When I sat down one day a few years back to write about leadership, I realized that the more than two decades of experience I have racked up living and learning about it meant that there is more inside than just an article or a book. What I had unconsciously developed over the years is what I hope is a unique perspective on what makes a great leader, at least in its expression and application. That is what I call Leadership Zen.
The Leadership part is easy to understand. Hundreds of thousands of books, articles, presentations and web pages talk about leadership. But why the Zen part? What exactly does that mean?
The fundamental premise of Zen is a deep understanding of oneself and how it aligns with the world around you. Contrary to some assumptions, it is more of an attitude or a philosophy than a belief or a doctrine. By tuning in to our true nature, Zen allows us to free ourselves from the distractions of the world around us, which often stands in conflict with that nature in that it constantly asks us to conform to any number of “norms” that may or may not be alignment with our own beliefs, desires and values. The result of this freedom is what we call authenticity and it is the foundational Commitment that makes up Leadership Zen.
What makes this premise different is that it doesn’t differentiate between you as the business leader, the leader of a home, the parent, the spouse or significant other, and so on. We believe that to realize your biggest potential, you must focus less on your roles and more on what’s inside and who you ultimately want to be. The various roles you play in life will be naturally enhanced as your confidence, your ability, and your authenticity grows.
What it also brings to the table is the notion of possibility. Most of us dream in terms of where we are today. The detachment of Zen frees us from the need to couch our dreams and our vision in terms of the world we live in today and instead talk about who we want to be and what kind of world we want to live in. It increases our curiosity and engenders a willingness to dream big. This is an extremely powerful component of the Leadership Zen philosophy, and what along the journey allows you to be more impactful in changing your life and the lives of others you touch.
Zen therefore is an integral component of what we do here at Leadership Zen. It requires courage, and will not come without difficulty, most notably in that people will notice you dance to your own tune where many of them sing from the same song sheet. It doesn’t mean you will not fit in, but it could mean that you set the tone more often than you follow it, creating change across the board.