The voice on the telephone is calm, centered, compassionate — the very qualities that Deepak Chopra, spiritual guide and best-selling author of the new book The Soul of Leadership has been training others to cultivate for decades. In a chaotic and often unpredictable world, Chopra, 64, believes that "we have never needed enlightened leadership as much as we do now." (Read an excerpt from The Soul of Leadership.)
It is the mature individual, he adds — the person who has accrued and developed wisdom and experience over the years — who is in a unique position to be a leader today. Perhaps that's why over the past decade Chopra's devotees have increasingly included top executives from major corporations and other institutions who have attended his executive classes at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University or heard him speak at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton or other business schools. To be an effective leader, says Chopra in his new book, "we must go beyond the constant clamor of ego, beyond the tools of logic and reason, to the still, calm place within us: the realm of the soul."
But leaders can be anywhere — and be anybody, as Chopra stresses. The old models of corporate power and massive ego — those blustery bosses who strutted their stuff in front of the troops, pounding podiums and blowing a few fuses in a strained, misguided effort to lead — are long gone. Or should be, according to Chopra. The flawed models "exalted power, and the use of power has been directly linked to abuse." Instead, quiet and effective leaders can reveal themselves throughout daily life — at the community center, the school, the bank, the post office, the grocery store. The best leaders improve the lives of those who follow them, says Chopra.
The author of more than 55 books, Chopra started out as a physician and eventually moved to emotional and spiritual healing. Together with David Simon, M.D., he opened the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in 1996 in Carlsbad, Calif., "to help people experience physical healing, emotional freedom and higher states of consciousness." Recently Chopra spoke with the AARP Bulletin about how his new book applies specifically to the mature population in America today:
Q. How can older people best embrace their leadership qualities?
A. They have the capacity for being looked up to. No matter what they do, whether it's at work or in their private lives, they can be leaders. It takes a little bit of mindfulness and a little bit of attention to others to be a good listener, which helps cultivate emotional nurturing and engagement. Once you're more aware of people's needs, you can create action plans for others to follow. That way, you're responsible for your own well-being, too.
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