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The Author Speaks

Interview With Deepak Chopra on 'The Soul of Leadership'

Older, wiser population has multiple built-in assets

Q. Why is well-being relevant to leadership?

A. Not only does it have implications for your capacity as a leader, but if you are physically, emotionally and spiritually well, with a rested body and a joyful mind, people look up to you for your presence alone. The mature worker has a greater ability to be that leader.

Q. Yet in today's competitive workplace, when people with 20, 30 or more years of experience are marginalized or even dismissed in favor of younger, cheaper workers, how does one respond?

A. It's our job as people who are 50 and beyond to make others aware of all the research that's coming out on neuroplasticity, on gene regulation, on the fact that there is nothing more powerful than the wisdom of experience — and at the same time, well-being and health. I tell organizations, "Mature workers are your major assets." Mature workers are less impulsive, less reactive, more creative and more centered. It's almost reflexive for a lot of organizations to think that younger workers are more effective, when often they're not.

Q. Why not?

A. Younger people tend to be distracted. They're still on the learning curve; they have less attention span. In my executive classes, I show that mature people with years and years of experience now realize they have to set a new standard for leadership. In societies where mature workers are respected and where their wisdom is respected, everybody benefits. Workers are more engaged and productive. Their health is better. They live longer.

Q. Does an increasingly tech-savvy and plugged-in world hinder the engagement with others, though?

A: I've always felt that technology can be used to our benefit and should be used to our benefit. It's not going to go away. So all of us, including the mature worker, should be savvy about that. I use technology even for emotional team-building skills in corporations.

Q. Let's talk about "widening your gaze." Why is that vital?

A: It means asking yourself: What am I observing? What am I feeling? What is the right response to the situation, and how can I help other people?

Q. Why is that vital?

A. We're less self-centered than we were when we were younger. And if you're involved in your community and are passionate about what you do, if you volunteer or provide some kind of service, you're likely to be much healthier. As your well-being is enhanced, so your community will be, too. Your circle of friends is likely to be much enhanced, too. Your social and physical and professional well-being are all linked.

Next: How does a new leader become more comfortable? >>

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