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Chopra: THE SOUL OF LEADERSHIP
L = Look and Listen
Great leaders have a vision, and the ability to manifest it. Defining your own vision begins with looking and listening. You look and listen to the situation around you, but you also look and listen inside. Four steps are involved:
Impartial observation—Look and listen with your senses.
Analysis—Look and listen with your mind.
Feeling—Look and listen with your heart.
Incubation—Look and listen with your soul.
Once you have gone through these four steps, your personal vision can begin to express itself.
The best qualities you can have when starting your career are passion, core values, and dedication to a purpose. These are the elements from which a vision is forged. When you talk to the most inspiring leaders, the kind I call successful visionaries, it turns out that they all began with passion and a view of the big picture. They brought dedication to a deeply felt purpose. They held core values that they were not willing to surrender. In order to find greatness in yourself, these elements should be your primary focus.
Over the years, researchers have tried to find external reasons for the rise of successful leaders. Based on this research, it might seem that being born into wealth, going to the best schools, associating with other successful people, and scoring high on IQ tests would more or less guaran- tee that a person would turn into a leader. But as we all know, you can start with nothing and still emerge as a great leader, whereas you can start off in life with any number of advantages and achieve little or nothing of value. External advantages give anyone a head start, but they are not a guarantee of success.
So what if we reverse this approach and look instead at things that we all possess? Everyone knows how to look and listen—these are the basic tools of perception. But in a leader they grow into something more. A leader is responsible for having a vision, which must be clear enough to guide others and inspire them. Having articulated her vision, a leader must be able to manifest it. The greatest ideas are nothing more than daydreams until they are pushed to become reality. If you want to be a successful visionary, here is where the journey begins, with two crucial questions: What is my vision? How can I make it happen?
No vision is created in a vacuum. It emerges from the situation at hand. That situation can be a crisis or a routine project, a management problem or a financial emergency, anything that requires a leader to offer guidance, to assess the situation by looking and listening at the deepest level possible. This pertains to parents and sports coaches, mentors and counselors, managers and CEOs. Anytime you are called upon to guide, teach, command, motivate, inspire, or plan, opportunity is knocking.
Imagine three people seated on a couch in an outer office, all dressed in their best business attire. The office itself belongs to a venture capitalist who has agreed to give each of them a half hour to present a proposal for a start-up company. Success or failure depends upon this meeting. Who among the three will emerge as a leader, the one with the best chance of persuading the venture capitalist?
The first person feels so nervous his palms are sweaty. He tries to make casual conversation but realizes that he’s babbling, so he falls silent. He closes his eyes, reviewing one last time the speech he is going to make. He got very little sleep the night before, having spent hours going over every word of his presentation. He keeps thinking one thing: Now or never. It’s do or die.
The second person looks much calmer. He’s quite confident, in fact. He believes in his idea; he’s certain his new business will succeed once he finds a backer. Tall and clear-eyed, he’s used to being looked up to. In the back of his mind, he wonders if he can talk the venture capital- ist into going out for a round of golf or a pickup basket- ball game. One-on-one has always been his best mode of persuasion.
The third person is scanning the room with open curiosity. She notices the rich Oriental rug and fresh flowers on the reception desk, but she’s more interested in the employees going in and out of the venture capitalist’s inner office. They’re dressed in jeans and skirts, not suits. They look focused and intent but not stressed. Checking inside herself, the third person feels much the same way. Whatever happens, she’s open to the outcome. Once she sets eyes on the venture capitalist, she’ll know what kind of personality she’s dealing with and respond accordingly.
Of these three people, the first one isn’t looking and listening to much beyond his own feelings, which are tense and closed off. The second man is more comfortable and is beginning to see from the heart. He assesses people and situations by how they feel. The third person goes a step further, however. She is entirely open to her surroundings, looking and listening intently. From the clues she picks up, she begins to build a scenario. She can envision herself in the scenario, and as it unfolds, she will adapt. If it turns out that she doesn’t fit in, she won’t make the mistake of taking the venture capitalist’s money; if the compatibility isn’t there, she’ll move on and find it elsewhere.
In this imaginary scenario we can see that the leader with the greatest potential in this moment is the one who can look and listen from the deepest level. Leadership requires a sound basis inside yourself. When you can arrive at the point where looking and listening comes from your entire being, you are setting the stage to be an inspiring leader.
Four levels of perception
To be truly insightful, looking and listening must occur on four different levels. Seeing with our eyes is only the beginning. When we look and listen fully, we involve the body, the mind, the heart, and the soul.
Body: The stage of observing and information gathering
Mind: The stage of analysis and judgment
Heart: The stage of feeling
Soul: The stage of incubation
Once you are satisfied that you have gone through all these stages, your vision in any given moment will emerge as the true expression of who you are, and it will be founded on deep understanding.
Observation: Begin by being as open and impartial as possible. See as much as you can, and listen to whoever has something to say. In a sense you function like a video camera. Allow sights and sounds to come in freely and objectively.
Analysis: At the same time, your mind is also taking in the situation. It begins to weigh and analyze. Allow any and every idea to come to mind. Watch what arises, and notice wisps of answers, new interpretations, and novel combinations. Once again, steer clear of judgments and preconceptions. Be unbiased and clear-headed.
Feeling: At the level of your heart, notice what feels right. Feeling is subtler and truer than pure analysis. This is the level where sudden insight can strike you. You are bringing intuition into the picture, allowing for the “aha” moment that accompanies quantum leaps of creativity.
Incubation: Now let go and wait. When a vision is incubating, it goes into a deep, invisible place. A profound and infinite intelligence nurses your vision, adapting it to your needs and the needs of everyone around you. You have gained access to something greater than yourself, whether you call it the higher self, pure awareness, or your connection with God. If none of these terms work for you, you might want to think of the soul as “who I really am.”
A leader, therefore, emerges from within himself. He matches his inner perception with the outer situation. A twenty-four-year-old Indian arriving in South Africa in 1893 saw that he would be beaten if he refused to ride on the running board of a stagecoach to make room for white European passengers. If he insisted on riding in the first-class compartment of a train because he had a first-class ticket, he would be told that his place was in third class, no matter what his ticket said. Yet if that twenty-four-year-old happened to be Mohandas Gandhi, he could evaluate his situation using all four levels of perception. With his eyes he looked around and perceived discrimination. With his heart he felt that the situation was intolerable. With his mind he analyzed that a new tactic—civil disobedience—could change things. With his being he committed himself to a vision of freedom, whatever the price.
Current leadership training, almost anywhere you look for it, uses the word vision freely, but most often its basis is intellectual. Potential leaders are taught to use their minds to analyze various hypothetical scenarios. By leaving out feeling, intuition, insight, and the profound wisdom of the soul, this training falls short of its potential. No one can deny the simple truth that the greatest leaders are also great souls. Faced with apartheid in South Africa, slavery before the Civil War, or colonial domination in India, their eyes saw the same thing that everyone else saw. Their minds had the same thoughts as countless others around them. In their hearts they felt the same injustice. But Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and Mahatma Gandhi each went deeper and asked, from the core of his being, how to elicit a new response, how to turn a new vision into reality. Finding your true purpose
Being in touch with the soul is the secret of great leaders hip. We are all capable of following the path that unites body, mind, heart, and soul. By making a soul connection, your true purpose in life will become the foundation of everything you do. Leaders exist to give of themselves, and you can give only from what you have. The soul—that is, the core of your true self—is the place where you will locate insight, creativity, imagination, and profound intelligence. When you know what is happening at your very core, what you have to give becomes limitless.
In this chapter you will be formulating your life purpose in a single sentence, and once you are sure that this statement expresses your mission deeply and truly, you will refine it further to a single word. The mission statement of Martin Luther King, Jr., could have been “I am here to end racial discrimination and social injustice.” Refined to a single word, it might be “freedom.” The mission statement of Charles Darwin could have been “I am here to observe how life changes and adapts to the environment.” Refined to a single word, it might be “evolution.”
Your mission statement will fuse two components that we will develop in this chapter: a Soul Profile that reflects your values, and a Personal Vision that reflects your deepest intentions.
Your Soul Profile
Using just a few words or phrases, answer the following questions. Be candid, and don’t dwell too long on the questions before you answer them. Let your first responses guide you.
1. What’s my contribution in life?
2. What’s the purpose in what I do?
3. How do I feel when I have a peak experience?
4. Who are my heroes and heroines (from history, mythology, fiction, religion)?
5. What are the qualities that I look for in a best friend?
6. What are my unique skills and talents?
7. What are the best qualities I express in a personal relationship?
Now, using the key words you’ve developed in your answers above, write a brief profile of your soul as if you were describing another person. For example: “Deepak’s purpose is to grow personally and to bring out inner potential and hidden possibilities. He contributes by being loving and supportive. When he has a peak experience, he feels great inner peace and unity with everything around him. His heroes are Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus, Mother Divine, and Krishna. In a best friend he looks for understanding and stimulation. He feels that his unique skill is communication. He has a talent for getting others to look beyond their old conditioning and fixed boundaries. His best quality in personal relationships is to love, support, and appreciate the other person.”
Keeping your soul profile close at hand, now move on to the next step: defining your personal vision.
Your Personal Vision Again using just a few words or phrases, complete the following sentences. Let yourself go. Don’t worry about being logical, or about the feasibility of implementing these ideas. Just write whatever comes to you. And above all, be true to yourself.
1. I want to live in a world in which _____________.
2. I would be inspired to work in an organization that _____________________.
3. I would be proud to lead a team that ___________ . 4. A transformed world would be _______________.
To match your present work with your vision, answer the following:
• How does your work in the world reflect the vision you outlined above?
• What do you need (from your team or organization) to get closer to your ideals?
• What can you offer (to your team and organization) to move it closer to your ideals?
It may be that your present work is far from what your vision would want it to be. The first step toward bridging that gap is to define your vision as specifically as possible. Vague ideals remain passive; a focused purpose awakens the unseen powers of the soul. On the other hand, you may be well on your way to achieving your vision, or at least you may have made the first steps. There is no right place to be right now. The point here is to clarify what kind of world you envision and how you see yourself in it.
Your Mission Statement:
Now that you have written down your values and your vision, merge the two into a succinct statement of your overall mission in this lifetime. Your statement should describe what you want to accomplish as a leader from this point forward. Use the following template:
My mission behind everything I do is _____________.
• Keep it simple and concise.
• A child should be able to understand it.
• You should be able to state it even in your sleep.
Example: My own mission statement originally was “to reach critical mass and achieve a peaceful, just, sustainable, and healthy world.” This needed to be simplified, which led me to come up with a clearer mission: “To serve the world and all who live in it.”
Finally, see if you can crystallize your mission statement into one word. Mine is “serve.” Yours might be “grow,” “evolve,” “inspire,” “peace,” or anything else. The key is that when you hit upon the most succinct way of stating your purpose, you will be listening to your true self, which is the first requirement for anyone who aspires to lead from the soul.
As a leader, your vision exists to be shared with enthusiasm and inspiration. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek root en-theos or “in God,” reminding you that you must look in your soul. Inspiration comes from the same Latin root as to breathe and spirit. When you inspire others, you bring everyone into the spirit of your vision—you motivate them to breathe together in the same atmosphere.