Why ZEN & Leadership

spiritual meditation

Why I use the principles ‘Zen’ for Leadership

There is an abundance of books, courses, and columns like this that purport to share the secrets of success and leadership. Why if the concept of “leadership” has been so closely analyzed, scrutinized, and talked about, so why are good leaders so rare? I believe the answer can often be found in our ability to look inwards and in our ability to express our deeper truth. Today the world is looking for real, genuine and authentic leadership especially after President Trump.

Zen & The Art Of Leadership may sound like a cliché, but I believe it’s the key to success. Too often, CEOs and other leaders try to project power outwards, forcing change and imposing their will on those they lead. You can see examples of forceful, stubborn leadership all over the news these days, with start-up CEO’s and corporate leaders alike acting rashly and with wide-reaching negative impacts. The successful leaders, however, are likely the ones you don’t hear about.

I believe that successful leaders are the ones who can focus their attention inwards and find a sense of calm and peace that draws others to them. I’ve learned this the hard way, of course. I was 27 when I started my speaking career. To say that I was a bit headstrong would, of course, be an understatement. Fortunately, over the years, I’ve found my way and have emerged a much better person, speaker and leader. Here are the three key principles I’ve learned that have helped me to practice the art of Zen leadership.

Be Humble

No one likes dealing with egomaniacs. There are few things as off-putting as people who view themselves as being better than others or above the rules. I should know, I’ve been guilty of this myself. In my early twenties, I had a fair bit of success in my career and was pretty proud of myself, some would even say arrogant.

Fortunately, my best friend took me aside and encouraged me to remain humble. He told me, “stay humble so that the people around you want to help you up, not knock you of your pedestal.” But I did not listen and paid a terrible price in relationships.

Those words have stuck with me and continue to ring true. Embracing humility on a daily basis helps ensure that people are inclined to build you up when you fail, not revel in your misfortune.

Become Self-Aware

The most important aspect of ZEN leadership is self-awareness. When people fail to recognize and be open about the things that cause stress, anxiety, and negativity in their lives, problems arise.

In fact, I believe that the majority of conflicts inside of organizations arise from a lack of self-awareness. Leaders have to learn to accept the possibility that they’re just plain wrong sometimes.

Self-awareness is a journey and something that requires a conscious effort each and every day. The lessons that teach it are subtle and easily missed, but extremely powerful. It’s not an easy thing to learn, but I cherish the experiences that have brought me to where I am today. It’s the precursor to self-improvement, and should be something that every leader, regardless of age or experience, should strive to achieve.

Be Empathetic

Finally, always treat people the way you want to be treated. I know, it sounds simplistic and trite, but you can never go wrong with the Golden Rule. I believe there is a tremendous empathy deficit in our modern society, and its impact is far-reaching.

Embracing empathy in thought, word, and deed doesn’t mean that you have to be a bleeding heart in business. However, it does mean that you never display the sociopathic behaviors that are both damaging and off-putting. Lack of empathy is the underlying driver of greed, dishonesty, and aggression. Empathy is central to building healthy relationships with team members, clients, and partners. I believe that you rarely go wrong when you put others first. The payoff might not be immediate, but it is worthwhile.

Self-awareness, humility, and empathy are things that are in short supply these days, and that is truly tragic. Leadership is not something that is projected outward. Rather, it starts internally and draws people close.

Always Show Up Geoffrey

Geoffrey has coached CEO’s, leaders, architects, engineers, public speakers and entrepreneurs: Here is a small collection of success stories from the different areas of Geoffrey’s background as a coach. Geoffrey has over 25 years coaching experience. He has led teams for 2010 Winter Olympic Bid, CN Financial Division, Shaw, Rocky Mountaineer, Sandwell Engineering, FKP Architects, Telus and Stantec. Geoffrey taught at the Sauder School of Business, Executive Education, at the University of British Columbia.

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