Thursday, May 6, 2010

Empathy and Leadership

Via Bob Sutton, a wonderful post on teaching and empathy, John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla says:

When I think in terms of helping people learn to be even better, it automatically puts me into an empathetic mode (because teaching, fundamentally, is about understanding where the learner is coming from).
...the best bosses seem to keep asking themselves: “Why am I doing this? Is it because I am on an ego trip and trying to get more goodies and glory for myself?  Or is it really the best thing for enhancing my people’s collective performance and humanity?”

When bosses can honestly answer the question with a “yes” (and peers, bosses, and followers concur with their assessment), good things happen.  People do good work. They experience dignity and pride in each other. 
 and Bob goes on to ask the question,  

What do you think of this view of leadership?  Does it strike you as right?  Or is it too idealistic?

I think John is demonstrating what Leadership is all about. All these qualities - empathy, helping others, listening to others, patience, humility, looking at oneself critically, comes only one is in deep touch with oneself. That is when love blossoms and reflects in all our actions.

The Leadership Chicken and Egg

Jane Perdue of The Braithewaite Group writes in her blog, "Life, Love and Leadership":

I’m fond of saying great leaders think more about we and less about me. While I firmly believe that’s generally true, I also think aspiring leaders must first focus on themselves, getting firmly grounded in their own emotional intelligence if they are to be successful at leading others.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Business and Spirituality

[Via The Art of Living Foundation]

Below are the excerpts from Sri Sri’s talk at the Business, Ethics & Spirituality discussion sponsored by the University of Southern California.

In the panel discussion, Sri Sri was joined by John Paul Dejoria, a first generation American-turned-enterpreneur, philanthropist, government officer and an integral part of the business community; and Rob Dyrek, a professional skateboarder, television star, filmmaker, enterpreneur and multi-faceted philanthropist.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: A few years ago, it was not considered appropriate for someone spiritual to be in a business setting. Business and spirituality, or business and charity appeared to be poles apart. Essentially, business is to give less and take more. If a banana is worth ten cents, it will be sold for twelve. You take more and you give less in business. However, charity is to give more than you take.

The backbone of business is trust. If trust is broken, business cannot succeed. Greed kills the consciousness. That’s what we saw with the financial crisis. To prevent this, it is essential for companies like John Paul Mitchell Systems to grow. Paul Mitchell is an example that shows that an individual need not be unethical to be rich and successful.

Corruption is the greatest dilemma in the world. Africa has no money to feed its people, yet there are billions in the bank accounts of corrupt politicians. How can the world be so blind to countries where there is such suffering and famine? When we raised this issue in the European Parliament, the office holders said they would send the money back to the African people. Corruption only happens out of a sense of non-belongingness. No one can be corrupt towards the people they belong to. We need to bring a sense of belongingness to every individual. How can that happen? When the mind is stress-free. A stress-free mind is the source of love. We must foster a sense of belongingness that cuts across the prejudice of nationalities and religions. The Art of Living Foundation have such a wide range of programs, so that people can learn how to cultivate a sense of belongingness.

We need to care and share. There have been earthquakes in Haiti, China and elsewhere. Today, businesses are helping out. America is at the forefront in providing aid. You should really congratulate yourselves.

There is a story I want to share. There was an earthquake in Gujarat many years ago. Our volunteers went to work there. They met an elderly lady who had gone to the temple and on her return found that she had lost everyone in her family. She had lost her sons, daughter-in-law and husband. Her home had crumbled. She had only a little amount in her purse which she wanted to give as a donation. Our volunteers refused her donation and said that they had come to give and not take. She said, “Nature has taken everything away from me. Don’t take away my right to give as well. Please accept my contribution, it is my dharma.” Our volunteers had tears in their eyes. When you have and you share, it is not a big deal. When you don’t have and you share, then that is something.

Q: Please speak about wealth.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: As per the ancient scriptures, there are eight types of wealth. Wealth is not only money. Of course, bank balance is wealth, progeny is also a type of wealth, so is health. If you have the confidence that you can create wealth in any situation, even when the economy is not doing well, you will have courage. That courage and confidence is a wealth. The ability to make friends is a wealth. Knowledge is also wealth.

The goddess of wealth, Laxmi, is floating on the lotus. She moves with the wind. The Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati, is on a rock. A rock is stable. Once you have learnt knowledge, you have learnt it for life. Wealth is not an end in itself. It is the means to an end. Wealth, happiness and life are to be shared with all those around.

Today, many people have lost faith. When you lose faith, it takes you within. Every crisis is an opportunity. When all doors are shut and you have nowhere to go, that is when you go within.

Many hurdles and crises come, but you must keep your intention strong. You have to have vision. When you look around, people who break your trust will be few. Those whose values falter will be few. Though sometimes you may shake, but hold on to your vision and mission.

If you don’t want others to cheat you, why should you cheat others? Money is essential, yet you cannot sleep well having only money. Half our health is spent on getting wealth and then we spend half our wealth to get back the health.

Q: How do you define success?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Success is measured by the smiles you have had from the heart. It is the confidence you have to face challenges. When everything goes well you can easily smile. Success is when everything falls apart and yet you can smile. One who manages all challenges that life gives is successful.

Q: Can business be a force to promote peace between nations?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Three dimensions will bring peace. There should be spirituality in politics, corporate social responsibility in business and secularism in religion.

This is deeply ingrained in our minds. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are examples of secularism in religion and spirituality in politics.

© The Art of Living Foundation
For Global Spirituality

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vineet Nayar and the Employee First Philosophy

The Corner Office interviews Vineet Nayar. He talks straight and I love the candidness, it takes courageous leadership to do a 360 and make it available to all within the organization. How I would love to peep in and see how this works. And stumbled upon his blog on HCL's website. BTW, does anyone has his email id?

Q. But so many C.E.O.’s are expected to have all the answers.
A. Most C.E.O.’s are not as great as they’re believed to be. There are exceptions. There is Bill Gates. There is Steve Jobs. There is Larry Page. But I’m not one of them, and so many of us are not them.
So, if you see your job not as chief strategy officer and the guy who has all the ideas, but rather the guy who is obsessed with enabling employees to create value, I think you will succeed. That’s a leadership style that evolved from my own understanding of the fact that I’m not the greatest and brightest leader born. My job is to make sure everybody is enabled to do what they do well. This is part of our “Employees First” philosophy.
Q. Talk more about how you create that culture.
A. You have to create a culture of pushing the envelope of trust. How do we push the envelope of trust? By creating transparency.
Q. Give me an example.
A. All HCL’s financial performance information is on our internal Web. We are completely open. We put all the dirty linen on the table, and we answer everyone’s questions on our internal Web site. We inverted the pyramid of the organization and made reverse accountability a reality.
So my 360-degree feedback is open to 50,000 employees — the results are published on the internal Web for everybody to see. And 3,800 managers participate in an open 360-degree and the results — they’re anonymous so that people are candid — are available on the internal Web for those who gave feedback to see. So, that’s reverse accountability.
The other thing we did was make sure everybody understands that the C.E.O. is the most incompetent person to answer questions, and I say this to all my employees very openly.
Q. How do you communicate that?
A. One thing I learned was to communicate in extremes. So I asked myself, how do I communicate to employees to not look up to me, but to look within, to communicate that I’m one of you, to destroy that hierarchy? So I decided I’m going to go into this big gathering of employees dancing to a very famous Bollywood song. And I can’t dance for nuts, right? I was dancing in the aisles with these employees and making lots of noises. What happened? It completely destroyed the gap.
I’ll give you one more example with the way we handle business planning. So, what is the absolute power of the C.E.O? You come and make a presentation to me about what you’re going to do, and I will sit in this chair God has given to me and tell you if I like the plan or not. The power of the hierarchy flows from the fact that I will comment on what you write.
As my kids became teenagers, I started looking at Facebook a little more closely. It was a significant amount of collaboration. There was open understanding. They didn’t have a problem sharing their status. Nothing seemed to be secret, and they were living their lives very openly, and friends were commenting on each other and it was working.
Here is my generation, which is very security-conscious and privacy-conscious, and I thought, what are the differences? This is the generation coming to work for us. It’s not my generation.
So we started having people make their presentations and record them for our internal Web site. We open that for review to a 360-degree workshop, which means your subordinates will review it. Your managers will read it. Your peers will read it, and everybody will comment on it. I will be, or your manager will be, one of the many who read it. So, every presentation was reviewed by 300, 400 people.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Hole in the Soul of Business.

[Via Gary Hamel ]

Here’s an experiment for you. Pull together your company’s latest annual report, its mission statement, and your CEOs last few blog posts. Read through these documents and note the key phrases. Make a list of oft-repeated words. Now do a little content analysis. What are the goals and ideas that get a lot of airtime in your company? It’s probably notions like superiority, advantage, leadership, differentiation, value, focus, discipline, accountability, and efficiency. Nothing wrong with this, but do these goals quicken your pulse? Do they speak to your heart? Are they “good” in any cosmic sense?

Now think about Michelangelo, Galileo, Jefferson, Gandhi, William Wilberforce. Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa. What were the ideals that inspired these individuals to acts of greatness? Was it anything on your list of commercial values? Probably not. Remarkable contributions are typically spawned by a passionate commitment to transcendent values such as beauty, truth, wisdom, justice, charity, fidelity, joy, courage and honor.

I talk to a lot of CEOs, and every one professes a commitment to building a “high performance” organization—but is this really possible if the core values of the corporation are venal rather than venerable? I think not. And that’s why humanizing the language and practice of management is a business imperative (as well as a moral duty).

A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance. In so doing, it transforms great talent into exceptional accomplishment. That’s a fact—and it leaves me wondering: Why are words like “love,” “devotion” and “honor” so seldom heard within the halls of corporate-dom? Why are the ideals that matter most to human beings the ones that are most notably absent in managerial discourse?
John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods Markets, once remarked that he wanted to build a company based on love instead of fear. Mackey’s not a utopian idealist, and his unflinching libertarian views are off-putting to some. Yet few would argue with the goal of creating an organization that embodies the values of trust, generosity and forbearance. Yet a gut-level commitment to building an organization infused with the spirit of charity is far more radical and weird than it might appear.

If you doubt that, here’s another experiment. The next time you’re stuck in a corporate staff meeting, wait until everyone’s eyes have begun to glaze over from PowerPoint fatigue and then get up and announce that what your company really needs is a lot more luuuuuv. When addressing a large group of managers, I often challenge them to stand up for love (or beauty or justice or truth) in just this way. “When you get back to work, tell your boss your company has a love deficit.” This suggestions invariably provokes a wave of nervous laughter, which has always struck me as a bit strange. Why is it that managers are so willing to acknowledge theidea of a company dedicated to timeless human values and yet so unwilling to become practical advocates for those values within their own organizations? I have a hunch. I think corporate life is so manifestly inhuman—so mechanical, mundane and materialistic—that any attempt to inject a spiritual note into the overtly secular proceedings just feels wildly out of place—the workplace equivalent of reading a Bible in a brothel.

Leadership and Spirituality

[Via Ode Magazine ] A rather long article on Intersection of Spirituality and Leadership

The new story is described as High Touch and High Concept.
High Touch is about finding purpose and meaning to life, eliciting joy in others and being content.
High Concept is about detecting new patterns and opportunities and creating artistic and emotional beauty. Unrelated ideas are brought together to form something new.
This is spirituality. In the new story spirituality is the foundation for Authentic Leadership. 
So, how can we marry spirituality with leadership ?. The only way is to focus on self through a life of inquiry and mindfulness. 
What is Spirituality?
Let us explore this further. What does spirituality mean ?. To me, spirituality is about integrity. It helps us to find meaning in life, provides a foundation of our values to guide us in the way we behave with self, others and the world around us.
Spirituality is a way of facilitating a dialogue between reason and emotion, between mind and body. This provides a base for growth and transformation from our ego centered material self to an active, unifying, meaning-giving centre.
Spirituality is about a transpersonal vision of goodness, beauty, perfection, generosity, graciousness, and sacrifice. It hinges on dignity for self and others and the foundation is true integrity. Love and compassion is its cornerstone.
In contrast, our education system has shaped us to be more left brained, analytical, rational and target oriented. Religion which is supposed to teach us about spirituality has externalized it and handed over responsibility to an outside entity. We could do anything and ask for forgiveness, but the damage has been done to humanity. There is no focus on the individual responsibility and based on moral values. Religion focuses more on ritual and not personal inquiry and meaning to life. So we misconstrue it to worshiping external deities and statues rather than focusing on self, where our spirituality resides.
If we are to make a lasting transformation in individual behavior, we have to begin with education.
To redesign our education system we have to get away from the traditional Cartesian mind - matter divide which has been the focus of our global education system for the last 500 years. This system promotes IQ based rational, target based learning. It has done well to develop science and technologies to make some of our lives comfortable. Yet, this is the system that has the entire planet on the edge now, with the social challenges of a divided world of ‘haves and have nots’, steeped in insecurity, fear and violence for the ‘have nots’ and the environmental challenges we all face – both the rich and poor. Only a few fortunate of the 6 billion people on this earth live life of dignity for now. The disparity is outrageous, when one thinks that 80% of the world’s wealth is held by a mere 5%. Something has to give and we may lose it all.