This morning, I did something I haven’t done for a couple of months: read a book in English.
Between getting started at Hoy and focusing closely on learning to read and write in Spanish, I’ve not kept up with my English reading.
Fortunately, that ended today, with Deepak Chopra’s The Soul of Leadership being my book of choice. Mom ordered the book, sent it on Amazon and it arrived yesterday.
I don’t know if you are familiar with the enormously prolific Chopra-according to the dust jacket on this, he at 55 books in 35 languages and counting-but I’ve read a couple of his others, being less than wowed by his New Age-influenced philosophy.
As the title suggests, The Soul of Leadership is very much in that same vein, and, to my surprise, I found this one much more useful than the others.
My brother-in-law Josh Kelly turned me onto the business books genre, and leadership books tend to either be the largely autobiographical accounts of how big names like Jack Welch or John Bogle made their way to their countless riches or a generic set of bromides about values, mission and daily activities.
This has a lot of the latter-Chopra uses an acrostic for the word LEADERS as the base for the book’s seven constituent elements-and he has a much more organic and expansive view of leadership than many of the other books on the subject. Chopra also has what for me what a particularly useful section in which he debunks what he see as common myths of leadership and advances his alternative view.
Chopra spends a decent amount of time talking about visionary leaders and how they approach different scenarios. He writes in one chapter, for instance, of how leaders might act when confronted with a natural disaster.
The visionary leader blends visiting the scene with getting reports that he or she uses to analyze further action. He or she also comes to situations open to possibilities rather than having a pre-determined view of the situation. Chopra writes in a number of places, too, about the importance of not making too many rules or figuring out plans in too specific detail in advance of the moment.
Chopra also emphasizes the need to be emotionally integrated so that one is talking openly about bias and simultaneously acting in an emotionally connected and intellectually objective way.
The idea of awareness is another key element in Chopra’s book. He details in an admiring fashion Nelson Mandela’s evolution from an ANC firebrand when he entered prison in 1964 to the more restrained but no less committed statesman who emerged 27 years later. Central to Mandela’s evolution, according to Chopra, was his greater awareness and broader world view.
This is also a book about soul, though, and Chopra’s explanation about the importance is present both in his description of the leader as the soul of an organization and in his discussion of synchronicity, the “S” in leadership. He uses the Jungian term to talk about how leaders embodying this aspect by embracing their unknown, and to some degree unpredictable, destiny.
Heady and imprecise stuff, to be sure.
And yet my feeling was that there was something there to be gleaned.
I’m not about to go out and read the rest of Chopra’s many fiction and non-fiction works, and I’m glad that I got back on the reading train with this one.