Lead The Way

Q. I am a senior executive in a Fortune 100 company, and a serious student of the art of leadership. I am extremely busy, have an enormous amount of responsibility, work a minimum of twelve hours a day, and am generally under a lot of pressure. Yet I am interested in what you have to say. I am intrigued by the whole notion of awakening to inner freedom, and how it leads to serving people in a more authentic way. What do you have to say to me?

Few people will argue against the idea that we need more enlightened leaders in our world. You are both a student and practitioner of the art of leadership, so it is good that you are thinking about how to apply these principles and lessons to your work. Doubtless you have been inspired by stories of great leadership. You probably have been moved by the example of individuals who embody such qualities as vision, courage, compassion, creative thinking, bold decision-making, and selfless service to humanity. You obviously want to be the best leader you can possibly be.

I don’t know what specifically motivates you, but I suspect it makes you feel good to be a positive force in helping influence, shape, and direct the creative energy of others. You evidently like being of service. No doubt you like being part of a group, team, or organization that has good chemistry, one where every member feels a sense of kinship with each other, and is united around a common goal. I am sure you know from experience what it takes to create such unity, and you are clearly willing to take responsibility for making it happen.

All true leaders, in fact, understand the power of multiplication, and what can be accomplished when a group of conscious, focused people come together in pursuit of a shared vision. The best leaders use that power to not only produce great results, but to make their organization, their community—and ultimately, our world—a better place.

The greatest leaders in history, from Marcus Aurelius, to Ashoka, to Martin Luther King, Jr., have been the awakened ones. This has always been the case. The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, spoke about the secret of conscious leadership over two thousand years ago:

“If you want to learn how to govern… Show people the way back to their own true nature.”

If, as a leader, you want to be able to bring out the highest and best in others—show them the way back to themselves, as Lao Tzu said—you must achieve a certain level of mastery within yourself, a true meeting of wisdom and love. You don’t have to be a saint, you don’t have to be completely without ego. But your mind must be clear, your heart open, and you must know how to be present without any personal agenda, which is one of the signs of awakening.

Anyone can be present with an agenda—a self-centered motive—but it takes a very conscious and inwardly free person to be present without one. Only then can you be truly open and available to the untapped creative potential that exists in each moment. Only from that place of clear, loving presence can you build, create, and nurture a conscious team or organization.

Nagarjuna, a philosopher-sage who lived in India about five hundred years after the Buddha, understood how critical enlightenment was in the art of leadership. He went so far as to say this: “If a ruler cannot implement a politics of enlightenment, then he or she must abandon the throne to pursue enlightenment first.”

Now, to me, this does not mean that if you are struggling, say, with fostering an enlightened and harmonious work environment, you need to necessarily resign your position or office and go off on a long spiritual retreat in a mountaintop monastery somewhere. But it does mean that you must take time out from your busy schedule to do some inner work.

Make awakening, your own inner peace and clarity, the priority in your life. Draw upon the resources that will feed your soul, nourish your heart, and illuminate your mind. Read the books, take the trainings, and get the coaching or private work that will support you in this process, and that will allow you to return to your leadership responsibilities with renewed clarity, vision, and passion.

Above all, take your own counsel as you work with the practice and study the teaching that I have presented in this book. Spend time alone in meditation and contemplation. Listen not to the voices in your head, the voices that tell stories of fear and worry, but to the voice of truth that resonates deep within your heart and soul. Heed that voice.

Realize that you are not your stories, not your thoughts, but rather the luminous awareness, the boundless, ever-present consciousness that is the source of your moment-by-moment experience.

The more you embody this realization, the more you will naturally empower others to do it. You will model conscious, awakened behavior for them. You will inspire them to dive more deeply within themselves. You will help them discover that for those who have eyes to see, every moment is new and rich in creative possibility.

This is how you become a great leader. This is how you become a great person—great is the sense of being a true master of your own mind and emotions, a genuinely self-realized human being.

This is how the world gets transformed: each of us discovering the greatness within us, the truth of consciousness and freedom, and then sharing that truth, that light, with others.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Dreaver is an author, teacher, and business coach. His gift is being able to deeply connect with people and transmit, through the power of his presence, the authentic taste of inner peace and freedom. He lives in Sebastopol, California, and travels widely to share his message. His new book, END YOUR STORY, BEGIN YOUR LIFE, which contains the essence of his teaching, is available online at http://www.endyourstory.com . He is teaching at Esalen Institute August 26-31, 2007. Call 831-667-300 to register, or visit http://www.esalen.org