Leading in an era when it’s no longer “business as usual”

While it used to be enough to have sharp analytical abilities, strategic insight, and vision to be a successful leader in the 20th century, times have changed. Thanks to advances in technology, emerging markets and the rise of new economic powerhouses, political and financial-system upheaval, and climatic shifts, we find ourselves in a period of accelerating change and greater-than-ever uncertainty. In some industries, creative destruction is always around the corner; many companies subscribe to the credo “Innovate or Die”; and the notion of job stability is quaint at best. As a planet, we face some daunting problems and unprecedented opportunities that demand new ways of thinking and relating to embrace and solve. Despite the wonders of 24/7 connectivity, the work day never ends, and many leaders feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available and invitations to communicate, finding it difficult to focus, prioritize and accomplish that which truly has meaning. It has become increasingly apparent in the leadership-development literature and perhaps in your own experience that leaders who have greater emotional intelligence are better poised to unleash their employees’ talents, creativity, and productivity. However, given the demands and stresses of 21st-century living, it may often feel like you can barely keep up, much less have bandwidth to develop your higher potential.

We have the technology

What if there were simple practices you could do that cultivate the leadership competencies—agility, resilience, the ability to navigate uncertainty, focus, clarity, innovative thinking, emotional intelligence, presence, and empathy—these times require? They already exist. Millions have benefited from mind training for millennia, and today’s neuroscientists are finding that mindfulness practices such as meditation alter the brain’s structures and functions in ways that promote all of the above. In addition, these practices counter the ills of our fast-paced, always-on, ADD-inducing culture by reducing stress and thereby enhancing health (e.g., lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, improving immunity and mental health), resulting in lower healthcare costs and greater productivity. Meditation has already been introduced into colleges, business schools (at various times at Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, and INSEAD), and professional circles, with particular success in the law field. Highly innovative companies such as Google, Genentech, and Intel; and venerated institutions such as McKinsey and P&G have offered employees meditation training.

While we all know that eating a healthy diet and exercise enhance our health, performance, and overall sense of well-being, this wasn’t always common knowledge. Just as scientists proved the benefits of these practices in the 20th century, over the last decade, researchers have been discovering the benefits of mind training. My vision is that meditating for 15 or 20 (or more!) minutes a day becomes as commonplace as choosing an apple over cookies or going to the gym after work.

I am here to introduce you to and support you in undertaking and maintaining mindfulness and other consciousness-raising contemplative practices, to provide scientific research and other resources on the benefits of these practices, to report on institutions that are making mindfulness training available, and to expose you to the latest approaches to conscious leadership. I invite you to join me in creating learning lab and sense of community here.

Here’s how you can get started

To learn more about conscious leadership and to join fellow practitioners in conversation, visit my blog here.

To access resources such as guided-meditation instructions, informative videos, and recommended reading, click here.

To contact me regarding individual meditation instruction and conscious-leadership coaching, teleclasses, presentations, and company programs, click here.

How this work evolved

Having meditated for the past 23 years, I have become intimately familiar with the challenges and benefits of practice, particularly for Type-A personalities. I have also spent the last two decades studying leadership, most notably through my research and editing work with best-selling management author Jim Collins, and I’ve been actively involved in supporting young leaders through Insight Admissions and my volunteer activities. While I was personally convinced of the merits of mind training, in 2005, I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Adam Engle, cofounder of the Mind & Life Institute and a Stanford MBA, whose organization promoted scientific research into the effects of contemplative practice on the body and the brain. Realizing that I wanted to bring these practices to business people and organizations, I began to eagerly follow scientists’ latest findings in the field. In 2011, I participated in the teacher training for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a secular meditation program that emerged from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. (Since 1979, more than 18,000 individuals have participated in the eight-week MBSR course.) I integrate that work with other approaches I have studied over the last two decades. I have introduced mindfulness practices to youth-leadership groups, Stanford alumni, and entrepreneurs; and I am offering tailored introductory sessions and programs on individual and group bases. (For my Insight Admissions bio, click here.)