June 8, 2012

Deepak Chopra Ponders the Soul of Leadership

‘A true leader is the soul of a collective consciousness,’ says the modern-day guru at Pershing Insite 2012

'People who feel self-power are immune to criticism,' says Deepak Chopra, pictured here at Pershing Insite 2012. 'People who feel self-power are immune to criticism,' says Deepak Chopra, pictured here at Pershing Insite 2012.

Strolling easily from one side of the stage to the other, Deepak Chopra addresses the 2,000 members of his audience as if speaking in a face-to-face conversation with each person in the room.

“People who feel self-power are immune to criticism,” he says. “They look at it as useful feedback, negative or passive. They’re willing to take risks because they believe in their vision.”

The planners of the Pershing Insite 2012 business conference had invited him to speak Thursday on the topic of “The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness.” As the author of 18 New York Times best sellers on human empowerment, he is certainly qualified to speak about the topic of leadership. Indeed, Kyle Stock for The Wall Street Journal last year picked Chopra’s book, also titled “The Soul of Leadership,” as one of the nation's five best business books.

But never mind all that. Deepak Chopra is here to speak to you. And you. And you.

“A true leader is the soul of a collective consciousness,” he says, and we are all storytellers of our hopes and wishes, heroic strivers of mythological dimensions. “A good story is the story of the hero’s quest, and a good story starts with a dream.”

Martin Luther King had a dream, Chopra reminds us, not an individual dream, but a collective vision. We are, each of us on this planet whirling in space, sharing that vision, and some of us—the leaders—are agents for change and transformation. Chopra won’t get into politics, but it seems obvious to him that President Obama is one such agent of change whose dream is only now beginning to be expressed by the collective consciousness.

Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Facebook, Twitter, the Arab Spring, money, religion, relationships. All create a synchronicity of crisis and opportunity, and out of the chaos emerges the new hive mind of human belief systems and social networks. So, too, do great leaders emerge and shape the reality we perceive.

Great leaders ask themselves the big mythical questions: Who am I? What do I want? Who are the heroes and mentors we can learn from? Great leaders are oriented toward relationship building, toward creating a soul identity that projects itself outward with love, kindness and compassion. Great leaders make their own good luck by being aware—present in the moment—and they are fundamentally happy people.

Chopra reminisces about the time when he was a child growing up in India, and his mother took him to a street demonstration in support of Jawaharlal Nehru, the man who led India out of British imperialism and into sovereign independence. Nehru looked directly at Chopra’s mother, took a rose from his lapel, and threw the flower to the beautiful woman in a pink sari. The crowd gasped, his mother collected the symbol of Indian independence to her bosom, and Chopra realized at that very moment that his mother was the leader of her house (even if it was his militaryman father who had all the ribbons and medals).

“Well-being is the one thing that predicts everything. The economy, social unrest, conflict, hospital admissions, financial institutions—all are driven by the world’s level of well being,” says Chopra, a fit 65-year-old who practices yoga, meditates and surrounds himself with the emotional support of family and friends. “Suffering is the best predictor of chaos, more than GDP or any other predictor.”

Great leaders are charismatic, Deepak Chopra tells us, and the hive mind of this audience of 2,000 souls, following his every word and move as he roams about the stage, can see clearly now that the man himself is a leader of great charisma.

The day he spoke at Insite, Chopra posted a photo of himself at the conference on the “picture of the day” page of his website. In short order, he received dozens of comments from admirers, one of whom summed up the adoration that Chopra inspires: “Guru, you are just amazing.”

Read Power in Practice: A Coaching Program to Last a Career from the May issue of Investment Advisor magazine at AdvisorOne.

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