What qualities come to mind when you think of a “good” leader? Assertive, confident, controlling, ambitious, high-strung? These qualities are a far cry from the qualities we associate with yoga practitioners: calm, peaceful, content, and a “go with the flow” attitude. So then, how on earth can yoga help you become a better leader? Aren’t successful leaders and yogis 2 completely different types of people?
In this month’s Know How Network, we here at Cheetah Learning ask you to re-think what it means to be a leader — and what it means to do yoga. Yoga isn’t just about joint flexibility and chanting “om.” It’s about gaining awareness of your body — how it feels, how it moves, and how it responds to its surroundings. Yoga is about engaging both your mind and your body to reach a state of inner calm and balance. As a result, yoga puts you in a position to engage compassionately, honestly, and mindfully, with others.
This mindful engagement with others, we find, is what sets great leaders apart from good ones. Yoga can help you develop great leadership skills in many ways; here, we’ll introduce a few of these and how yoga can help you master these skills:
- problem-solving as a leader
- compassionately engaging with others, and
- checking your ego.
Problem-Solving as a Leader
Great leaders need to be great problem-solvers. They need to be able to come up with creative, effective solutions to challenging dilemmas, and then lead a team through carrying out the solution. Creative problem-solving often makes us think beyond what we already know (or think we know) — in other words, it requires us to learn something new. Yoga, which asks us to pay attention to our bodies and to align our breathing with our movements, can actually help us learn.
Doing yoga resets your reference points. Moving your body literally changes your perspective, which is often all you need to learn a new concept or shift how you’re approaching a problem. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your brain. Coordinating your breath with your movement brings your attention to your breath; this helps calm down a hyperactive nervous system and engages the higher processing parts of your brain. In turn, you put yourself in a better position to think critically and creatively.
Compassionately Engaging with Others
We all know that being a leader means getting things done. Just as importantly, though, being a leader means knowing how to communicate with, delegate to, and motivate, others. All of these things are most successfully accomplished if done from a place of compassion and understanding; this is another area where the benefits of yoga come in.
Many of the times when we communicate less successfully as a leader, we are failing to engage with others from place of compassion. Instead, we are often worried about what we need to get done, which co-workers or team members are causing us issues, what problems might arise in the future.
Doing yoga brings you back to the present. The future can be a scary place, especially if you in a leadership position where the stakes are high for you.
Yoga reminds us to concentrate our energy and attention on what we can and need do at this moment. When we focus our attention on the present and allow ourselves to be fully present with others, we can best engage with co-workers or team members in a way that will motivate and inspire them rather than stress them out.
Checking Your Ego
Lastly, being a great leader requires you to recognize and admit when you’re not able to solve a problem or complete a project on your own. It means checking your ego and asking for help when you need it, for the ultimate good of the project or the whole organization.
Doing yoga presents physical and mental challenges that require us to check our ego every time we practice. Poses that look simple turn out to be incredibly difficult, and it can take months – even years – of practice to master just one new skill. Yoga reminds us to recognize the limits of our body, even as it asks us to appreciate and care for our body.
Leaders would do well to take the same approach toward their projects, how they interact with co-workers, and their career ambitions as a whole: with mindfulness, compassion, and humility.
Read more about Cheetah’s approach at www.cheetahlearning.com.