The Challenge of Leadership

I believe that the role of the leader today has gone under a profound change! We live in the communication age, we are inundated with messages, ads, news clips, and even in the elevator there are video screens, many thousands of images, and messages every day. I believe because of the enormous increase in the amount of knowledge, specialization, and technology in all fields of endeavour it has become impossible for the modern leader to have anything but a small working knowledge of the ‘whole’ enterprise. The chances of ‘leading’ any endeavour through to success has become even more difficult and yet the pressure to do that has increased dramatically.

Everyone is looking for the special ‘Charismatic’ leader to take them out of the wilderness. One of the management trends that I have observed is that of the notion of the ‘servant’ leader – placing the leader at the service of the organization rather than at the ‘leading edge’.

Let me introduce you to a modern application of ancient wisdom and teachings.

ZEN: The Art of Leadership

The real principles of Zen leadership are deeply rooted in balance, mindfulness and a deep understanding of one’s self. So, what does “Zen” mean? For me, it’s bringing all your experiences into the moment, which could be a project, dealing with a stressful issue, working out, tending a garden, strategically planning a board retreat or helping with a personal issue.

It is both awareness and personal expression of deep personal values. In the professional setting, it’s using your personal values to lead people of all cultures and beliefs with integrity, balance and focus.

A leader with a “Zen” like mentality accepts and promotes various traditions without their belief system being threatened. One must have the mindset that there are several paths toward the same destination and what works for one, might not work for another. This is extremely important when promoting various dimensions of wellness and activities to a community.

Cultural diversity brings creativity, growth and a global awareness which is essential for business today. Communication skills are a key element in building trust and respect in order to reduce the potential of conflict and increase productivity, creativity and cohesion of any work team.

Today’s diverse workplace environment has the potential for “triggering” emotional or irrational responses for many people – this can be reduced by using a communication process that brings huge benefits for a team, particularly the reduction of stress.

Benefit from cultural diversity rather than being in a lose/lose situation and help create a win/win environment.

A Zen leader demonstrates following traits:

Mindfulness
Zen leaders can maintain a calm presence and awareness in day-to-day life. This requires having a deep understanding of the functions, thoughts and actions around them. Zen leaders can show mindfulness when they are comfortable with their inner self and know that they don’t have all the answers, despite their title or influence.

Mission
Zen leaders live the mission of their organization daily and it is tied to their personal mission. They lead the way managing and promoting change not only to the organization, but also to the individuals within.

Engagement
Zen leaders work side by side with those they serve. A true leader leads without making others feel they are being led. Leading from the front, very naturally as part of the whole, is an art form.

Zen leaders understand that each member has his or her own skill sets and abilities that blossom in different ways. Therefore, they can maintain person-centered relationships without changing who they are and what they stand for.

Balance
Zen leaders find life balance, not only in themselves, but also in recognizing the needs of others. They are the same person in or out of the office.

Each of us can experience the battle of “heart vs. head” as we lead, sorting through our emotions, such as anger, stress, anxiety and ego. Zen leaders rise above these emotions to make impartial and just treatment or behaviour without favouritism or discrimination rather than ego and retaliation.

This allows a ZEN leader to be more effective in personal communications and leadership.

All the best, Geoffrey

Geoffrey has coached CEO’s, leaders, architects, engineers, public speakers and entrepreneurs: Here is a small collection of success stories from the different areas of Geoffrey’s background as a coach. Geoffrey has over 25 years coaching experience. He has led teams for 2010 Winter Olympic Bid, CN Financial Division, Shaw, Rocky Mountaineer, Sandwell Engineering, FKP Architects, Telus and Stantec. Geoffrey taught at the Sauder School of Business, Executive Education, at the University of British Columbia.