People often ask me, “What does leadership have to do with yoga?” The answer is everything, especially in tech leadership. The tech world (where I conduct leadership development programs) is a highly unstructured environment. If managers can be adaptable and stay balanced, they will succeed.
The #1 thing that I have observed that causes new managers to lose their equilibrium (and often their jobs) is the balance between power and humility.
Most people become humble and respectful when they are down. The challenge is to do it when you are up.
Two leadership and yoga principles to help you stay balanced:
1. Endurance is the key to success, but durability is not rigidity. It requires flexibility and the ability to adapt to adverse circumstances.
2. This is my favorite. It is simple to understand and yet I have found it the hardest for new tech managers to do (because again, it takes balance and balance has to be developed) …
Your job as the leader is not to get people to do the work. Your job is to make it possible for them to succeed.
In a leadership role, you are a conduit providing nourishment for the people you lead.
Your own nourishment is at issue, too. What you feed yourself includes not only food, but also the thoughts you think. Just as you need wholesome food, you also need to be careful about what enters your mind. If your thoughts are balanced, you can have a good effect on others. When you allow stress to enter your mind, the people around you suffer.
Seema Eckler, was a Strategy & Operations Consultant at Deloitte Consulting when I interviewed her for my latest book. Today she works at Google. In her former job, she traveled from city to city, constantly on the road almost every week. She was newly married and just bought a new home. She says, “Life is moving a million miles an hour. Yoga
helps me with my stress. It helps me slow down for a little bit. My yoga practice is my link to feeling centered and grounded.”
Yoga has been a lifelong practice for Seema. Sometimes less, sometimes more. But she always comes back to it because it makes her feel centered and she feels accomplished afterwards.
According to Seema, Yoga principles also relate to working with people. She says, “At work,
a good team needs a positive environment. Each person focusing on self-improvement is important. Yoga is a community of positive and supportive people that brings me energy. When you are practicing the poses, you only compare yourself to you and
where you are. It is not about comparing yourself to how the people around you are doing the pose. At work, when you don’t feel that everyone is competitive, you can speak up safely.”
Yoga is not a twisted body. Not someone lying on a bed of nails. Not a technique nor an exercise. Yoga is about being in balance….stilling the fluctuations of the mind, according to the ancient definition in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
As a leader, you need balance so you no longer reel between hope and fear, expansion and contraction, pain and pleasure, success and failure. When you are in balance you function at your best. Your natural abilities flow out. You have more energy and experience more happiness, more contentment. Would Gerhardt’s experience have unfolded differently if he had known this?
The word yoga means “union” in Sanskrit. When your body, mind, emotions and energy are in alignment, you’ll do the best work and be the best that you can be as a leader. When you are out of balance, you are a big mess.
Read more in “Leadership with a Twist of Yoga” on amazon.