Anyone can become a great leader [financeME]
(financeME Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) As I speak to Deepak Chopra, physician, entrepreneur, chairman of the Chopra Foundation, consultant to businesses and governments around the world, new age guru, philosopher, thought leader, researcher-I could literally spend the next four pages listing off his CV so I'll spare you-I have to be honest, I expected him to sound tired. With his innumerable ventures these days, I can't seem to figure out how he still has time for sleep.
To my astonishment, it was quite on the contrary-at age 65, Deepak sounds energised, with no signs of slowing down.
He is, indisputably, one of the most influential thought leaders of the last 25 years. His reach is vast-he has published more than 70 books, 22 of which have reached the bestseller lists. One book, published in 2010, was entitled The Soul of Leadership- featuring thought-provoking ideas and implementable practices that can aid anyone to become a better leader.
This September, on the 18th of the month in Abu Dhabi, Deepak will be speaking to some of the region's top CEOs and decision makers on just that-how to become a better leader. I was fortunate to be able to speak with Deepak ahead of this anticipated event, and we had the chance to discuss how leadership can be improved, the success of the GCC and the accessible universality of his concepts.
fME: What do you think is lacking in many business leaders today?
I think a lot of business leaders are motivated by power, ambition and recognition, all of which are components of leadership but when they dominate they actually take away from leadership.
fME: We often think of great leaders as being a rare breed. The qualities that make a great leader can only be found in a select few. But you've written that anyone has the potential to become an inspired leader. What are some of the key tenants that would aid someone on that path?
I think one of the most important things is to listen. Listen, as a good observer. Listen, emotionally. Listen with an analytic mind, and ultimately listen to your own self in silence. The more you listen, the more you intuitively grasp how people are feeling, what they need, and what are the best ways to fulfill those needs. So, when I teach leadership, I teach listening skills, listening with the body, listening with the heart, listening with the mind, listening with the soul if you will, and then ask meaningful questions. What am I observing? What am I feeling? What's the need? How do I fulfill the need?
I take people through their hierarchy of needs, extended. Abraham Maslow identified five levels of need. I have expanded that to seven. Safety and security, achievement and success, cooperation and teambuilding, nurturing, belonging, creativity, innovation, higher consciousness, intuition, imagination, moral values, and finally spiritual fulfillment, which is the last. That final one is becoming more recognised as a need that even mainstream people are beginning to pay heed to. So that's the process really.
But I do other thing as well, you know. What creates charismatic leaders? Why are they charismatic? Is charisma something you are born with, or is it something you can cultivate? Is it important?
fME: So do you think charisma can be cultivated?
Yes, I mean if you study people who are charismatic, they have three very dominant qualities. One is their presence-they are not distracted. They are not checking their iPhone when you talk to them. Two they are warm, friendly. Three is authentic self-esteem. They are not dependent on your good or bad opinion, all of them, which of course is a big handicap for political leaders because they are constantly looking at opinion polls.
fME: But do you think you can reach that same level if it wasn't innate? I mean, do you think charisma was innate in the great leaders of history or do you think they learned it?
It was innate in them, but you can learn it. I've seen people learn it once you know the ingredients. That's how you learn things-you role model from people that are good at that. But that doesn't mean you are a good leader- you can be a charismatic leader and be a terrorist. Charisma is only one component, and must be put to good use.
fME: Moving on to capitalism, a lot of people would say capitalism is Darwinian-that it has a survival of the fittest aspect, and that's a big part of business as a whole. But you've said recently that mankind is moving towards survival of the wisest. How do you think capitalism fits in with that?
Actually, I'm involved in creating a new index called Just Capital 100. We are hoping it will replace Dow Jones and S&P as the main index. There are a lot of very important people involved in it. We are also working with [Virgin Group founder] Richard Branson in something called the B Team-where we want to change this idea of Darwinian "survival of the fittest" capitalism, and create a form of capitalism that's-different.
By the way I also teach this at Columbia Business School in a course called "Just Capitalism and Cause- Driven Marketing." It's based on the question, "what's the most effective story you can tell as a provider of products or services?" Anthropologists will tell you that, given a choice between two products or services that are effectively the same in cost, the one that tells the better story will be the brand that is chosen. So what I teach is a whole system of rebranding your company or product or your service on a story that is authentic, that appeals emotionally to people, and that is cause-driven-no matter what.
There are women in Guatemala for example that weave baskets for beverage bottles. Now, the producer of the drink bottles-you know- that's an export, that's what they sell, Guatemala is a provider of beverages for a lot of Latin America and also to Europe-we convinced the beverage manufacturer to work with these women who make these amazing colourful baskets, and he doubled his price, but the money now goes to support communities of children, to send them to school and support the women in their arts and crafts. So you can link any good product to a cause, and that helps the things that people care about today. You know, social justice, economic well- being, less disparity between the rich and the poor, sustainability, conflict resolution-these are the things that at least the younger generation cares a lot about.
So when I do this course at Columbia, it's a class of 50 people, and at the end of the class we divide them into teams of five each, so we have 10 teams, and so then we bring in venture capitalists on the last day, and each team is allowed to present a new concept, a new idea, a new product, a new service that in some way will improve the quality of life on planet earth. And you'll be surprised, our venture capitalists are totally amazed at the creativity of these young students, and we've actually had some young people funded through these venture capitalists at the end of a class while they're in school!
fME: To what extent do you think the performance of employees rests on the leader of a company?
I think if a leader focuses on the well- being of the employee, which means career well-being, social well-being, physical well-being, community well- being and financial well-being, you will see a dramatic improvement in performance. In fact, there is data now to prove that-actually when I come to Abu Dhabi I will be sharing some of that data and how it applies to the UAE.
fME: How compatible do you think your philosophy is with those that wouldn't call themselves "spiritual"- because a lot of your leadership advice is based on your other philosophies which have a different focus from leadership in business?
I take care to define spiritual as "self aware"-the more aware you are of your behaviour, the more you see the world in a more contextual, relational, holistic manner. I'm not talking about spirituality as it pertains to religion- although some of those platonic values do come in. Truth, goodness, beauty, harmony-harmonising the masculine and feminine in all of us-nourishment and creativity and intuition, they do come in, but mostly as I teach leadership, whether it's in business schools or business settings, we focus on self awareness, and awareness of the other as it pertains to the self. And people very naturally see how relevant it is to their careers. Normally, people separate their personal lives, their professional lives, their family lives, business lives, in separate buckets. But you bring your whole person to work every day, and you spend one third of your life working. So you might as well make that something that's fulfilling to you on more levels than one.
fME: Do you think words like spiritual and soul, and new age words otherwise- they are signifiers with huge baggage. Do you think that's ever a hindrance in people getting the message?
It has been, but these days not so much. As long as I clarify what I mean by soul-I do that. I talk about core consciousness, and your deeper levels of intuition and creativity, and insight and imagination, and also a sense for the mystery of our existence. The fact is that we actually don't really know why we exist. It's a very humbling thing to know the mystery of the universe. I bring in a lot of science to reveal the fundamental fact that the more science unveils what is out there as existence, the more mysterious it gets. You feel a sense of humility and reverence without calling it religion or spirituality.
That is a big advantage as a leader. How many leaders do you see that have that? Other than a few people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Abe Lincoln-very few leaders even historically had that.
fME: So you're famed for your ability to blend the philosophies of East and West. Some would say the same thing about the UAE and the GCC. In its philosophies, it takes a lot from east in tradition as well as western modernity-what would you attribute to the business success in this part of the world?
I was looking at the data on well- being in the UAE, and it's ahead of the United States! This is very interesting to me. This is very reliable data-I'm on the scientific advisory board for Gallup, and this is very reliable, it's updated, and I think the advantage the UAE has is-first of all-it's a hub, in a sense. It's right-because it's the "Middle East"-it's neither East nor West. It's a flight away from almost every major metropolis, but I think the richness of the UAE is the multi-ethnic mix, the multi-cultural mix, which is also the richness of the United States to a great degree. Although in the United States, there's a lot of fear now of immigration, there's a lot of fear about the fact that we're gradually becoming a multicultural society in the United States so there's a lot of polarisation that's entered politics right now, and I think we'll get over it. But the UAE has a lot of advantages that way, with all the number of expatriates, the ease at which you can come in and out-it's not an overly-policed place. And yet, there are ethical values that drive the culture because of tradition.
fME: So what are you looking forward to about coming to the UAE?
I always look to learn wherever I go, but I'm looking forward to a longer term relationship. I want to tell a new story to the world. The Middle East is very interesting in that it's the birthplace of great religious traditions, but it's also the cauldron of conflict. Not the UAE, but neighboring countries. Yet, the Middle East has the potential to lead the world. I'm looking forward to a long-term relationship with the leaders in that part of the world.
fME: You're involved in so many businesses-are you still on the board of the Men's Warehouse?
Yes, I'm still on the board of the Men's Warehouse.
fME: You're also involved in Gallup, and so many other different things. How did a physician get involved in running business and learning to run businesses?
It's actually very interesting. I started with physical well-being, and that extended to mind and body well-being, and that became well-being of relationships, then that extended to well-being of communities, and now businesses, and now even countries! I consult with countries that want to rebrand themselves so that they no longer carry the baggage of their history. History is very interesting in that it can give you insights in what to do and what not to do, but it can also be big baggage. In the end, it's all about well-being. I have a foundation where we have an annual conference-if you go to the Chopra Foundation you will see we just had a conference called Sages and Scientists, we also have an education programme called Food for Education in India that sends a million and a half children to school every day. We have a new programme in New York City called the Urban Yogis for cutting down crime, but if you put everything together, it will still come under one phrase-well-being.
DEEPAK CHOPRA is the author of more than seventy books translated into over eighty languages, including 21 New York Times bestsellers in both the fiction and nonfiction categories. Deepak is the Founder of The Chopra Foundation, Adjunct Professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Senior Scientist with The Gallup Organization. Time Magazine heralds Deepak Chopra as one of the "top 100 heroes and icons of the century and credits him as 'the poet-prophet of alternative medicine".
I think if a leader focuses on the well-being of the employee, which means career well- being, social well- being, physical well- being, community well-being and financial well- being, you will see a dramatic improvement in performance ?
I was looking at the data on well-being in the UAE, and it's ahead of the United States! This is very interesting to me?
History is very interesting in that it can give you insights in what to do and what not to do, but it can also be big baggage ?
The Middle East has the potential to lead the world. I'm looking forward to a long-term relationship with the leaders in that part of the world?
Normally, people separate their personal lives, their professional lives, their family lives, business lives, in separate buckets. But you bring your whole person to work every day, and you spend one third of your life working. So you might as well make that something that's fulfilling to you in more levels than one?
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