Part of the series “Today’s True Leadership”
I recently learned of an intriguing new series on LinkedIn that shares what some of the world’s top influencers would like to say to the next President of the United states, if they had a chance. Deepak Chopra, whom I’ve long admired and followed, is one of these influential thought leaders invited to share what he would most like to tell the next American leader. Very intrigued to learn more, I caught up Deepak to hear what he considers to be the most powerful and wide-reaching lessons he’s gleaned from his inspirational life and work.
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, is the founder of The Chopra Foundation and cofounder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism, he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes coauthored with Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.
Here is what Dr. Chopra shared:
Kathy Caprino: Deepak, you speak and write about the importance of the “soul of leadership.” Can you please share more about it?
Deepak Chopra: The simplest definition is a leadership style that begins with self-awareness. I teach this to CEOs and other top-ranking business leaders at Northwestern’s Kellogg Business School. These are highly successful people who arrive defining leadership in terms of externals: power, position, money, and status. There are two problems with this externalized conception:
• The first is that without an inner life, success has little meaning, leading to obsessive work for its own sake.
• The second drawback is a disconnect from those who are being led, whether in politics, business, or inside a family.
The Gallup Organization has gathered worldwide data on what followers (i.e., workers) want from their leaders, and the top things are trust, compassion, stability, and hope. “Soul” may seem like a high-flown word, yet where I begin is by showing these leaders that they exist to fulfill the needs of others, with three needs topping the list:
• People who follow you must feel that you will be loyal and not desert them
• That their safety and security is well placed in your hands
• And that you have real empathy with them as human beings
Caprino: What are the three most powerful lessons you’ve learned about life and about powerful and beneficial leadership?
Chopra: About life there is one paramount lesson: Consciousness is everything.?? This realization permeates everything I do or talk about. It’s also the only thing I want to lead people to understand, and for that to happen, I must motivate them through inspiration, which I believe is the only motivation that endures, year after year, decade after decade. Other motivations fade in time, but once you see the value of self-awareness, which is at the heart of consciousness, its fascination only increases — you watch yourself grow and guide your growth at the same time.
I experienced a major shift in my life 30 years ago when I began to focus inward, adopting meditation but also having the intention of being more mindful and seriously wanting to develop an inner life. This intention is more important, I feel, than any specific technique.
Speaking more generally, the other thing I believe about leadership is that it must fulfill the needs of others, including the need for emotional bonding, expression, creativity, and a higher vision of life. The great leaders we revere, like Lincoln and Gandhi, fulfilled that criterion with far-reaching effect.
Caprino: What do you wish people in the U.S. and around the world could understand and embrace more deeply today, in order to live happier, more fulfilled lives?
Chopra: If we set aside the present environment of turmoil and threat, which is probably the most important thing to confront, the real message transcends current events.
"Have a vision of life that inspires you, then try every day to grow closer to the fulfillment of that vision."
If “vision” sounds too overtly spiritual, then I’d reduce the message to something practical that applies every day in everyone’s life: “ Be a unit of peace in the world.?? ” In other words, don’t practice or support violence, either physical or emotional, in any guise.
We are anxious today about extremist groups around the world that use barbaric violence to achieve their ends, and in response, violence is employed against them. This is a familiar cycle, with both sides in a conflict feeling totally justified. But the world’s wisdom traditions speak about going to the source of violence in our own hearts as the only means to stop the cycle. Being a unit of peace means that you seriously undertake an inner journey to find the peace in yourself. That’s a basic requirement before any larger group—family, nation, religious community, or the world—can hope to end its violence.
Caprino: Why specifically do you think the world is becoming more embroiled in violence and conflict lately, and what can individuals do about it — what difference can each individual make through his/her life?
Chopra: In terms of gross statistics, we are living in infinitely less violent times than in the 20th century, when up to 100 million people died in world wars, epidemics, civil strife, and famine induced by government policy. (I’m thinking of China under Mao in the ’50s.) But perception is more than statistics, and it’s undeniable that the present atmosphere is rife with fanaticism, fear, and us-versus-them thinking. I wrote a Huffington Post article on how to feel safe in a dangerous world, which tells readers how to detach from this atmosphere of fear and violence. The key is to stop participating in the climate of fear, either mentally, physically, or emotionally; divorcing yourself from second-hand opinions about the need for violence against the “other” who threatens us; and then to stand up against the climate of exaggerated and fake fears being exploited by public figures who fan panic for their own gain.
Caprino: We’re steeped right now in political campaigns that are full of combative negativity and divisiveness, between parties, factions and individuals. Can you share your thoughts on the collective consciousness of citizens and voters and how that impacts the direction of the country?
Chopra: Collective consciousness begins with the familiar truism that “no man is an island unto himself.” We are all connected, and in an age of social media, opinions go viral almost instantly. They also get out of control as they spread, and every possible distortion enters the picture, creating a kind of collective static heard around the world. Yet at its core collective consciousness is more than today’s headlines and how we react to them. There is something real behind the concept of the family of man, to use an old phrase that feels a little sexist now. Let’s call it the human world instead.
The human world can be a community or a chaos of tribal, national, religious, and ethnic divisions. When it’s a community, epidemics get wiped out, research is shared, and borders come down. When it’s divisive, the human world seethes with violence, war, disease, and famine. At present the global situation teeters between these two extremes. Knowledge is being shared, wealth has gone global, and the dispossessed are beginning to get a place at the economic table.
Yet a strong backwash keeps pain and suffering intact when there is no need for that. There is more than enough money in the world to solve poverty and ease the refugee crisis. There is more than sufficient technology about climate change to make headway against it. But nothing will happen to solve these deep problems until people stop identifying with one nation, tribe, religion, or ethnic group and start identifying with the human world as something each of us creates or destroys every day. The most important step in this direction is to look at yourself in the mirror and pledge to act and think as a human being motivated by love, compassion, and understanding instead of the opposite values, which include hostility, selfishness, and narrow-mindedness.
Caprino: Finally, what advice would you want to give next U.S. president, if you had the chance to sit down for lunch with her or him for two hours?
Chopra: We all enjoy being listened to, and presidents entertain hundreds of advice-givers on all sides. So it would be futile for me to give advice.
Instead, I’d ask him or her to name five major things they want to achieve. Starting with those, we’d have a conversation where I could lay out how leaders accomplish great things at the level of consciousness. We’d begin by looking at the president’s core beliefs and how they were arrived at. Beliefs either expand your awareness or confine it. The reason that history reveres a Martin Luther King or Franklin D. Roosevelt is that these figures evolved with enormous speed and courage in their own awareness, which is the only way to successfully meet challenges that change every day. There is a skill to being aware that even the most powerful people don’t realize, although many acquired the skill on their own, following their own intuition.
I don’t call this giving advice, because I’d expect the president to grasp the importance of awareness by looking inside. Whether this conversation might have any lasting effect isn’t something I can predict, but I’d know one thing: This is the conversation that I believe could have the most positive impact.
Caprino: Finally, in your piece on LinkedIn about what you like to tell the next president about healthcare, can you give us a high-level overview of your take on healthcare today in this country?
Chopra: The next president, from either of the two parties, needs to realize that people need help to be empowered over their health and well-being. At present, the opposite is true. The medical establishment and the government are caught in a spiral of rising costs that not only terrifies the average citizen but shows no sign of immediate major reversal.
The good news is that avenues of empowerment are already open and growing more important. The prevention movement that began 50 years ago with campaigns against tobacco and high cholesterol is being remodeled in the following directions: Social media is creating a community with like-minded goals for dealing with health issues and promoting well-being. Outside the Web, centers have sprung up where people can get a wider range of information and techniques devoted to self-care. Even if the government remains embroiled in the self-interest of healthcare providers and insurance companies, self-care will continue to be a growing wave—that’s the most helpful phenomenon I can spot in the current environment. The next president needs to keep up with it and encourage it until comprehensive healthcare reform somehow passes Congress.
Read the original article on Forbes.