Soul-centred leadership: It is probable that everyone who’s been in a position of leadership has, at some time, done a little soul-searching.
What is driving me? Why am I doing this? Is there a better way? Am I a good leader?
Setting aside the question of whether there is such a thing as a ‘soul’ (an argument for another time), Michael Anderson argues that we all believe, to some degree, in a ‘higher power’ or force that helps us to connect with each other.
He’s talking spirituality. Not in a ‘connect with the other world’ sort of way, but an inner being that he says everyone needs to understand in order to be a better person.
“By being better people we can understand other people and become better leaders,” he says.
Anderson, an American writer and speaker on leadership, is part-way through a world tour, stopping off in Scotland, giving lectures on ‘Soul-Centred Leadership’ which lies at the heart of his message.
“There has been nothing new on leadership for some time,” he says. “No one is making the connection between the spiritual and leadership. There is less religion around, but people are into the spiritual.
“The more we learn to love ourselves and understand our emotions the more we feel connected to others. That allows us to understand others, to share the feelings of others and become better at leading them.
“The alternative is that we refuse to understand what makes us feel the way we do, shut our emotions away and convey the wrong message. Managers will lie or cover up in order to avoid facing the truth.
“That truth may be that things have gone badly and they do not want to be labelled a failure. Often the best thing to do is own up, deal with the problem, encourage your team to work through it.”
Anderson, 46, says he is not religious, though he has taken some “good wisdom” from Buddhism. He studied spiritual psychology and believes it has helped him deal with difficult situations.
“The Buddhists say the route of all suffering is attachment,” he says, quoting one of the wisdoms he has lived by.
After a corporate career in software he launched three businesses in Singapore and San Diego, two of which he has sold. He now lives out of two suitcases and has no home.
“It is liberating. I’ve lived and worked in eight countries and I have friends I can call on,” he says.
“Learn to accept whats gone wrong, and let go.”
His books – he has written two – and lectures are aimed at improving individuals to have “self-compassion”. He does not consider himself a coach in the conventional sense.
“Coaches deal with individuals. I am a ‘one-to-many’ speaker. I do lectures. Coaches listen. I talk.”
At the core of his talks is how individuals deal with their emotions and teach themselves self-forgiveness in dealing with issues.
“Guys are particularly bad at this stuff. They hate dealing with it. I had one manager who’s company was in decline and who said he would tell the workforce everything was okay because he did not want to be the one taking the blame.
“Instead, when he faced up to the way he was feeling and told himself he could handle it he told the truth and brought them with him.
“Individuals who suppress emotion suffer high blood pressure, sickness. They get angry and yell at colleagues. They escape into drugs and alcohol or binge eating.
“Alternatively, they could learn to accept what’s gone wrong and let it go.”