Leadership lessons from the Dalai Lama

Last week a long-standing dream came true: I had the chance to witness the Dalai Lama’s visit to the London School of Economics, and his speech on resisting intolerance: an ethical and global challenge. Humble and self-effacing, he adopted a conversational style that made us listen more intently and more deeply than many of us had for a while.

Laurens van den Muyzenberg in his book The Leader’s Way co-authored with the Dalai Lama, summarises three core tenets that were central to his speech:

The first point to consider in any decision-making process is the intention behind the action under consideration.The intention must be good, meaning that as a minimum it results in no harm to others.

“We are all the same, we feel pain and pleasure just the same and we all want and have a right to happiness. The goal is a kind of joyfulness where we have let go of vanity, and are buoyed by hope [and as leaders we should strive to creating the conditions for that for ourselves and those we serve].”

The second point to consider is the state of mind of the leader, and as far as possible, also that of the other people involved in the process. The challenge for the decision maker is to recognise the origination of any negative effects of the mind such as defensiveness or anger, and to be able to return the mind to a calm, collected, and concentrated state.

“Intelligence knows reality, accepts it and knows what matters. In order to know the reality of our world and our approach fully we should make a point of always looking at everything holistically and from many angles. We must rid our minds from desire in order to see objectively, and avoid anger, desire, attachment, hatred, jealousy as these cloud the mind. We furthermore need to know the property of things – are they good or bad for us in the sense that will they assist us in making a positive difference in the world. The more compassionate and warmhearted we are, the more self-confident we become and self-confidence brings inner strength that can help us persevere through challenge and difficulty.”

When coming to the end of the decision-making process, leaders should ask themselves: Are the effects of this decision beneficial for my organisation and also for any others concerned? What is my motivation: am I only seeking benefit for myself of did I also consider the benefits of others?

“A lot of problems are our own creation because we fail to have adequate knowledge of the impact of our decisions and appreciate the long term perspective. It is our duty to develop our outlook so we see the entire humanity, and not stress secondary level differences on the expense of everything we have in common. Needless divisions include races, nationalities, believer – non-believer, influential – non-influential delineations. Instead, we need to act on the one-ness of humanity as our future depends on one another, we are interdependent. If you consider other people a source of suspicion then you suffer and mentally you become lonely. Trust and respect makes you feel much happier. To bully and cheat others requires seeing them as something other. Change comes through action, peace never came through prayer or wishful thinking, but only through action.”

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