Deepak Chopra and The Soul of Leadership

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.



2 responses to “Deepak Chopra and The Soul of Leadership

  1. Alice Lowenstein

    Jeff- I’ve read a lot more Chopra books than you have. In the beginning he was writing more describing the spirit changes in a person, with many fewer words about how to behave in different situations. His books on Jesus and Buddha are both about how they saw clearly from their souls as well as then, how they acted. This is the first Chopra book I’m reading that is an excellent guidebook to understanding ways to choose.

    As I wait fully aware that the Universe will be showing me my path, as I read his book, I become aware of ways of how my life will be. In this lifetime, with me having to heal from my car accident, much of my life is about talking to people one on one. Other leaders have larger audiences. My audience is related to the words I have written down.

    I was an artist, a designer of gardens, a published poet before the accident. I began writing poems 3 weeks after the accident, just so I would know that I was here. I lost my sense of self. When I read my journals I receive the document that showed me the inner me. Finding the me from my life before is what you,your brothers, my sister and friends gave me.

    It has taken 25 years for me to find my center, to master my emotions, so I am safe enough to come out in public. What I lost from my brain injury was the ability to organize. I also lost the functioning as an adult. I did not become an infant, but I had to go through all the developmental stages again. It is very common for people who have had trauma, or illness, or surgery to regress. The kind of regression I had came from how many times my brain banged against my skull. Those blows removed the whole pattern of functioning.

    When you grow up again, when a person create a new structure in their brains, when they learn how to behave, how to integrate everything they know is true into a world view, it takes people who believe in them, as well as time. It takes people who give them honest feedback about how they are behaving, and what the effect is.

    To have a son like you and your brothers, who absolutely believed that I would heal, who learned how to help me as I was learning how to help myself, is the greatest gift a child can give. The most important role I had was mother. Just because I made a mistake, did not look at the weather, went to New Hampshire to get something that could have been sent to me, did not mean that I wanted my sons to take care of me for the rest of my life.

    To heal from such a massive injury is very difficult. It is much easier to get used to be being disabled. You or one of your brothers lived in Boston for 13 years so I always had the help I needed. I wanted all of you to have the energy and the time to focus on your lives, so you would be able to give all of your gifts to the world.

    Because I had been an atheist before my injury, I had no framework to understand what I had experienced. I read writers from around the world like Chopra to have a framework so I could find words to describe my journey. I woke up and heard everyone around me speaking about my body. Nobody talked about being with God, looking at my life, seeing all the mistakes I made, being filled with remorse at seeing those I had harmed. Because I did not hear those words, I felt that what I experienced was a taboo. Reading all those books showed me it wasn’t.

    I am so happy that you find The Soul of Leadership interesting and helpful. All of us need an understanding of a new way to be a leader, a leader that depends upon followers to choose to follow, not to be forced.

    Thanks for telling me about what you learned.


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