Meditation Won't Make You A Better Leader

Meditation is a beautiful practice. So are yoga and all the other movement-based forms of meditation. With persistence, they can open your mind and heart up to unspeakable new vistas. But they won't make you a better leader. We could fill a hundred-volume encyclopedia with stories of spiritual (and psychological) leaders who manipulated and abused their students and used their great ideas and (seemingly) evolved states of consciousness to aggrandize themselves at the expense of earnest seekers. (A Google search for the term "abusive guru" turns up 679,000 hits). The reason why these practices won't make you a better leader is that they're not relational. They are designed to help you get to know yourself better (or in some traditions, to convince you that you don't have a self at all). But how many times in your life have you had a powerful new insight into your inner world only to discover it crumble under the pressure of an argument with your spouse or loved one?

Here's the even trickier part. Meditation and other powerful personal practices can convince you that you've become a better leader even when you haven't. They can lead you to forgive yourself in a too broadly applied spiritual truth that you are okay just as you are. You may be in your heart of hearts, but as a real-time tracker of your impacts on others? We all have a lot of work to do there.

Becoming a better leader takes the willingness to look at how you impact people from their perspective. You can spend forty years on a meditation cushion and never get the truth on that front. It takes the willingness to look at deeply and long-held emotional beliefs we have about what it means to be an authority for others, to have one for ourselves, and what it takes to hold someone else's paycheck in your hands with an equally firm and compassionate grasp.

Taking time away from your relationships, for finding that open space between your thoughts, to wander that open field where clarity and creativity emerges, it's largely a lost art in our world. We could all use a bit more of that, even if it's only stopping for 10 minutes on a park bench on the way home from work tonight.

Just remember to keep those personal practices where they belong. Let them open you up — so you can listen to what they can't tell you.

Jonathan Raymond