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on being a servant-leader

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joan-halifaxFrom a talk by Zen teacher Dr. Joan Jiko Halifax: I’ve often asked myself “Is there a Buddhist vision of leadership?” I feel that Buddhism has a tremendous amount to offer our politicians and to us at these times. The training that we engage in as practitioners is actually very well suited to this experience of compassionate servant-leadership. It requires discipline. I always liked the phrase by Carl Jung speaking about discipline because many of us have an aversion to discipline. It’s really hard for us to show up consistently. Carl Jung describes discipline as “an obedience to awareness.” Awareness is that process within the mental continuum that is characterized by non-judgmental luminosity. Our practice also has many manifestations of confirmation of interconnectedness. …

Now the Buddha himself did not set out to create a mass movement of followers. His work, like those who organize neighborhoods … was about the development not simply of leadership but of servant-leadership. It was not about non-disclosure, according to the history of Buddhism; it was about training individuals in clear discernment and to open up, through direct experience, the fundamental quality of generosity that makes for a good leader. It is interesting to look at the word sangha. We think that it means just a group of practicing Buddhists. But actually it meant council or parliament. It refers to a collection of individuals who are practitioners, servant-leaders, practitioner-servant-leaders.  

How do we cultivate true practice, the quality of mind that is not out for one’s self but is completely dedicated to the common good? It’s really interesting to look at our business practices which are so competitive, so selfish and self-directed and to see the consequence of that ethos on our free market and its effect on creating poverty, not only nationally, but globally. Servant-leaders are holders of the vision. They are not necessarily the ones that create the vision. They learn to wait and to discern what really wants to happen here. … more …

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