Thinking back to the moment that I made the decision to be the leader I wanted to have, I recall that it was during a discussion with an HR manager where I was describing what I had created with Orange Blossom Society, a social hub and enrichment center for families, where the concept and experience were based on the qualities of creativity, fascination, growth, inspiration, presence and connection. I was explaining that although that business no longer existed, I believed it was my purpose to infuse these same qualities into the relationships with my current co-workers. Through this intention I hoped that my actions would make a difference in their lives, which would then have a positive affect on their families, communities, and so on. I still vividly remember how the HR manager looked at me, and I wondered simultaneously – did I just discover something profound about myself, or did this person think that I was out of my mind. In reflection I believe both were true.
Over the next several years there was a lot of industry buzz about leadership – thought leadership, servant leadership, visionary leaders – and this trend led me to optimistically hope that I would first-hand experience an inspirational servant leader. I’m not sure where I would be today if this had come true. What I’m certain of however, is that the practice of being the leader I wanted to have, in contrast to what I was experiencing personally year after year from various leaders, strengthened my resolve to keep showing up every day – purposefully, honestly, and in service to those around me.
This conscious shift of not waiting for an enlightened leader to show up, but to do my best to be the leader I wished I had, is a process that has continued to evolve over several years. During one period I participated in a yoga teacher training program which has influenced my life in many ways. Discovering and studying The Bhagavad Gita and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (two classic books on yoga philosophy) have been game changers for me, both on and off my yoga mat.
Practicing hot yoga was my initial gateway for applying the physical asanas (poses) with yoga philosophy. Many people ask what is the point of practicing yoga in a hot room, often followed by the comment it sounds like a terrible idea! What keeps me coming back is this: to purposefully practice regulation of breath, quieting the mind, and challenging asanas in an environment that creates stress through heat requires me to be disciplined, patient, aware and compassionate. As taught through The Gita, “Yoga is evenness of the mind,” detachment from the dualities of pain and pleasure, success and failure. Therefore “yoga is skill in action.”
Traditionally there are four paths of yoga:
- Yoga of Knowledge – Jnana Yoga
- Yoga of Devotion – Bhakti Yoga
- Yoga of Selfless Action – Karma Yoga
- Yoga of Meditation – Raja Yoga
Through the practice of servant leadership and yoga I have come to identify strongly with Karma Yoga. Karma, which in Sanskrit means something that is done, is often associated with someone getting “what they deserve” in a punitive manner. While that can be one way to view Karma, I prefer a more illuminated view from The Gita:
The law of Karma explains that every event is both cause and effect, both physical and mental. Consider Karma an educative force whose purpose is to teach the individual to act in harmony with Dharma (the essence of a thing) and not to pursue selfish interests at the expense of others, but to contribute to life and consider the welfare of the whole.
The realization that I aspire to lead through the path of selfless action has inspired me to create Karma Leadership. I believe it is my purpose to put into motion a continuous and positive cycle of cause and effect through teaching people how to be Karma Leaders.
This is an exciting journey that has been many years in the making. I am looking to build a community of people who are curious about learning how they can apply the principles of Karma Leadership in their lives. If this is you, or someone you know, subscribe to my blog to join the Karma Leader community.
Be the leader you want to have through Karma Leadership.