Tag Archives: Leader

A Moment With Nelson Mandela, Rest in Peace

Screen shot 2013-12-06 at 8.04.33 AMIn 1999, I had the honor to meet Nelson Mandela.  He was attending a state banquet (in South Africa) and a friend scuttled me in for a quick meet and greet.  I was completely in awe, of course, and don’t think I said anything other than put my hands together in respect when we met.

When I heard the news of his passing yesterday, I relived that moment once again.  And while meeting someone as historical and mythical as he was is undoubtedly a moment in my life I will never forget, so was a poignant  visit to Robben Island, the remote prison that held Nelson Mandela for twenty-six years.

I was in South Africa with my classmates from Kellogg Business School – our intent was to learn more about the country, its people, traditions, and, of course, current and future business opportunities.  We were fortunate to be taken to Robben Island by Ahmed Kathrada, a freedom fighter who was sentenced for treason on the same day as President Mandela.  Mr. Kathrada, who at that time of our visit was a gentleman in his late seventies, was 36 years old when he went to prison, the youngest member convicted in the famous Rivonia trial, and the only person of South Asian descent from the group.

Our tour of the prison was somewhat surreal as Kathrada told us firsthand stories about almost three decades in prison, and the shaping of a revolution.  We had all read A Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s prison memoir, which to this day is one of the most powerful books I have ever read.  It was truly remarkable to stroll the grounds of the prison as Mr. Kathrada showed us how they would use scraps of rice paper to write notes for the book in tiny handwriting, and bury the paper in marked holes in rocks, before sneaking them out with release prisoners.  He showed us the cells they shared, and laughed at the habits each of them came to know of their fellow prisoners.

On that sunny day, it was difficult for me to feel the scope of the sacrifice these men made at Robben Island, until Mr. Kathrada talked emotionally about how they missed being around children while in prison.  Can you imagine a world without the cries or playful laughter of children?  He described the wonderful sensation of holding a child after 23 years of being deprived of seeing or hearing them.

The most dramatic moments in our time together came as Mr. Kathrada spoke with conviction and passion about the cause for which he had fought. I got chills down my spine as he talked about the camaraderie between strangers who had united for a cause for which they were willing to sacrifice their entire lives or even to die.  Mr. Kathrada described the evening when his guards announced that they had been released.

“They came and said, “We have received a fax that you are to be released tomorrow.”  Our first question was, “What is a fax? We had only seen a television for the first time in 1986.”

What followed their release was historic and bold and hard.  In one of the quotes being shared today, Mandela says:

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

Some of the most powerful words and scenes in the book, A Long Walk To Freedom, were the ones where Mandela talks about forgiveness.  The NY Times has a beautiful piece written by John Dramani Mahama, the President of Ghana, about how Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness shaped Africa.

As I read quotes and recaps of Nelson Mandela, I decided to see if Ahmed Kathrada had written something today and was moved to find his emotional words posted on  a South African portal.  Mr. Kathrada writes:

Your smile, which lingers still, was always from the heart, never forced, and the great joy you took in the world around you, especially in children, was unmistakeable…

I had the enviable privilege of being alive and walking the earth with you through the bad times and the good. It has been a long walk, with many challenges that at times seemed insurmountable. And yet we never faltered, and the strength of leaders like you and Walter always shone a light on the path and kept our destination and our people’s future in view.

I feel bereft and lonely. To whom do I turn for solace, comfort, and advice?

Farewell my elder brother, my mentor, my leader.

You can read the full text here.

Yesterday the world lost a hero and a true leader. While we mourn the loss of such a great man, we will strive to keep his memory and spirit alive in all the days to come. Thank you Nelson Mandela, may you rest in peace.

(Photos: NelsonMandela.org)

Deepak Chopra: How to Build Teamwork When We’re Divided

With the country so divided this week over the Supreme Court’s deliberation on same sex marriage, let’s consider what it takes to build strong, cohesive teams. Despite heightened individualism in the age of computers and iPods, teamwork is critical today, especially as we face mounting global issues. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra discusses the key ingredients to building successful teams.

Team building is an essential component of leadership, which Deepak explores at length in his book The Soul of Leadership, as well as in his course on leadership at the Kellogg School of Management. Deepak idenfies three key attributes of strong teams:

1. They have a shared vision

2. They are emotionally bonded.

3. Every member of the team complements the strengths of every other member.

Consider this next time you find yourself building a team to collaborate on a mutual vision, whether it’s for work, leisure, or activism.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well, and check out Deepak Chopra’s book on The Soul of Leadership!

Superheroes: Do We Have a New God in Town?

Who do you pray to when you’re in a jam? Superman, of course! In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra discusses the spiritual side to superheroes, from Hercules to Jesus to the Marvel gang.

Even if we don’t all regularly pray to Wonder Woman or Batman, there is no denying the beloved place these heroes occupy in our collective imagination. As far back as ancient Greece, we have legends of larger than life warriors and leaders. Figures like Agamemnon and Achilles, if true to the tales, would have been giants among men. Superheroes in the flesh.

When times get rough, it’s comforting to think a hero with super-human powers might rush to our assistance. We appeal to higher powers through prayer, visualization, and affirmation, hoping that even if we aren’t powerful enough to right every wrong, perhaps there’s a force out there that is. Deepak Chopra might remind us that we actually have much more control over our environment and circumstances than we’d imagine. And perhaps we should begin acknowledging the superhero aspects within ourselves – the heroes and heroines of the everyday.

But, Superman, if you’re out there and reading this, we won’t put you out of a job. You can come save the day anytime you want.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well, and check out Gotham and Deepak’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes!

Hero’s Quest: What It Takes to Be a Great Leader

A good story is the story of the hero’s quest, and a hero’s quest begins with a dream. This is why all great leaders are visionaries. They ask themselves mythical questions: Who am I? What do I want? Who are the heroes and mentors our society can learn from?

In this week’s episode of “The Rabbit Hole” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explores the key elements of visionary leadership. History traffics in myth-making, which is based on personal charisma and uses spin to evoke an aura of destiny. But it is alarming to witness how often leaders come to power through the force of arms and money. When the strong and ruthless rise on the world stage, we find ourselves led by kings and generals, autocrats and dictators, power-hungry premiers and presidents. Leadership of this sort is flawed. Power and prestige do nothing to ensure leaders like this will actually improve the lives of those who follow them.

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 10.00.36 AMA truly successful leader, Deepak suggests, learns to cultivate her power as the result of being tuned in to her inner voice and guided by intuition. The inspired leader walks a path laid out by her own soul, characterized by love, creativity, and intelligence. In her core self she strives for alignment with the greater, collective society she serves. In this way, listening comes first, followed by comprehension, empathy, and, finally, action.

In the midst of chaos, certain individuals step out of the shadows in order to lead society in new directions necessary for further evolution. Only a truly great leader will find wisdom in the face of mythic-proportion challenges. And only a leader who operates from the soul level, with vision, creativity, and love, will be remembered as such.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and order Deepak Chopra’s book, The Soul of Leadership!

What Does It Take to Be a Charismatic Leader?

2009 Five Presidents George W. Bush, President Elect Barack Obama, Former Presidents George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter PortraitWhat are the secrets to charisma? Is it something you are born with or can you develop it over time?

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra outlines three key ingredients to charisma, demonstrated by the greatest leaders in history. Leadership may come more naturally to some than to others, such as Deepak’s example of Bill Clinton, but we can all learn to practice these skills over time. They are what Deepak teaches in his “Soul of Leadership” course at Kellogg School of Management, and also in his book by the same name.

The three keys to charisma:

1. Be completely present in the moment. Make those you interact with feel that they are the most important person in that moment.

2. Be responsive to feedback but immune to both criticism and flattery. You will not be offended by criticism, and your actions will not be influenced by flattery.

3. Radiate warmth through compassion, empathy, joy, and equanimity.

Who is the most charismatic leader you know? Let us know in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well, and check out Deepak’s book The Soul of Leadership

Obama and the Age of Authenticity: Be a Leader, Be Yourself!

With Barack Obama’s victory, it became official: Being “different” is no longer a handicap. If a black man can shatter the race barrier and claim the highest office in the free world, we can all achieve our dreams. Yes, a new day of acceptance has dawned, and if you listen closely you’ll hear the whispered promise: “It’s okay to be yourself!” That’s right. There’s never been a better time to march to the beat of that proverbial “different drummer” that makes you you. And if you’ve always felt that you don’t quite fit in, why not turn your unique qualities to your advantage?

It’s time to realize that your unusual personality, outlook, appearance, or background—really, any attribute that sets you apart—is not a liability but an asset. Being different gets you noticed, which is the first step to gaining influence with those around you. And refusing to hide or downplay your uniqueness makes you more authentic—which in turn leads others to like, trust, and believe in you.

This has always been true to a degree, but it seems authenticity is more widely celebrated than it’s ever been. The results of the recent election prove the point: It’s cool to be boldly different. It’s cool to be what I call a “fearless fish”—and not only will people admire you, they might even vote you into office!

In other words, authenticity is the new black. Somehow we’ve broken through to an age where subterfuge, game playing, and conformity are shunned, and openness, transparency, and “keeping it real” are rewarded. And while Obama is the standard-bearer for this age, that doesn’t mean he’s got the market cornered.

Not every fearless fish can be president, but every fearless fish can achieve greatness in his or her own way. Whether it leads to business success, a richly rewarding personal life, or both, you’ll never be sorry you unleashed your true self to swim free.

It can be daunting to think about making the transition from lonely outsider to trailblazer, but it may be easier than you think. For inspiration, just look at how Obama ignored expectations and conformity in order to make history: 

Love yourself first. (And others will love you too!) Before you can expect others to accept and love who you really are, you must figure out for yourself who that person is. Focus on the aspects of your life—your job, your relationships, your talents, your hobbies, even where you live—that are truly you and not just who you think the rest of the world wants you to be. Don’t shy away from something just because it goes against the norm. 

It can be frustrating and lonely to think or look differently from everyone else, but once you learn to accept yourself, others will follow. Our country had never elected an African American president, but that didn’t stop Obama. He had a passion for this country and a desire to run for office, and though the odds seemed to be stacked against him, his belief in his own self-worth and capabilities shone through.  

America was able to see what Obama already knew about himself, and we elected him based on his own confidence to be able to do the job right. 

Don’t apologize for who you are. Use it. Although our country officially prides itself on being a “melting pot,” in reality our culture dictates that people act a certain way or be labeled as (gasp!) weird or different. Everything is scrutinized—from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive to the music we listen to—and if it doesn’t pass muster, you’re seen as an outsider. It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to fit in and losing the things that make you unique—and those are the very things that make you an asset to yourself and others.  

Take Obama, for instance. His childhood was remarkably different from most of the senators he worked with every day. As a biracial son raised by a single mother and grandmother, his meager beginnings didn’t include private schools and Ivy League dreams. But during his campaign, he never tried to hide or apologize for who he was, and it paid off. Americans felt connected to Obama, and they felt like he was familiar with their concerns because he had been there before. He wasn’t selling the same story that candidates before him had used, and it won him the votes.  

You can’t be unforgettable unless you dare to be different. If you strive only to blend in, you’ll see that opportunities will continue to pass you by. 

Surround yourself with good people. One of the smartest moves you can make, in business or in your personal life, is to surround yourself with people who will add to your life and help you to grow. The truth of the matter is that new relationships aren’t going to forge themselves, and it may take sticking your neck out a time or two before you can make the right connections.  

Barack Obama made a habit of aligning himself and surrounding himself with smart people who helped him along the way. Many of them were “fish out of water” like him. From his various mentors, to his entire campaign team, every single person played a critical role in his eventual success.  

Obama learned from his mentors, depended on and trusted them. You can do the same. If there’s someone you admire, or who has a skill you’d like to learn, buy him a cup of coffee and ask for his advice or even his help. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. If you do—well, who knows where you might end up! 

Fit in—but do it your way. The best part of being a person who never “fit in” any one place is that you can become a pro at fitting in anywhere! But that doesn’t mean becoming a boring conformist. You can follow the rules without “selling out.” If your own personal style is eclectic and funky, but your office dress code calls for staid business suits—compromise. You might wear a colorful scarf or an antique brooch along with the acceptable business attire. (Not only will it let you express yourself, it will be a good conversation starter and a great way to meet other fish like you.) 

Obama is different from most of his political peers, and yet, he isn’t exactly the guy next door, either. Throughout his campaign we’ve seen his ability to use his status as different to relate to people from all walks of life. Whether he is on the basketball court, being a father and husband at home with his own family, or rolling up his sleeves to help paint a wall at a school, he maintains the composure demanded by politics while maintaining who he is intrinsically. Still, he didn’t show up at his inauguration (or on the campaign trail either) wearing basketball shorts! 

There’s nothing wrong with “fitting in” as long as you don’t have to compromise who you are in order to do it—something Barack Obama figured out long ago. He’s proved you can mix Burberry suits and fist bumps and have both seem perfectly natural. 

Use your difference to make a difference. Those who are different are perfectly positioned to make a difference. It’s not the wallflower who’s going to help a company go green, or the conformist who will invent the new business model. You’ll discover that you can create change—and be an inspiration—because you don’t blend in. The best way to change negative impressions or stereotypes is to do good work—both on the job and out in the world.  

Obama’s mantra of “Change We Need” couldn’t have come at a better time. He saw a nation that was desperate for something different, and he knew that he had the fresh perspective that people were looking for. Rather than trying to blend in, he embraced the things that made him different from the other candidates and used them as a platform for his campaign. 

Keep it current. The world is continuously evolving (and at a very fast pace), and we as individuals should be no exception. Always think about what your next move should be and pay attention to how you can stay relevant in a world that is constantly changing. Obama used social networking to stay current during his presidential campaign—and we can all emulate his enthusiasm for staying relevant.  

Everyone thinks of Obama as youthful, but really, he’s 47—which is hardly a spring chicken. His attitude is part of what makes him seem so young. He built his brand and made himself relevant by embracing the Internet and creating a movement that amounted to an all-out call for change in America. He regularly updated his pages on social networking sites with photos, videos, and success stories, and made his own inclusive website more dynamic than all the other candidates’ sites by inviting his followers to create their own blogs and send policy recommendations. 

The moral is this. You have to stay current and fresh to stay on top. Do it and others will be attracted to your energy and your willingness to change.  

Put yourself out there. Many of us have had something happen that rocked our world and made us question our personal value and the decisions we’ve made about our lives. Perhaps as a college student, spending those first formative years on your own, you realized that you actually didn’t share the same political or religious beliefs as your family. It can be a scary and life-changing realization to forge ahead with a new set of standards and ideals, especially when you think that your family might not approve. As a fearless fish, no matter what the consequences, you have to move forward with what you know to be true to yourself.  You can overcome these obstacles by practicing the ABCs for fish out of water: action, belief, and courage.  

Obama had to truly believe in himself before he could have ever attempted to run for the office of President of the United States. It took a lot of courage to stand up and say, “I know that I am different from every candidate before me, but I know I am the right person for the job.” His authenticity was magnified by his courage and the action he took to put himself out there—and the rest, as they say, is history. 

If you believe in the authentic self that you have discovered, it will give you the courage to take action and move forward as a fearless fish. The only person who has the final say in the outcome of your life is you. Tune out the naysayers. Trust your instincts and do what feels right for you and you’ll find your success. 

Here’s the thing: When you’re different from the norm, you already attract attention. Why not allow that attention to energize you rather than squelch you? Why not let it take you somewhere you never dreamed you could go?

The attention you attract may be the best thing that ever happened to you. It was certainly true for our nation’s new leader, and it can be for you as well. You have so much to offer and so much to gain. Take a note from President Obama and give the world a fearless representation of who you are. You can be the one whose individuality makes a difference. Know who you are and don’t apologize for it. Use it to set yourself apart from the crowd and make your own piece of history in 2009.

President’s Day: Bring Forth Your Own Inner Leader

I recently explored developing leadership through a series of posts on my blog Science of Energy Healing.  Angeles Arrien, author and cross-cultural anthropologist, wrote The Four Fold Way which explores the four shamanic archetypes of warrior, teacher, visionary and healer as a roadmap for personal development. Weaving this information in with other wisdom, I present a resource for developing different leadership qualities. The culmination of the series offers a podcast healing meditation that energetically brings this information through all levels and fibers of your being.

Here on Intent.com, I’d like to offer a brief synopsis of each post.

But first, what’s the importance of developing your inner leader? With a world in deep change, leadership is also changing. It is moving out of the hands of a few and returning to all of us. We are living in a time that was predicted as "Power Returns To The People."

Here are the qualities that for me define leader:

The Inner Leader is that part of you who:

  • Wants to make a difference
  • Has the courage to speak your truth
  • Is creative
  • Loves excellence
  • Chooses to do meaningful work
  • Is a troublemaker, rebel or heretic
  • Embraces change
  • Understands how to work with groups
  • Chooses to believe in positive outcomes

The old style of Leading is dead. That includes:

  • Leadership is no longer about managing people: It’s about empowerering everyone.
  • It’s not a top-down model anymore: Everyone is a leader and a follower in the new group dynamics.
  • It’s not about establishing authority: It’s about enhancing connections and trusting the wisdom of the group.

Letter To The Leader

(Apologies to readers – I am unable to create correct paragraph spacing on this blog for some reason)

This is a book of new and true solutions, to positively transform life in America and around the world.

It is also an open,

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