The Practice of Acceptance

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Though there are occasions when a firm hand is needed, I learned early that one of the most important qualities of a leader is listening without judgment, or with what Buddhist call bare attention.

In The Tao of Leadership, John Heider writes:

The wise leader is of service, yielding, following. The group member’s vibration dominates and leads, while the leader follows. But soon it is the member’s consciousness which is transformed. It is the job of the leader to be aware of the group member’s process; it is the need of the group member to be received and paid attention to. Both get what they need if the leader has the wisdom to serve and follow.

In Zen it is said that the gap between accepting things the way they are and wishing them to be otherwise is “the tenth of an inch of difference between heaven and hell”. If we can accept whatever hand we’ve been dealt – no matter how unwelcome – the way to proceed eventually becomes clear. This is what is meant by right action: the capacity to observe what’s happening and act appropriately, without being distracted by self-centered thoughts. If we rage and resist, our angry, fearful minds have trouble quieting down sufficiently to allow us to act in the most beneficial way for ourselves and others.

Phil Jackson

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Connect with Something Larger than Themselves

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Most leaders tend to view teamwork as a social engineering problem: take group, add motivational technique and get z result. But working with the Bulls I’ve learned that the most effective way to forge a winning team is to call on the players’ need to connect with something larger than themselves. Even for those who don’t consider themselves “spiritual” in a conventional sense, creating a successful team – whether it’s an NBA champion of a record-setting sales force – is essentially a spiritual act. It requires the individuals involved to surrender their self-interest for the greater good so that the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Yet even in this highly competitive world, I’ve discovered that when you free players to use all their resources – mental, physical, and spiritual – an interesting shifts in awareness occurs. When players practice what is knows as mindfulness – simply paying attention to what’s actually happening – not only do they play better and win more, they also become more attuned with each other.

Phil Jackson