The world needs great leaders – visionaries who lead with purpose and create a future based on sustainability. In the past, companies were left mainly to their own devices as long as they acted legally and ethically. But now, businesses are being scrutinized the world over. Corporations need to be more conscious of how their actions impact the environment, employees, consumers, and society.
The current state of our natural resources, our ecological footprint, mental health awareness, and the rapidly changing technological environment are issues that cannot just be addressed by political institutions alone. Leaders must now envision their organizations’ role in a much broader context while also meeting social, environmental, and financial goals – the three keys of sustainable leadership.
To be a great leader means to define your values and principles from the life experiences that have shaped you. All those things enable you to live your life more consciously and intentionally, defining your leadership principles and purpose. Being clear about your leadership purpose is essential because it forms the central core from which all your thoughts, behaviors, and leadership will stem. It is the anchor that will keep you and your organization on track in times of rapid change and never-ending challenges, preserving the values and principles that matter to you most.
Let’s take Steve Jobs, whose drive for simplicity fueled a design revolution. Jobs’ obsession with simplicity began early in his childhood, starting with his love for his family home built by the developer, Joseph Eichler. Eichler’s vision was to create modern homes, which brought good, clean design and simple taste to lower-income Americans, influencing Jobs significantly. His obsession for simplicity was further honed by his spiritual quest for an uncluttered state of being that led him to Zen Buddhism.
His passion drove the entire organization to create clean, friendly, and fun designs when technology intimidated people. Jobs set Apple apart from all other technology firms, making Apple the most valuable company in the world in 2011. Jobs’ early paradigms shaped him and served as the central core of his leadership. He motivated his teams to care about a larger purpose, find fulfillment in their work, and empower them to reach their full potential and deliver their best. He left behind a powerful legacy that will live on for years.
This journey from good to great occurs from the inside out. In yogic practices, self-awareness and mindfulness are the cornerstones of transformation and growth, allowing you to engage in a powerful journey of self-discovery, lead with authenticity, and identify your leadership purpose.
i. Self-awareness: a scattered, distracted, and undisciplined mind cannot be capable of genuine introspection. So first, we build the muscle to be present and grounded in reality. To develop a well-rounded and in-depth view of reality, leaders must go beyond individual perspectives and be open to diversity of thought. For one, it helps you evaluate strengths and weaknesses to build the right teams and surround yourself with competent people. And secondly, it enables you to consider the most critical factors that will impact effective decision-making – different and conflicting perspectives allow you to come closer to reality.
ii. Mindfulness: The external world keeps changing and presenting us with endless challenges. Great leaders can skillfully maneuver highly complex external environments while remaining true to their leadership principles and purpose. It keeps you grounded, continually balancing your ever-changing environments with your core values. This comes from a space of mindfulness and inner renewal that requires daily nourishment to retain your mental health and emotional composure.
How does one begin and sustain this journey? Here are a few simple steps.
- Recognize the power of your breath.
Your breath can only take place in the present. Learning how to actively engage with the breath at regular intervals through the day enables you to become present and aware, enhancing your mental well-being. Intentionally come back to your breath multiple times during the day and take a minute to breathe with awareness while driving, walking to the bathroom, or before a meeting.
2. Commit to daily mindfulness/meditation practice.
Unclutter your mind each day, and take the time to regulate your emotions. Begin and end your day by sitting quietly with yourself for 5 minutes or more. Take time to relax into your breath, and empty your mind of all its clutter. As you inhale, disconnect from the physical environment, and as you exhale, release all your thoughts, emotions, stresses, plans; be willing to let go. This allows for the inner space of renewal to develop over time.
Great leadership is not just something that you do, nor does it just happen overnight. It is about the willingness to develop as a leader through a process of self-inquiry and dedication to a single purpose that arises from a more profound reality within you.