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Leadership and Well-Being
Old Maxim I am my body.
New Maxim I am a complex, holistic being.
Resolve: I will think about my well-being in terms of the interconnected layers of my being. I will honor my dimensions by giving each balanced attention.
Holistic well-being allows me to establish a framework for developing personal qualities inherent in great leaders who are happy, healthy, and able to connect with and inspire their teams.
Being a leader brings with it a responsibility to do something of significance that makes families, communities, work organizations, nations, the environment, and the world better places than they are today.
— A Leader's Legacy, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
Definition of a Leader
A leader by conventional definition is a person of influence who guides others toward the attainment of objectives. There are two types of people we refer to as leaders. First are those who lead by example. We choose to follow this type of leader not because we have been recruited or paid but because they are great at what they do, and on some level, they make us feel safe, secure, and supported. At a fundamental level, we want to feel safe, secure, and supported in all areas of our lives, and certainly at work.
In contrast, the other kind of person we have come to call a leader is someone who has been given a leadership role but does not lead by example. They are neither role models nor mentors. We do what these people say simply because someone pays us to do so. These are not true leaders; they are merely people in positions of power. But because our society has empowered so many of these kinds of leaders, we look primarily to them as examples of what it means to lead. As a result, the very idea of the word leader has been distorted. We don't simply need more leaders; we need great leaders who are awake, aware, and inspiring. We need leaders who have control of their mind and senses and can see life at a deeper level. Consider this definition.
A great leader is one who inspires the highest level of work that teams can reasonably aspire to for the satisfaction of the organizations mission. To inspire others, this great leader must do his or her personal best to serve as a positive example by taking care of his or her physical health, controlling his or her mind and senses, cultivating mental strength and resilience, and operating with principle and purpose. At work this great leader must foster a healthy and supportive work environment, build strong connections with the team, and take responsibility for all stakeholders in the ecosystem in which the organization operates. To inspire the highest level of work, with humility this great leader must orient all actions toward the highest good and consider all possibilities by expanding his or her usual ways of thinking.
Great leaders lead from a place of principle and holistic well-being; they know themselves and have figured out, consciously or unconsciously, how to take care of themselves holistically.
Some of the challenges and misconceptions that prevent great leaders from emerging involve the following:
1. A distorted definition of a leader reinforced by unprincipled behaviors we witness by others in highly visible leadership roles.
2. Organizational cultures and leaders that place a sense of urgency on all work products and tasks, including those that are not urgent.
3. A model of healthcare that focuses fundamentally on the physical body, limiting us from learning about and understanding ourselves holistically.
4. A lack of education concerning how measures of holistic self-care, including the control of our mind and senses, directly benefit our ability to lead and function optimally.
5. Organizational cultures and leaders apathetic toward the well-being of their teams.
6. A lack of motivation to place self-care on our priority list when there are countless other seemingly more important things to do.
7. A lack of compelling reasons and ideas around what we can do to fit well-being into our busy schedules every day.
8. A disconnection from our internal selves, i.e. our feelings, emotions, sense of self, sense of being centered and balanced often resulting in a degradation of meaning and purpose in our work and our lives.
9. A lack of self-awareness that would allow us to begin to see how our actions and words affect other people and how this helps or hinders our ability to engage and inspire others.
10. An unmet need at the workplace to feel safe, secure, and supported exacerbated by technological advancement and a subsequent movement away from human interaction, ultimately leading to disconnection and disengagement.
These challenges can be remedied through education, some simple action items to get you started, and the belief that you are worth the time and effort. As leaders, the onus to better ourselves — so that we can be healthier, happier, and fully engage our teams — must be borne first by us. You have an opportunity to serve as catalysts for positive change through your own efforts of self-care and holistic well-being. Organizations have the responsibility to adopt cultures that advocate for the well-being of their teams through education and encouragement.
From Good to Great
The Perfect Leader
Of course there is no such thing as perfect, since the idea of perfection itself is an illusion. But for a moment let us imagine that we can select the most optimal qualities for every leader, for every role, at every organization. That would be the perfect leader, right? Then how do we maintain those qualities? When we buy a car, we know we need to send it to the mechanic from time to time so that it functions for us as reliably as possible. We also know professional athletes must spend a lot of time maintaining their physical condition in a way that supports their sport. In the same way, if we want our perfect leaders to maintain these perfect qualities — or perhaps our imperfect leaders to learn to adopt these perfect qualities — then they too require ongoing maintenance.
Humans need, on average, eight hours of sleep per night to maintain health, which leaves sixteen awake-hours per day. Let us assume that most people working full-time spend eight hours at work. Add an average of an hour for lunch and another for the commute to and from work, and the average person dedicates ten hours per day, five days per week to their organization. With these numbers, 62 percent of our time is devoted to work, five days a week. Leaders typically work a longer day, devoting closer to 75 percent of their daily awake-hours to their employers and often time on weekends as well. Does the organization bear a responsibility for the well-being, the maintenance, of the leadership and the team that devotes 62 percent to 75 percent of their non-sleep time, five days per week, to work?
Imagine how much better the organization could perform if we optimized the holistic well-being of the leaders and the team. Like many things, however, this approach toward well-being must first begin with you as a leader. You maintain your holistic well-being, not only for yourself but also for others.
Holistic Well-Being and Leadership Success
This program is based on three fundamental truths:
1. The holistic well-being of a leader is part and parcel to his or her ability to be mentally strong, resilient, productive, motivating, and inspiring.
2. When a leader is well — and consequently mentally strong, resilient, productive, motivating, and inspiring — all of his or her dimensions are in good shape: physical, energy, mind, knowledge, and bliss.
3. When a leader's dimensions are in good shape, s/he positively influences the well-being of her or his team, consequently accelerating team engagement and organizational growth.
We all function better when we are healthy and well. You've seen it in your team and you've seen it in yourself, even if you haven't connected the two. Addressing our own holistic well-being is one of the most important things we can do to function as great leaders. When we commit to becoming aware of and caring for our needs each day, we adopt new habits, and we naturally become more interested in the well-being of our teams. By serving as examples through our own measures of self-care and efforts to connect with meaning and purpose in our work, we can then provide the necessary education and opportunities for employees to do the same. In time, it becomes a natural part of the culture to expect employees to maintain their well-being as part and parcel to their employment. When you connect deeply with yourself you can better connect with meaning and purpose in your own work. It then becomes possible and more natural to create a sense of purpose, a shared purpose amongst the team by breaking down silos and bringing people together. When this happens, the enterprise thrives.
When we are happy, healthy, and engaged in our work, we are more likely to have the following qualities:
Optimistic Have a more positive outlook.
Mentally Strong & Are better able to handle stressors and overcome objections Resilient and setbacks with grace and control.
Courageous Are more willing to advocate for your initiatives, to try new things, and to be more creative and inventive.
Productive Are more energetic, decisive, and work more efficiently.
Motivated Are happier and more likable and accordingly more excited about work.
Intelligent Use of Are more emotionally intelligent and able to use our Emotions emotions to our advantage by controlling our reactions and managing our responses. Are likewise able to read others and optimally leverage team skills.
Connected Are able to connect with and engage our teams better and are more patient, empathetic, and trusting.
Discerning Are more humble and truthful, therefore able to see things clearly, to assess situations, to discern fact from fiction, and to practice sound judgment.
Inspiring Are able to become leaders that others wish to emulate,
Is it audacious to put a priority on your health and well-being? Absolutely not, it is essential to your success as a leader.
Holistic Well-Being and The Pancha Maya Kosha
Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
— World Health Organization
The three-pillared definition above, created by the World Health Organization in 1946, is said to be the most accepted version of what constitutes health around the globe. To be healthy, our physical bodies are well, our minds are well, and we have healthy connections with others. The definition of health is holistic but we don't think of health this way. The word commonly used to describe what the definition of health above is well-being. The phrase holistic well-being is often used in this text to bring attention to the fact that the health of a human being is holistic and comprehensive. Holistic well-being in this text includes physical, energetic, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health as well as connectedness with the world around us. Holistic well-being can also be thought of broadly as how nourished we are, which also considers our emotional well-being and an evaluation of our lives.
The holistic model used (referenced earlier) is the Pancha Maya Kosha model. As with any writings that originated in ancient times and in ancient languages, there are various academic views on the exact meaning of the words and the definition of this model. I offer one interpretation that is accessible, relevant, and specific to the lives and needs of leaders, often working in office environments. My interpretation is merely one of many possible ways that the model can be applied to modern life.
In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, pancha means five, and kosha is often interpreted as sheath, referring to the layers or dimensions that cover atman or our core essence. According to this model, our core essence is what some might call: pure light, the soul, divinity, consciousness, or the pure self within. Maya has several meanings; it can mean, "that which spreads," implying that the dimensions are interconnected and impact one another, or it can mean illusion. Our dimensions are beautifully manifested in our complex lives; however, they are illusive (maya) in that we are not any single one of these dimensions.
In this ancient, holistic model, we progress through and have a relationship with our layers as we evolve and change. Each layer represents an interconnected, multidimensional part of our being that, like facets on a gemstone, together create the unique and brilliant qualities we share with the world around us. The dimensions (layers) are integrated; work on one affects the others. It is important to understand that the gateway to our life of well-being and balance can begin with any of the layers. Take care and note that there is not an order you must follow. And there is not any basis in this model for perfection, for waiting until one dimension is perfect before moving onto the next. That would be missing the point of this holistic framework. As life brings change and challenge, disharmony may present in one or many of our dimensions.
From a therapeutic perspective, a holistic model believes that disease itself happens when there is imbalance, and all dimensions must be considered to create harmony and balance. For example, in the forward to The Healing Path of Yoga, world-renowned preventative medicine doctor Dean Ornish, MD, explains what he has demonstrated in his cardiovascular studies of over twenty years: that a comprehensive lifestyle program involving diet, moderate exercise, no smoking, stress management techniques (he cites yoga and meditation), and psychosocial support can alone reverse the progression of severe coronary disease. These changes are in lieu of expensive surgeries, procedures, and a lifetime of drugs. We need to tend to all of our dimensions to care for our holistic well-being.
A Note on Genetic Determinism
Although yoga and the Pancha Maya Kosha model are from an era prior to modern science, modern science has begun to validate the efficacy of many yogic exercises and tools, such as the effect of meditation and self-awareness practices on emotional control. It is also easy to find parallels between the yoga philosophy and psychology discussed in this book and the work being done today in the fields of Western psychology, positive psychology, and happiness research. The approach offered here is integrated and multidisciplinary as must be the case for a holistic model for well-being.
It is also now understood that the condition of our health cannot be blamed exclusively on our genes. It is true that we inherit certain DNA from our parents that they inherited from their parents but, in many cases, it is not exclusively this pre-programming, or nature, that makes things happen to us when they do. It is also the influence of our environment, our nurture both in utero and out. Our genes need something to make them express. That something is the topic of great research and debate. In the field of epigenetics it is generally understood to be environmental factors.
With regard to the widespread conditions including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, and even our propensity to succumb to anxiety and stress, it is false to think that only our genes are to blame. In his national bestselling book, The Blood Sugar Solution, Mark Hyman, MD writes that to have change to the degree we have seen in the diabetes epidemic in particular is a genetic impossibility. Hyman adds that our inherited genes change only a tiny bit every twenty thousand years. The environmental conditions we have imposed on our bodies have changed a great deal and consequently have influenced the way our genes are expressed. Our lack of movement, processed and non-plant based diet, altered and tinkered with food supply, stress-causing life choices, and increased exposure to a wide myriad of environmental toxins and chemicals are what have changed. This new concoction is what tricks our genes to express in problematic ways. Often we like to fall back on our genes, thinking we're doomed anyway, and therefore make poor decisions for our health and well-being. But that is an easy scapegoat. In Bruce Lipton's Biology of Belief, a fascinating book on cellular biology, he explains how cells function and includes the empirical proof that cell membranes are affected by certain environmental conditions. When these conditions are present genes are triggered to express.
Excerpted from "The Yoga of Leadership"
Copyright © 2017 Tarra Mitchell.
Excerpted by permission of TarraYoga LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Section 1 Holistic Well-Being and Leadership 1
Chapter 1 Leadership and Well-Being 3
Definition of a Leader 3
From Good to Great 5
Holistic Well-Being and The Pancha Maya Kosha 7
Why Well-Being at Work Matters 14
State of the Union of Our Health and Well-Being 17
The Office Effect 23
Concluding Statement 25
Chapter 2 Yoga: The Science of Consciousness 26
The Practice 26
The History 30
The Methodology and Philosophy 32
Philosophy: Manifesting Happiness and Connection 38
Yoga: Natural Order and Psychology 41
Concluding Statement 52
Section 2 Seven Yogi Secrets for Leadership Success 53
Chapter 3 Yogi Secret #1: Aligned Intention 55
Inspired Lives 55
Setting Your Intention 56
Philosophy: Manifesting Your Intention 58
Concluding Statement 68
Chapter 4 Yogi Secret #2: Physical 70
Our Too-Full Lives 71
Nutrition - Keeping it Real 81
Being Your Best - Sleep First, Think Later 101
Personal Pride 104
Create a Foundation for Healthy Habits 105
Concluding Statement 106
Chapter 5 Yogi Secret #3: Energy 107
Our Layer of Vitality 108
The Energetic Web 110
Breath Regulation 119
Philosophy: Manifesting Vitality 132
Cultivating Courage and Strength 136
Concluding Statement 141
Chapter 6 Yogi Secret #4: Mind 142
Inner Awareness 143
Emotional Intelligence 152
The Mind Made Me: Cultivating Clear Seeing and Vision 165
Decided Positivity 173
In Pursuit of Equanimity 184
Cultivating Openness and Objectivity 187
Philosophy: Manifesting More from Less 191
Concluding Statement 195
Chapter 7 Yogi Secret #5: Knowledge 196
Harnessing Our Human Potential 197
Cultivating a Strong Sense of Self 208
Good Listening and Building Trust 212
Philosophy: Manifesting Authenticity and Abundance 229
Concluding Statement 236
Chapter 8 Yogi Secret #6: Bliss 238
How to Be Free 239
Purposeful Living and Purposeful Leadership 243
Philosophy: Manifesting a Peaceful Life 248
Bliss Surplus 253
Concluding Statement 260
Chapter 9 Yogi Secret #7: From Vision to Action 262
Where to Begin 263
Create Your Holistic Well-being Action Plan 268
Concluding Statement 273
Chapter 10 Leaving a Legacy 274
A New Leadership Paradigm 274
About the Author 277