As a lifetime practitioner of yoga and meditation, I am elated that new management and leadership styles are being explored, that leaders want to bring the heart and spirit into business, that people want to expand their conscious awareness and have their actions align with their highest self on the job, too.
However, it seems that oftentimes behind the guise of movements and organizations, people are seeking to change the world before they change themselves. Take for example, Marc Gaffni.
They forget or conveniently neglect to address their own flaws and weaknesses, their demons so to speak, and instead mount a soapbox and preach consciousness.
Not to be too obvious, but inspired action oriented toward a particular value or purpose comes from within. That comes from true evolution and internal alignment.
Once people truly evolve, so will business, but we can’t meet the process halfway with branding around supposed shared values, and expect sustainable change.
Too many firms out there attempt to do just that. This is not to discredit those that make a real, concerted, internal effort. They represent the hope and the foreseeable future, and they do exist. Zappos is just one example.
Their efforts are paving the way for more companies and leaders to organically evolve through similar pathways.
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Change is always imminent. But we have to change ourselves first.
Truth Is Not Always a Flowery Thing
People want to bring their whole selves to work, but they don’t want to feel as though they’re being subtly coerced into dedicating immense amounts of time to productivity by a false sense of righteousness, i.e. Amazon.
Does every business really need a noble purpose for existence? How are we going to come up with one for employees of a company in one of the top industries right now: Drone Manufacturing?
Perhaps, sometimes, work can just be work. Perhaps, the people who want to work in that industry are just really fascinated by building things.
Or maybe it's what they studied and they need to make some money to pay the bills. Is that such a terrible thing?
Outside of paying the bills they could have a wonderfully purposeful life and do multiple other things; so what is it that we are so afraid of about the mundane?
True excellence can come from embracing the mundane. If we dig deeper, we can even find joy through the supposedly mundane aspects of performance.
This focuses more on the what than the how; we place our attention directly on what we are doing, with no filtered notion of how to do it.
After repeated practice, which takes embracing the mundane, we find joy and excellence as a product, but not because we were seeking it directly.
The idea of a crusade for meaning in all action calls to mind a thought of an old Zen proverb, "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water".
It's not the things that one does that necessarily change, it's their own way approaching those things. Whether people want to (sample purpose statement): "Bring joy to users of drones through effortless design and functionality" is a function of their level of consciousness.
Aside from their skill in doing so, it's a question of whether they are attuned to what they should do, in approaching their work with true presence and their best effort.
People are key; evolution is key; the environment you cultivate for your people (consistently, wholeheartedly and concertedly) is key.
Embedding shared values into your organization goes a long way, so that people can feel what the place is about, but the people you bring on and what you allow/make space for internally are going to make all the difference in that.
It's not what you call your purpose ultimately that's going to matter as the way it is lived in the company each and every day.
When it's not lived, that causes just as much disengagement from employees as if you were not to have a noble purpose for your company at all, maybe even more.
Furthermore, mindfulness seems to be one of the hottest business terms lately. The manner in which I sometimes see the term mindful being used now can be disconcerting.
Last year, I saw a CEO who is at the forefront of the mindfulness movement Tweet a photo about her weekend being disconnected from technology.
She was showing everyone how she was being mindful and enjoying the sunset, while taking a photo of doing so and posting it, distracting herself from the beauty in front of her, and also, by the way, not being disconnected anymore.
The older generation sometimes seems to find it very convenient to take aim at millennials. The difference is that our lives are transparent. The issue I see from some so called conscious leaders is not the efforts they’ve made or their perceived intent, it’s the lack of internal awareness and guise of morality coupled with unconscious subversion of the very goal.
This is all too prevalent. They either do not see what they are really doing, or they see it and sweep it under the rug, and throw some fancy language over it (case in point, the above mindfulness faux pas).
If a millennial had done that, his/her friends would not let them hear the end of it (#basic).
With the aforementioned leader, most of the comments from fellow Boomers were about how they were so happy for her weekend of disconnecting and how it's so important to do that from time to time (#missedthefauxpas).
Consciousness the way it is seemingly understood by the Western business world is a burgeoning trend, but truth is everlasting. What I believe we will come to see over the next few years is that new age principles need some deep self-reflection.
It’s not enough just to align with language and present oneself publicly in a certain way; that is only scratching the surface.
A meditative practice may make one feel relaxed, relieve anxiety, feel joyful and in tune with the universe. It’s a wonderful thing.
But to stop there would be to miss the point. Our leaders must become aware of their thought patterns, hidden intentions, the ways in which they place their own selfish needs ahead of truth and right action.
When they act with love and kindness, are they doing so because people are watching? For social media? To fulfill a notion of purpose or values?
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Or is it really flowing out of them, as an expression of self? These are the deeper, subtle questions that our leaders need to address. It’s time to truly evolve, not just talk about it and put on a surface-level show about it.
This is not to say that truly conscious leaders don’t exist. I’ve had the pleasure of working with at least a couple of them. They are not perfect, but they are aware of their internal tendencies, and work humbly toward bettering themselves, and thereby are innately inspirational to those around them.
It's the way I aspire to be; and since life is a journey in which we are constantly becoming, I don't wish to be harsh or overly critical of what I've observed in others, just to do my part in ensuring that honest evolution doesn't find itself passed over by rhetoric and tempting, half-baked conscious initiatives.
That said, true conscious leaders are often not the ones you see leading the wagon, but they are working tirelessly in the background, and in their own way they are the harbingers of immense change and goodness.
Until more people are willing to be the change and to set egoic desires aside, there is much work to do.
My hope is that the millennial generation will enter into major leadership roles already as an embodiment of the changes we seek, and then progress will be inevitable.