When does a spiritual Way become leadership? When does leadership become a spiritual Way?

I’ve been reflecting on our new brand, our radiating Zen Leader logo, and all the conversations I’ve been in with people who love our programs, but never considered themselves leaders, or who feel the word “Zen” could be a red flag at their places of work.  And here we put both front and center in CAPITAL letters – are we crazy?

Well, maybe. Or maybe crazy like a fox. You decide. Sure we’ll use market-sensitive names for our programs when needed. HEAL for healthcare practitioners, the Power of Resilience in Asia or Lead with Purpose, our online course, are a few examples we’re using now. But if brand is a promise, ours is that there’s a different way to lead, that leadership can be a spiritual Way, and that we’re here to live it and teach it.

So first, what do I mean by a “spiritual Way”?  The two terms overlap, but “spirit” evokes energy and “Way” speaks to functioning.  So we could say it is the functioning of energy flowing through us, not just from us, a sense of connectedness beyond ego informing our actions with ease, not awkwardness, and inspiration, not fear. The root of the very word, “inspire” is to “breathe in”, and to live in a spiritual Way is to “breathe in” universal energy and let it come through our particular self.

So when does this become leadership? When it serves others. When it creates value, beauty, or goodness for the sake of other people. And since humans are, by nature, social beings, the authentic expression of universal energy through us almost by default serves others and becomes an act of leadership.  So, it’s not surprising that when my Zen teacher’s teacher, Omori Sogen Roshi, was asked, “what is the purpose of Zen training?” his answer was simply: “To create leaders.” That’s the lineage we come from.

Looking from the opposite direction, when does leadership become a spiritual Way? When we commit to deep spiritual practice that deconstructs the stuck points of ego, getting us out of our own way, that the universal energy we “breathe in” can function with less and less obstruction.  By throwing ourselves into the world (rather than sitting on the proverbial mountaintop), we expose ourselves to all the things that can trigger us, exhaust us – our sticking points.  Because we are no longer interested in playing victim – that was the choice we made in becoming leaders – we train more deeply. And so, our leadership becomes a spiritual Way.  What is the deep spiritual practice that transforms leadership?  The Japanese word for it is shugyo – “spiritual forging” – and it can take many forms.  We use the universality of Zen training.  Nothing to believe. Just physically train yourself to resonate with universal energy lead from there.  And all will be well.

That’s why we lead with ZenLeader. And that’s why our mission is our url: Zenleader.global. Maybe crazy. Or maybe the greatest sanity of all.

Wishing you peace profound and joy abundant and a great leap into the New Year.

-Ginny Whitelaw

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