This month’s book review is The Leader’s Way by the Dalai Lama. I chose this book in recognition that we are leaders. We are leaders in our businesses, schools, organizations and community to whatever degree we allow. Being a leader does not come naturally to everyone and can be fraught with downfalls for many. The better you cultivate your leadership skills, the more successful you will be in a long term and sustainable way. As always, let me know what you think!
The Leaders Way with Dalai Lama
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Laurens van den Muyzenberg
The co-writer of this book begins the deep and thorough discussions with sharing the Dalai Lama’s desire to learn more about business from a holistic perspective. The Dalai Lama, a decade ago, was aware of the interconnectedness of all things and wanted to learn about the business world from this perspective. For more than a decade he meets with international management consultant Laurens van den Muyzenberg, and two worlds come together.
The Dalai Lama offers practical tools and advice on how to lead in our twenty-first-century world. Drawing on the wise teachings of Buddhism, he says, we can become better, more informed leaders as individuals, achieve more progressive leadership in our organizations, and help address some of the world’s most pressing problems. Moreover, we can improve the quality of life for all by promoting responsible, ethical, and profitable business practices. That is the leader’s way.
The book sites examples of many different leaders and stresses that leaders need two important qualities:
• To be driven by the principle of Right Action
• To have trained their minds so that they can handle stress and challenge better.
The writers go deeply into a discussion of Right Action and suggest the following guidelines:
One important discussion revolved around making good decisions. There are 3 concepts that are central to making good decisions:
1. Understand causes and effects. See things as they really are. See your point of view and others?
2. Interdependence: Think about how your decision will ripple out around you? How will it affect you? Your family? Your employees? Your team members? Your Community?
3. Embrace Impermanence. The goal is a moving target. Know that everything is subject to change.
Once a leader establishes the right value, it becomes important to take the right action and the Dalai Lama stresses to carry out decisions without hesitation or fear and then keep monitoring the effect of your decisions and then adjusting your actions as necessary.
In order for a leader to influence others in a profound way, the Dalai Lama assess that the person must attain these traits:
1. Generosity: A great leader gives credit to employees and staff for a job well done.
2. Ethical discipline. “Until we have learned to discipline our minds to rid ourselves of negative thoughts, we will have difficulty seeing reality clearly, and in turn will not make the right decisions.”
3. Patience. I do not have the time to explain this. (Ha!) Speaks for itself.
4. Enthusiastic effort. It takes energy to lift people up!
5. Concentration: The ability to focus all your mental energy on ONE thing.
6. Wisdom: The ability to have the Right View to safe guard the long term future.
The Leader’s Character
The best kind of leader is one with character. Character needs to be cultivated consciously. There is a difference between technical skill and character, as Chester Bernard wrote:
“A leader should have superior technical skills in understanding technology, in perception, in knowledge, in memory, in imagination. He should also have above average levels of determination, endurance, and courage.”
The Dalai Lama explains that one can build character by applying the principles of Right View and Right Conduct. Buddhism offers a list of “seven character traits of an ideal person” that all of us should strive for if we want to lead with character.
Seven Characteristics of the Ideal Person
1) Understanding Principles and Causes
Leaders with character are aware of the duties and responsibilities of their role and of the challenges they face. Leaders should be able to identify the causes of problems and the principles that should be applied to solve them.
2) Understanding Objectives and Results
Leaders know the meaning and objectives of the principles they abide by; they understand the tasks they are undertaking; they understand the reasons behind their actions. They know what may be expected in the future as a result of their actions and whether these will lead to a good or bad result. This kind of foresight is important for a leader when they are considering the long term effects of their decisions on others.
3) Understanding Themselves
Leaders know their strengths, aptitudes, abilities, and virtues, and are able to correct and improve themselves. They are also aware of their weaknesses and the weaknesses of the company, and how the company in turn affects its many stakeholder groups. They must be very eager to learn.
4) Understanding Moderation
Leaders practice moderation in speech, work, and action. They do not take unnecessary actions merely to satisfy their own egos or accomplish their own ends, but only those that will benefit the organization for which they are responsible.
5) Understanding the Occasion and Efficient Use of Time
Leaders know the proper occasion for actions – what should be done and how – and they perform these actions efficiently. This includes knowing how to plan their time and organize it effectively. Additionally, leaders must have “discernment,” the ability to identify the issues that matter most and concentrate on them. It is very important to avoid wasting time on trivial matters.
6) Understanding the Organization
Leaders know that organizations have rules and regulations; they have a culture and traditions; people within them have individual needs that should be dealt with, helped along, and served in the proper way. Good leaders understand not only their own character, but the character of the company, and their responsibility for developing and nurturing that character, and they should be aware if some aspect of the character needs to be changed.
7) Understanding People
Leaders know and comprehend differences among individuals. They know how to relate to people effectively, what can be learned from them, and how they should be praised, criticized, advised, and taught.
How to Train Your Mind:
The chapter on Mind training considers whether or not to hire a teacher, the benefits of meditation on brain function and types of meditation. The reader is encouraged to let the goal to be always gaining progress towards control the mind. Perfection is unattainable so focus on steady progress. Some examples of techniques were:
Walking Meditation: Walk evenly and naturally. Walk with your body and your mind. Let your mind be aware of each step. Watch your mind as you walk. Note what it is “thinking.” Note how it wanders. The advice the book gives is to “Note and Drop.” Be aware of the mind and then drop what it is focusing on and come back to your steps. This is usually the easiest meditation to incorporate as you can practice it incrementally in a day.
Sitting Meditation: In this technique, the focus is the same but instead of attention on your feet, your attention goes to your breath.
One-Pointed Meditation: You bring your focus onto a single object: a flower, a pen or a color. It is as if your mind fuses with the object. This unusual combination of intensity and relaxed alertness is essential for the mind.
Analytical Meditation: This meditation allows you to look at a feeling and analyze it from your perspective, a world perspective. Take being angry at a situation for example. You would consider it destructive nature for yourself or others. You can remind yourself that there may be other factors at play in what you are angry about. Through the analyzing meditation you can learn to separate the person’s behavior from the totality of the person.
Visualization Exercises: This advanced breathing and visualization technique is described in detail in the book and can be found in many meditation sites and centers.
Most leaders — especially those in business — are working towards a profit. The Dalai Lama offers eight questions and the right answers about the proper acquisition and use of wealth:
1. Did you acquire the wealth lawfully? (Yes I did.)
2. Did your wealth provide only happiness to you? (No, also to others.)
3. Did your wealth provide happiness also to others? (Yes, it did.)
4. Did you share your wealth with others? (Yes I did.)
5. Did you carry out any good deeds with your wealth (Yes, I did.)
6. Are you attached to and infatuated by your wealth? (No, I am not.)
7. Are you heedful of the dangers of wealth? (Yes, I am.)
8. Do you possess the insight that leads to spiritual freedom? (Yes, I do.)
Top 5 Things You Can Implement from this Book NOW:
5. Become more aware of your mind. How you think affects your choices and that in turn affects the physical reality you create.
4. Make decisions in your practice/business/organization by thinking about how it will affect the team, the members, the community. When you know what is right, do not hesitate. Decide firmly and go.
3. Treasure you team. Be humble. Appreciate everyone who helped you to be who you are today. Know that you are given the gift of being the leader but many deserve credit for helping you to be where you are.
2. Cultivate Your Character. Create a journal about growing your character. Ben Franklin rated himself daily on his character. Choose Great Character.
1. Meditate. Meditate. Meditate.