Like many young students, when I was in business school I was left dizzy and confused by the many different theories, concepts, frameworks of leadership that we were taught and exposed to. Unlike many others, I had the privilege of an extended period of time to contemplate and refine these ideas -- first as a forest monk, and later as a spiritual teacher and corporate trainer. Here I would like to share an overview of four elements of conscious leadership that I have discovered that represents my understanding of this subject. It is intended for those eager to lead from the inside out.
· Pause: The first element is an invitation to simply pause, for short periods, several times each day. This means to “step off the train of thoughts” and be fully present and attentive in the now. This reveals an ever present clarity and allows us to see things as they really are, as opposed to how we wish and hope them to be. In this way we shift from preoccupation to presence, repeating patterns to discerning patterns, and from “what’s next” to “what’s here”. Practices such as mindfulness of our sense experience and daily activities and regular meditation nourish and strengthen our ability to Pause.
· Feel: To successfully navigate today’s dynamic world environment we need more than just information, we need an access to intuition. Sometimes everything about a transaction appears perfect, and yet we may call off the deal saying, “something just doesn’t feel right”, only to be proved correct later. This is an example of intuition. The source of intuition and all the resources of our subconscious mind are the feelings in the body. For this we must learn to shift from living in the head to living in the heart and body, directly experiencing the emotions and sensations, just the way they are. In this way we shift from comparison to compassion, discontentment to appreciation, and wanting to be accepted to wanting to be true. Important practices for this element include learning how to feel, understand and release our feelings and an attitude of gratitude.
· Intend: What is the best possible outcome for any given situation? What would it look and sound and feel like if it were already true? Can we feel it now? The principle here is that “what we visualize, vocalize and emotionalize we actualize.” This element is the shift from problems to possibilities, scarcity to abundance and from doing things for joy to doing them from joy. Some practices for this are written intentions, affirming and envisioning the best possible outcome individually and collectively.
· Connect: While the first three elements were internal to an individual, the third is all about relationships and communication. The 3 C’s of conscious communication are connection, context and content. Of these, connection comes first. We shift from valuing outcomes to valuing relationships, from seeking perfection to seeking connection, from seeking validation to offering validation, and from transaction to trust and transformation. Here we practice deep listening, which means to seek first to understand and then to be understood. We practice authentic speech, which is true, kind and beneficial. We open-mindedly inquire and question from a place of wonder and curiosity. We also learn the art of being comfortable with silence.
Each of these elements is a container for countless skillful principles, practices and actions. Together they enable us to access and embody our own highest wisdom and to express it in relationship with others, thereby evoking and inspiring the best in everyone.
I would like to invite you to contemplate the finest leaders you have known and also the important leaderships skills you have studied and practiced in your life and see if those qualities are reflected in the four elements: Pause, Feel, Intend and Connect. Whether or not this model is an accurate representation of the essential characteristics of conscious leadership is less important. What is important is that it stimulates you to clarify your own understanding and thinking on this subject, as it did for me. May you awaken the leader within and inspire us all with your radiant and authentic example!
Nithya Shanti is a spiritual teacher committed to sharing practical wisdom teachings for happiness and enlightenment in a joyful and transformational way. He earned an MBA and worked in the corporate world. He then left his job to pursue a childhood dream and spent six years living as a forest meditation monk in Thailand and Sri Lanka. He stepped out of the robes with his teacher's blessings and now shares joyful teachings in happiness "Joyshops," youth programs, corporate trainings and spiritual retreats around the world. He has been invited to share his insights and has taught these principles in schools, leadership summits, international conferences, forums such as TEDx and in prisons. His aim is facilitating a shift from "seeking happiness" to "spreading happiness" through simple, accessible, practical teachings. To learn more, go to: http://www.lovingsilence.org and http://www.nithyashanti.com