Mindfulness master (and friend of Oprah) Deepak Chopra talked with us about leading teams, being present and taking sleep seriously.
You are a big advocate of “enlightened leadership.” What does that look like exactly?
Enlightened leadership comes from a place that is all-inclusive. It asks the very fundamental questions: What are the people I hope to lead observing? What are they feeling? What do they want? And how can I help them achieve their goals and, more important, unfold their potential greatness?
So there’s no “I” in leadership—well, there is, but there shouldn’t be?
Yeah, exactly. Enlightened leadership is being the soul of a group consciousness. It’s about helping to fulfil the aspirations of those you lead.
How and why did we end up in the leadership Dark Ages?
It’s human nature for a leader to feel power, and power can corrupt. You see that happening in business, but also in societies that are impoverished. Tyranny comes about when people are scared. We see that now. I’m not saying Donald Trump is a tyrant, but he’s appealing to basic insecurities.
One of your mantras is “pursue excellence, ignore success.” Isn’t that hard to apply in a culture so focused on who gets results fastest?
Look at great musicians, artists and scientists. They are definitely not oriented toward outcome. They have a passion for what they are doing. The best outcome is when you’re not focused on the outcome.
You say all good leaders are charismatic. Can that be learned?
Yes. Charisma is not about being like Tom Cruise. It’s a quality people have that means first, they are present; they are never distracted. Second, they are warm and friendly. And third, they have true self-esteem, which means they don’t depend on the opinions of others for validation. Obama is like that; Bill Clinton is like that; Nelson Mandela was like that.
They’re not checking their email when they’re talking to you.
Definitely not. They are able to be focused on the moment.
How do you manage your own interaction with technology? Is your smartphone a third arm?
I went through that experience several years ago. I realized it wasn’t serving me, so now I schedule time for technology the same way I schedule meals, meditation, sleep and work. Right now I am sitting in a car driving to a lecture. I scheduled [this conversation]. When we’re done, I will enjoy the scenery.
So you’re not a multi-tasker?
There is a lot of good data to show that multi-tasking is the one thing we get worse at with practice. It does the same damage to your neurons as cocaine.
You and Oprah recently launched your Guide to Whole Health series, which includes an online tutorial promising seven days to a restful sleep. What do most of us get wrong about sleep?
People don’t realize sleep is the best health improvement strategy for emotional well-being, creativity and productivity. Natural sleep should be one-third of our lives so that the remaining two-thirds are joyful. The best advice I have is to go to sleep by 10 and to keep the last two hours of the day technology-free.
Oprah is a pretty sensational leader. What’s her secret?
She connects with people on an emotional and authentic level. There’s no act; she is who she is.
Deepak Chopra will be speaking on the “Future of Well-Being” at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on June 13
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