “how.” What do we need to do and how are we going to do it? What we fail to ask is: Who do I need to be, in order to be most effective with others while I’m getting the job done? “Leaders generally have little knowledge about how others experience them and how much they influence others both positively and negatively. They can quickly inspire or dampen people’s spirit with an appreciative word or an off-handed comment. “Most leadership failure can be attributed not to a failure of knowledge, but rather to a failure of presence (Jones, 2004, n.p).” It is incumbent that leaders raise their consciousness in order to be more effective, humbled and more aware of their state of “being” in addition to their “doing.”
In a meeting with Nasdaq executives in Pebble Beach CEO’s indicated that hubris was the main pitfall for senior leadership as the seduction toward narcissism was correlated with those in powerful corporate positions (Delbecq, 2000, p. 121). What we need are leaders that model enlightenment, real freedom, compassion and the mastery of “being” (Dreaver, 2000, n.p). To become self-aware leaders must engage in personal development; looking inward to know “the self.”
While there are many valuable retreats and programs that offer self-reflective learning in the company of others, mindfulness has also proven to be very beneficial as a daily reflective practice. Mindfulness or meditation involves an inversion of one’s attention from external to internal. This practice lowers mental discursiveness helping people slow down and become more present to others and themselves. Over time, mindfulness transforms leadership presence. It can improve intuition and fortifies an internal calm and confidence. “The bottom line is that our effectiveness as business leaders is shaped by how well we are able to find this inner quiet, how good we are at listening to our inner voice, and how accomplished we become at understanding its message (Levy, 2000, p. 131).” As one’s presence is bolstered, characteristics such as listening, open-mindedness, caring and flexibility are amplified as well.
A meditation practice assists leaders to alter ineffective patterns while creating a being quality of inner lightness and freedom. Raja yoga is a form of meditation taught by the Brahma Kumaris, a non-profit spirit centered global organization. A foundational aspect of these teachings addresses eight strengths or virtues that can be developed to increase inner leadership capacity. The first one is meditation itself or the “power to withdraw” thus restoring calm and removing attention from everything external. Aptitudes in the other seven are correlated to one’s ability to implement the first one. The other seven virtues are:
- The Power to Pack-Up or Let Go
- The Power to Love
- The Power to Accommodate
- The Power to Decide
- The Power to Discern
- The Power to Face
- The Power to Co-Operate (Brahma Kumaris University, 2004, p. 31-33).
There is so much depth to each of these virtues it is not possible to do proper justice to all of them. I will provide a brief definition of three on this list.
The Power to Pack Up or Let Go
The power to “pack up” refers to the ability to control a racing, chattering mind. When the mind is locked in a pattern or “analysis paralysis” or throwing up memories or images, people can feel like slaves to their thinking versus masters of their state of mind. Through meditation leaders can learn to take control of their state of mind to create quietness, calmness and a holiday from an ever-inquiring intellect (Brahma Kumaris University, 2004, p. 31). It is important for leaders to manage and direct intellectual energy toward purposes that serve their well being.
The Power to Discern
Discernment involves “sifting through” or being able to “distinguish” the correct value of thoughts, words, courses of action (Brahma Kumaris University, 2004, p. 32). It involves the ability to “see clearly” what is true and what is false. Given the complexity of problems and the pressure to solve them in the corporate world, leaders must hone their power of discernment in order to make decisions that will positively benefit “the whole” long term as much as possible.
The Power to Accommodate
This strength refers to the ability to expand and accept the presence of other’s ideas and desires beyond our own (Brahma Kumaris University, 2004, p. 32). It means being flexible to go with someone else’s ideas or allow them to make mistakes in a way that may even reflect poorly. It requires a kind of fearlessness to be open to allowing a situation to develop naturally. In short, it means allowing others to be exactly who they are (Brahma Kumaris University, 2004, p. 33). The ability to accommodate is a challenge for leaders who find themselves pressured to take control, act quickly and manipulate various conditions for the sake of short-term results. Leaders must cultivate greater acceptance of people and circumstances while making the most of what they have to offer.
Leaders face many pressure filled, deadline oriented challenges in their quest to create successful companies. In spite of this, it is important that time is taken for self-reflection and self-improvement in the area of leading others so they may become their best selves. Leading for engagement involves creating a supportive, trusting workplace community built on strong human values. It means being a leader who listens, learns and makes changes based on the feedback of the people he/she serves. It means trusting and empowering others versus trying to obsessively monitor them. It requires raising self-awareness through feedback and personal development programs that facilitate paradigm and behavioral shifts. Leading for engagement means building internal capacities that will then be expressed externally. The implementation of a daily meditation practice supports the “being” qualities required to becoming one who truly “leads for engagement.”
Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University (2004). The Master Powers: The Foundation course in Meditation Part VII. 30-33.
Delbecq, A.L. (2000). Spirituality for Business Leadership: Reporting on a Pilot Course for MBA’s and CEO’s. Journal of Management Inquiry, 9(2), 117-128.
Dreaver, J. (2000). Fearless Leadership: The Seven Gates of Personal Mastery. Retrieved from: http://www.bizspirit.com/bsj/archive/articles/dreaver1.html.
Jones, M. (2004). Artful presence: Finding wholeness on the tides of change. Retrieved from: may05artfulpresnce_copy.pdf?forcedownload=1
Levy, R. (2000). My Experience as a Participant in the Course of Spirituality for Executive Leadership. Journal of Management Inquiry 9(2), 129-131.