Leading from Within

Soulful lessons from a book that talks about leadership beyond the profit motive or exploitation

In eight areas of your life you have the power to be guided by your soul, says Deepak Chopra in this slim but significant book: Thoughts, emotions, perception, personal relationships, social role, environment, speech and the body. The bottomline is that in all of them our behaviour affects the people we lead. If we evolve, so will they, he avers. And that's the basic premise on which Chopra builds his concept of leadership that is soul-driven rather than one that exploits people or their insecurities.

Given that the very term 'soul' is attributed more to religiosity than spirituality, it might put off readers not in a mood for religious sermons or some such. But Chopra clarifies what he means by this word within the first few pages. When I talk about the soul, I'm not referring to the soul as defined by any particular religion...I believe the soul is an expression of an underlying universal field of consciousness, he says.

Equating the soul with 'awareness', Chopra writes that at the soul level you are seamlessly connected with everything in the universe, to the silent domain from which all matter and energy spring.

In keeping with this explanation, the book often dips into the realm of spirituality or philosophy of the Paulo Coelho kind. At the same time, however, it does detail the principles of leading from the soul and provides useful tips to any leader willing to look beyond personal aggrandisement or material gains.

For one, Chopra hands the reader a sort of map by spelling out L-E-A-D-E-R-S, with each letter of the acronym unravelling what it means to lead from the soul (L = look and listen; E = emotional bonding; A = awareness; D = doing; E = empowerment; R = responsibility; and S = synchronicity). In further explaining how each element works, he gives examples from the lives of prominent leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Nelson Mandela.

A very important building block that Chopra uses and adapts in the book is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Recognising the two overriding themes in our lives as 'needs' and 'responses', he says, As a leader [of a group], if you are aware of the hierarchy of needs and their responses, you will be able to continue to respond effectively as the group's needs move up the scale from basic to increasingly spiritual. This is the most powerful thing a leader can do, he affirms.

At times, the book tends to get a bit heavy and repetitive. But thankfully, Chopra has peppered it with some interesting anecdotes and titbits. Going into the roots of words, he points out that the word 'inspiration' is derived from the same Latin root as 'to breathe' and 'spirit': When you inspire others, you motivate them to breathe together in the same atmosphere. Tales such as the one from his own childhood in Jabalpur in a newly-independent India, in which Nehru, passing by in his motorcade in front of his house, tossed his lapel rose towards his mother (who thus acquired a special status in the neighbourhood), make for interesting reading.

Then there are the inspiring stories of two entrepreneurs-leaders who created and nurtured two completely different but similarly 'soul-connected' organisations (Jeremy Moon of Icebreaker and Renata Black of Seven Bar Foundation).

The Soul of Leadership could be dismissed by some who cannot bring themselves to believe the ideas of universal connectedness and core human values, but it will be lapped up by the many who are hungering for something far beyond the clinically logical or transactional.

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