Why Meditation Empowers Leaders

To understand how meditation both empowers leaders and enables them to become empowering leaders we need to explore the issue of intent. In any situation a leader can base their intent on what they are getting from the world or on what they are giving to the world.

The Outcome of Intent

When the leader constructs their intent on what they are getting, their engagement with the other is based on something the other can withhold. This makes that leader weak. If you engage someone on the basis of what you want from the other, the other’s ability to withhold what you want, makes them powerful and you weak. On the other hand, when the leader gives attention to what they can give in a situation they, become powerful. Because they bare giving attention to what they have power over, what sits in their own hands.

Further to this if you want something from someone, their ability to withhold what you want makes them dangerous to you. But not only are they dangerous to you, you are dangerous to them because you want something from them. If two people are dangerous to each other, you will have conflict. When you shift your attention to what you should be giving to a person you, are safe from them because they cannot withhold something and thus manipulate you. Simultaneously, because you are giving attention to how you can help them rather than what you can get out of them, they are safe from you and if two people are safe from each other they are in harmony. This means that leaders who are here to give generally lead harmonious groups.

Leaders Don’t give Results

What is important about this intent to give is that it is not about the leader being the iconic hero figure who produces stellar organizational success. In fact, a good leader would not calibrate their own success on the success of the organization. Success is an outcome, and any outcome or result is concerned with what the leader gets. This would be true for all outcomes, including balance score card outcomes and short-term deliverables.

Leaders don’t give results, their people do. Their people produce those results by doing the work that the enterprise gets rewarded by the customer for. The leader gives none of these things.

The Role of the Leader

So the question then is what is the leader’s contribution? What does the leader give? Let us assume we are dealing with a small organization that has three level in the hierarchy, a boss, a supervisor, and a worker.  To explore what the boss should be giving requires us to explore what the worker’s immediate supervisor should be giving. The supervisor would do some tasks herself, but the rest of what she does gets delivered through the worker. Her contribution to the worker is to care for the worker and to empower the worker.

We have a fishing analogy to explore what empowerment means. If you wanted to empower someone to fish, the first thing you would need to give the person is some stuff. A rod, a reel some bait and so on. We would call these things the Means to be able to fish. You then need to train the person to be able to fish. We refer to that as making the person able or giving them Ability.

However, giving the person the Means and the Ability to fish is not adequate. If you gave the person all the means and the ability to fish but they were unwilling to do so, and on top of that you offered to give them a fish when they needed one, they would not fish. This suggests that the last thing you need to contribute to enable their will is to say something like ‘If you don’t catch a fish after this, starve!’. You need to hold the person accountable.

Meditation & Mindfulness

Going one level up, what sits in the overall leaders’ hands is exactly the same thing. It is to care for the supervisors in his area.  To give them the means, the ability and the accountably to do what is required of them. If one differentiates between process, in other words, what people actually do, and outcome, or the result of what they do, then the leaders result is the overall performance of the enterprise and his process is to give his immediate subordinates the means, the ability and the accountability to do what is required of them. The result is what he gets, his process is what he gives.

This suggests that the leader really needs to work his intent. He needs to differentiate between what he wants to get, the results, and what he needs to give. That distinction is about the leader giving attention to his own process rather than giving attention solely to outcomes. The ability to give attention to process one could call mindfulness.

Wikipedia defines mindfulness as ‘The practice of purposefully bring one’s attention to the present without judgement.’ This skill is also about learning how not to panic when things do not go one’s own way. Meditation helps to strengthen that muscle, because meditation enables one to quieten ones internal dialogue, the steady stream of judgements one passes over the world. Meditation therefore strengthens the muscle of giving attention to the immediate, the process, without an undue and ongoing judgement of outcomes. It enables the calm and the detachment needed to not to get overwhelmed by the vagaries of fortune and to doggedly stick to the course. Meditation empowers leaders, because it keeps their attention on their own process, on what they are giving. It also enables leaders to empower because, by definition, the process of the leader is the empowerment of their subordinates.

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