Are you a Leader?
A leader is a person endowed of wisdom and maturity, someone able to relate to others, and most of all, a person with a vision for the future. But a vision is only powerful when communicated clearly. And leaders are capable of communicating their vision in a compelling way. A great leader inspires, enthuses, empowers, innovates, and motivates. A great leader has an impressive flexibility and capacity to adapt to different and changing scenarios. Along their journey, a leader continuously builds respect, which goes a long way.
Once upon a time, the concept of leadership was associated to terms such as supremacy, domination, etc. Today “to lead” means establish a direction and influence others to follow it. In order to be a leader it is necessary to have followers, and to have followers, a leader has to be trusted. Would you follow someone you do not trust? Leaders do not manipulate and do not force their thinking upon others. A leader persuades while transmitting a sense of security.
Is a Leader Born or Made?
That is “the” question. Being a Leader requires the combination of some personal traits and some abilities. People who are born with leadership abilities, can become great, successful leaders. No doubt.
If you asked this question to people, specifically business people, the answer will mostly be that some people come into this world with a talent to lead, and that is how it goes. The truth is that some people are indeed born leaders. They start strong and they finish even stronger after accumulating years of experience. However, there are lots of people out there who have a great potential to become successful leaders. They just need to work at it a little harder then the others.
How do I become a Leader? Is there a class I can take? Can I sign up to a special school?
If I were to interview business people, leaders of corporations or someone I truly admire as a talented and distinguished business professional, it would be like interviewing a famous Chef in the quest for “What makes a superlative Chef?” I would receive answers from a competent but certainly not neutral voice. There are a lot of phenomenal chefs in the globe. It would be extremely challenging to say who is the greatest, or even harder, what makes a great Chef. I am sure that their assessments would make sense – all of them. Chefs are not all the same, though just like leaders, they have different styles, different rules in the kitchen, and they all have their philosophy. Leaders are the same way. They are all different. Their styles are diverse, and because their characters are not identical, the way they lead is strictly related to their personal traits and beliefs.
That is why, for the purpose of this article, I decided to use a book that I consider profoundly inspiring. The Leader’s Way, a book written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Laurens van den Muyzenberg, an international management consultant, was first published in 2008. Even though this work goes back 10 years, every single point made is current and accurate yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The book is the business world that meets Buddhism, and the result is very insightful. It is a text enriched of advices and wisdom on how to lead in our world. The Dalai Lama explains that we can improve as leaders, and become better individuals. That is how we will be able to resolve some of the world’s most relevant problems. The Dalai Lama also says that we can improve the quality of life for all by promoting responsible, ethical, and profitable business practices.
Are you a born leader?
The Dalai Lama says that the best kind of leader is one with character and that character needs to be cultivated. He goes on to explain that it is possible to build character by applying the principles of Right View and Right Conduct. The principle of Right View means that in order to lead, you must understand the reasons for your actions. “The nature of our motivation determines the character of our work.” This can be applied many ways in business. Such as, having criteria to evaluate the potential implications of your business objectives. Or being aware of your view and of the view of those you lead. The principle of Right Conduct means that establishing broadly-accepted business principles is not enough. To make sure that your best intentions are applied in a consistent way to your business’s practices, one should create a system of regular progress reports and evaluations.
I have selected the main concepts that The Dalai Lama explains in this book. These are guidelines that everyone could relate to and benefit from, both at work and at home. They are recommendations, tips, rules for healthy living, call them whatever you prefer. I strongly suggest you make a note of them, print them, place them on your desk, or attached them to your refrigerator. These are compelling and meaningful truths that will help you live better with yourself and with everyone else around you.
1. Train Your Mind
The untrained mind, the Dalai Lama says, is like a monkey jumping around in a tree, excited, and unable to concentrate. Buddhists train their minds to manage this behavior and they use meditation.
The leader has to recognize when negative emotions like frustration, impatience, anger, lack of self-confidence, jealousy, greed start to influence his thought processes,
is written in The Leader’s Way explaining that
these negative thoughts and emotions not only can lead to the wrong decisions but also waste mind energy.”
Leaders of all types could benefit from meditation made of controlled emotions, deep breaths, and relaxation of the muscles.
2. Be interconnected
Buddhists believe in the concept that we exist truly in relation to other people. If seen from a Buddhist perspective, business is a network of connections, a spiritual organization that works only when all these connections are into effect. The mechanism is the following: When an impulse reaches another person, it triggers an idea and launches a chain reaction for creative thinking, thus improving productivity. The responsibility of the leader is to handle and strengthen impulses among co-workers. Being interconnected involves several relationships, those with clients, the community, and the competitors.
3. Target Happiness
According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is the highest universal form of motivation.
We tend to forget that despite the superficial differences between us, people are equal in their basic wish for peace and happiness.
Shareholders of a company, employees, customers should come first, even before the bottom line. However, that does not imply one should sacrifice profits.
A happy company is a successful company. You are more invested in success when you care about where it comes from.
4. Be positive
The Dalai Lama offers an optimistic approach to business by saying
Appreciate how rare and full of potential your situation is in this world, then take joy in it, and use it to your best advantage.
Leaders of all nations know that starting and running a successful business is no joke, it takes perseverance and continuous efforts. But problems can be overcome and a solution is always possible: Having the right attitude will help any leader find the right solutions.
As a leader it is extremely important to make good decisions. In the book 3 concepts are clearly explained that contribute in this effort. A wise leader is a person able to conceive successful strategies in any situation, during both peaceful times and difficult times.
- Comprehend causes and effects. It is crucial to be able to see things as they really are. Can you see your point of view and also the one of other people?
- Interdependence. Every decision a leader makes, will have a few consequences all around. Isn’t that true for any decision we make? That’s why it becomes imperative and wise to ask if the decisions to make will affect others, perhaps your family, the people who work for you, your community, etc.
- Accept Impermanency. Everything changes, nothing stays the same. Come to terms with the idea that your goal will always be a moving target. Accepting this concept, will help you, as a leader, make better decisions.
Another very inspiring lesson the Dalai Lama pinpoints is that once a leader sets the right value, it becomes imperative to take the right action and most of all to carry out decisions without hesitation or fear. What to do? Keep moving forward monitoring the consequences of your decisions and be prompt to adjust your moves as you go along and according to the events or needs.
A successful leader is a person with character, very much aware of his own strength but also of his weaknesses. Getting to know oneself becomes a true asset when you lead a company or a team. If you know who you are, you will also comprehend differences among individuals and that translates into an effective way to manage people, learn from them, and give your best.
I have seen and worked with superlative managers that were not leaders. A leader is a person who cares for others, someone who gives value, a person with a clear vision of where to go now, and a clear vision of the future. A leader is capable of conceiving successful and creative strategies in any situation or critical circumstance.
My slogans from the Leader’s Way are essentially four. This is not a rating, but only a way to list the ones I consider the most fundamental.
- Nurture your character. Create a daily journal about growing your character. It will help you more and more keeping track of certain dynamics, and it will make you aware of your persona and of the world around you.
- Treasure your team. Be humble and always appreciate all those around you who contributed to create the leader you are today. You might be a leader but many people have helped you along the way to become one.
- Make decisions now. Evaluate at all times what your actions will cause to others. How will your decisions impact your business, the people around you? Once you have decided on what to do, do it without hesitation.
- Become aware of your mind. The way you think impacts your choices and that eventually will influence the reality you will build for yourself and for others.
Think about it now. Are you a leader?