Too many people, men and women alike, have bought into a notion of leadership that exclusively emphasizes traditionally “masculine” qualities: hierarchical, militaristic, win-at-all-costs. The result has been corruption, environmental degradation, social breakdown, stress, depression, and a host of other serious problems. Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia show us a more balanced way, an archetype of leadership that is generative, cooperative, creative, inclusive, and empathetic. While these are traditionally regarded as “feminine” qualities, we all have them. In the Indian yogic tradition they’re symbolized by Shakti, the source that powers all life.
Through exercises and inspirational examples, Bhat and Sisodia show how to access this infinite energy and lead with your whole self. Male or female, leaders who understand and practice Shakti Leadership act from a consciousness of life-giving caring, creativity, and sustainability to achieve self-mastery internally and be of selfless service to the world.
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About the Author
Raj Sisodia is the F. W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business and Whole Foods Market Research Scholar in Conscious Capitalism at Babson College. He is also cofounder and cochairman of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., and the coauthor of the bestselling book Conscious Capitalism.
Read an Excerpt
A CRISIS OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND LEADERSHIP
Do we really need another book on leadership? Bookshelves the world over are groaning under the weight of a neverending flow of leadership books. But the stark reality remains: the way we lead isn’t working nearly as well as we need it to. Our current one-sided notion of a leader’s power is a root cause of a host of contemporary problems, including social breakdown, environmental degradation, epidemics of stress and depression, and corruption in business and government. Men and women alike have been conditioned to value leadership qualities traditionally considered masculine: hierarchical, individualistic, and militaristic. The consequences have been dire for too long, and we can ill afford to continue to suffer them much longer. The origin of the problem is crystal clear: societies around the world have consistently and egregiously devalued qualities and perspectives traditionally deemed feminine. For all of recorded time, the wisdom and unique perspectives of over half of humanity have been largely excluded from influencing how we live and work. How can this not lead to severe dysfunction?
Seeking to reclaim feminine power and restore the long-lost balance of masculine and feminine energies for men and women alike, this book charts a new path based on timeless wisdom. Reaching into ancient spiritual and mythical teachings, we revive a feminine archetype of leadership: regenerative, cooperative, creative, and empathetic. In the Indian yogic tradition, these qualities are associated with Shakti: the source of creation, sustenance, and transformation that powers the cycle of life. We all need the primordial power and energy that is Shakti—creative, tireless, and restorative.
Leaders who understand and practice Shakti Leadership operate from a consciousness of life-giving caring, creativity, and sustainability to achieve self-mastery internally and be of selfless service to the world. When leaders of both sexes learn to embrace this mindset, we can restore sanity, elevate humanity, and heal the planet by evolving joyously and consciously together.
SO MUCH HAS CHANGED
We’re living at a critical time. Humanity appears poised on the precipice of a great shift in our evolution. After millennia of incremental growth as a species, we appear to have reached a mutation point where our development could take a quantum leap to a whole new level in a remarkably short amount of time.
The human journey of growth and evolution certainly did not stop when we got up on our two legs, as evolutionary charts depict. In fact, we are changing and evolving at a faster rate than ever before—by orders of magnitude.
One of the factors driving these rates is the rapid aging of many societies. Driven by a combination of sharply declining birth rates and steadily increasing life expectancy, the median age has been rising in most countries around the world. In 1989, the United States reached a demographic tipping point: it was the first year that there were more adults over the age of 40 than below it. The age of 40 is a significant threshold in human life; it marks the passage into midlife and is often accompanied by a crisis of meaning and purpose. Many people come to the realization around this time in their life that the values and priorities that drove them in the past no longer feel personally relevant. They are consumed with questions such as, “What is the purpose of my life? What kind of legacy will I leave behind?” Many people come to the realization that life cannot be just about their own material success; there has to be more to it.
The year 1989 was also when we crossed another threshold: there were more women holding college degrees in the United States than men. Women now comprise nearly 60 percent of college enrollees and, on average, get higher grades than men. It is simply a matter of time before women dominate virtually every white-collar profession. This numerical rise of women will inevitably bring about a shift toward more feminine values in the workplace and in society at large. It will mark a fundamental shift in the world, as nothing like this has ever remotely existed before.
A little-known fact is that we human beings are rapidly becoming more analytically intelligent, as measured by IQ tests. Intelligence researcher James Flynn looked at IQ testing data going back for about 80 years. The data gets normalized to 100 every 10 years, so that the average IQ in society is always 100. Flynn looked at the raw data and found a startling pattern: humans are collectively becoming more intelligent at the rate of 3 to 4 percent every decade. Compounded over eight decades, this suggests that the average person today would have had an IQ of 131 and been in the top 2 percent of intelligence in the year 1935! This pace of change is unprecedented; we are simply not supposed to evolve at such a rapid rate. But we are.1
We are also on a journey of rising consciousness. The entire human journey on this planet can be seen as one of gradually waking up—both to the world around us and to our own extraordinary potential as human beings. As more of humanity has moved beyond a survival mode, we have been able to take off our blinders and see the bigger picture. Instead of just being focused on our short-term survival, we are now able to see how our actions have consequences beyond our immediate surroundings, and how we in turn are impacted by the actions of others. Once we become aware of the consequences of our actions, we also have a fi ner sense of what is right and what is wrong. Things that were acceptable in the past are no longer acceptable. The pace of change has been mind-boggling. Consider the following:
• 150 years ago, slavery was legal and commonplace in many countries. The United States fought a brutal civil war to end this degrading and inhuman practice, and many other countries also outlawed slavery around that time. But if you go back in human history, you find that slavery was an integral part of every major civilization. Most people, including many slaves, saw nothing wrong with it. Today, it is hard to imagine living in such a world.
• 100 years ago, hardly any women on this planet had the right to vote. In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in which all women could vote in parliamentary elections. Women attained the right to vote in the United States in 1920. In Switzerland, women did not gain the right to vote until 1971; in 2010, Switzerland swore in its first female majority government.
• 75 years ago we still had colonialism, which can be seen as another form of slavery. India was still a British colony.
• 50 years ago, there was still legally sanctioned racial segregation in many parts of the United States. • 30 years ago, child labor, animal abuse, and environmental degradation were still common and legal in many places.
• 22 years ago, there was still apartheid in South Africa.
• Until 2004, same-sex marriage was not allowed anywhere in the United States; as of this writing, it is legal nationwide, as well as in almost 20 other countries.
Clearly, a lot has changed in a very short amount of time. As Abraham Lincoln said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. As our case is new we must think anew and act anew.” We are by no means done making radical changes—there is a lot more still to come. Just as the nineteenth century was about the end of slavery and the twentieth was about the end of totalitarianism, the greatest story of the twenty-first century will undoubtedly be about the end of relegating women and feminine values to second-class status.
Table of ContentsContents
Prologue: A Crisis of Confidence and Leadership
1. Seeking Shakti
2. Leading with Shakti
3. Presence--the Master Key
4. The Heroic Journey
5. Becoming Whole
6. Cultivating Flexibility
7. Achieving Congruence
8. Promise of Shakti Leadership--a Fulfilled and Free World
Epilogue: Shakti Speaks