Leadership Library Review: Claiming Your Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose

September 2018

Claiming Your Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose

by Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro (Berrett- Koehler, 2004)

What are the big take-aways?

In many ways a leadership book for readers of all ages, Claiming Your Place at the Fireprovides structured inquiries for exploring, (re-)identifying and owning what I sometimes refer to as your “Big-O Offer” to the world: your life purpose.

Why do I like it?

I like the book’s open-hearted and down-to-earth manner of encouraging the reader to take a fear-free approach to the powerful types of growth that can only occur around “mid-life.” My sense is that the authors loosely define mid-life as the age when a person becomes self-authoring, which is often in the late thirties and beyond, but they also cite some very young exceptions. Leider and Shapiro’s basic philosophy is this:

In the second half of life, the same questions that drive our conception of the good life during the first half inevitably return.  Who am I?  Where do I belong? What do I care about? What is my life’s purpose?  [Authors’ emphases.]  Only now, in the second half, we have a unique opportunity to be the author of our own story.  We have a chance to rewrite it, rather than simply replicate the first half.

Through relatable profiles featuring (younger and older) “elders,” coaching questions, and thoughtful discussion of “four flames of vital aging” (i.e. the flames of identity, community, passion and meaning), Claiming Your Place at the Fireprovides a roadmap for holding healthy conversations about how to become a more sage human being on this planet.

I like that the book is designed to be utilized in a circle of conversation with your tribe of friends, family or colleagues.  I’m using it as the primary resource for a Leadership Book Group this fall on “The Power of Leading at Midlife.”  Eight of us – who happen to be mostly in our fifties – will soon be gathering in person and over the phone for three monthly meetings to play with questions such as: What distinguishes leaders at “midlife” from younger counterparts?  How does leadership purpose evolve with life purpose?  What are some racial, gender and cultural implications of this co-evolution?

In what situations would this be useful?

Claiming Your Place at the Fireis useful for supporting productive soul-searching around work, vocation, meaning-making and being the leader of your own life during the midlife transition and beyond.  I highly recommend it if you’re a midlifer feeling stuck, and even if you’re not feeling stuck.  It’s a book about acknowledging and honoring your unique value to society in general, and to younger generations in particular.  Elevation of the wisest among us, as the authors point out, is an ancient tradition; they argue persuasively that it’s time to revive it in youth-obsessed contemporary Western culture.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

A couple of my leadership-oriented favorites that would pair particularly well with this book are Discover Your True North Fieldbook: A Personal Guide to Becoming an Authentic Leader by Bill George, et al. (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library), and Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library).  For an inclusive and thought-provoking exploration of midlife and self-authorship that draws on multiple spiritual traditions, I highly recommend Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass, 2011).

Posted in Leadership Library | Leave a comment

Leadership Library Review: Leadership Lessons from Adopting a Shelter Dog

August 2018

What are the big take-aways?

On a cold day in early April, when there were still dribs and drabs of snow on the ground, my husband Chris and I decided to adopt our first-ever dog.  After months of multiple visits to local rescue agencies, we met Ella at North Country Animal League.  A “transport” from a New Jersey shelter serving the NYC metro area, Ella is a smart and resilient 2-plus-year-old mixed-breed who loves every person and every adventure she can get her paws on.  We chose her because she was both young and uncommonly self-possessed (the only dog who wasn’t barking in the kennel), because she was goofy with tennis balls (she wanted to play but, poignantly, didn’t seem to know how), and because she pressed earnestly against her chain-linked kennel door for maximum contact with us until the last moment, when we finally had to peel ourselves away from her warmth.  Chris and I knew at the time that we couldn’t imagine exactly what we were getting ourselves into by adopting a dog, and one of the most significant things we couldn’t have anticipated about Ella in particular – but has been evident since the beginning – is her intense motivation to learn.  Which therefore makes her a powerful teacher.


Why do I like it?

I like that the process we’ve undertaken of training Ella (and vice versa), through “Good Manners” classes and private consults, has offered me an unexpected trove of leadership lessons from self-observation.  Here are four examples, along with  some questions they raise:

Focus.  Under the guidance of our phenomenal trainer Tay Margison, we are working with Ella on managing triggers (Ella can be suddenly and inexplicably aggressive with certain other dogs) and increasing her focus.  On walks, we try to spot distractions like chipmunks before Ella does so we can prevent derailments by redirecting her, and we ramp her down as swiftly as possible if she gets escalated.  Walking Ella in downtown Montpelier at busy times of day makes me notice how frequently my own attention drifts!  I need to maintain my situational awareness or else something bad, like a dogfight, could erupt with no warning.  Ella senses when I am well-grounded and concentrating because then I’m consistently rewarding desired behaviors with her favorite little freeze-dried duck treats.  Naturally, when I lose focus, so does Ella.  Self-observation questions: How far ahead – as well as up, down, behind and sideways – are you looking?  How do you know when your attention is drifting? What do you do to get your focus back? What’s at risk in the meantime?

Authenticity.  Ella can be sly and inventive when it comes to food and other opportunities, around the house and on the leash, to test boundaries.  (This is how Chris and I learn what our boundaries are!)  Watching our every move, Ella exposes our unconscious assumptions and reveals our lapses by not hesitating to exploit them.  She has a hound’s nose, a nearly prehensile knob on the end of her snout, and is easily sidetracked and stubborn when she smells something especially interesting (read: putrescent).  If I move toward her to call her away, Ella ignores me, sniffing harder.  And why should she heed my commands?  My feet are not facing in the direction I’m telling her we’re going!  It’s obvious to Ella when I’m literally not “walking the talk.”  To her, I mean business only when my actions speak louder than my words.  Self-observation questions: How authentic is your communication? Are your own feet pointed in the direction where you want everyone else to go?  How committed are you to the next steps you’ve deemed necessary to take?

Accepting “What Is.”  Unless she’s sacked out and having those mysterious dreams that curl her lips, twitch her legs or wag her tail, Ella lives fully in the present.  She accepts me and Chris and our imperfect ways, perhaps because she has an adaptable disposition and no choice but to deal with her current reality as best she can.  Ella’s embrace of her new circumstances is endearing and inspires me to practice more radical forms of acceptance, too.  Humor and perspectivizing are my go-to strategies for working on non-attachment when I feel reactive.  (I did not realize how ridiculously “Archie Bunker” I had become about my cherished TV chair until Ella chewed $500-worth of repairs out of it!)  Also, when it comes to Ella, Chris and I humbly acknowledge our ignorance and offset our limitations by seeking support from dog-savvy friends and professionals like Tay.  Self-observation questions:  In your current reality, what are you accepting and what are you resisting? What would more humor and perspective help you let go of?  Whom could you ask for assistance, if you need it?

Emergence.  North Country Animal League possessed no background information at all on Ella, including the circumstances under which she had arrived at the original shelter in New Jersey.  Ella is getting a fresh start with us.  This has meant that, for me, over the past four months there has been a sacred element to our tender time of mutual revelation, emergence and transformation while the three of us have been discovering who we are – separately and together – in this tiny newborn constellation.  I first became conscious of falling in love with Ella when, at some point early on, I noticed I couldn’t inhale enough of the sweet scent of her musky, vaguely floral scruff.  Now, when my head hits the pillow each night, I can’t wait for the morning when she’s allowed on the bed to cuddle with us.  My deepening gratitude for Ella is opening my heart, aligning me with a sharper sense of purpose, and inviting me to step into a bigger version of myself. Self-observation questions:  When you are most enlivened, aligned and spacious, what are you doing?  What does this tell you about your purpose?  Who or what invites you into your bigger or higher self?

In what situations would this be useful?

Self-observation exercises of any kind are always useful to leaders committed to increasing self-awareness.  (As John Whitmore wrote in Coaching for Performance, “I am able to control only that which I am aware of.  That which I am unaware of controls me.  Awareness empowers me.”)  A tool I typically use with clients who want to achieve a breakthrough is to co-design a self-observation experiment together.  I begin by asking the client, “What do you want to find out?  What assumptions are you consciously making?  How could you test those assumptions?”  (Obviously, training Ella has been doing this for me a lot, lately!) Then, the client and I co-create a simple, targeted experiment that is likely to yield the data s/he is seeking. In short, I encourage my clients to get super-curious, and then to observe themselves in action without judgment. Not judging, and just observing, is key. One client quit interrupting his co-workers in less than 48 hours by deciding he would make a hash-mark in his notebook every time he noticed himself speaking over others.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

For more on self-observation exercises for leaders, check out Marilee Adams’s engaging corporate fable and self-coaching tools in Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library, or Carol Dweck’s Mindset if you’re into neuroscience.  To learn more about the complexities of behavioral communication between primates and canines, I recommend Dr. Patricia McConnell’s book and blog by the same name, The Other End of the Leash.

Return to Leadership Library

Posted in Leadership Library | 2 Comments

Leadership Library Review: The Leadership Circle Profile™

July 2018

The Leadership Circle Profile™

What are the big take-aways?

Last month I was in Washington, D.C. for a few days to take a certification course in the Leadership Circle Profile, a 360° leadership assessment tool.  (A 360 measures a person’s leadership effectiveness by soliciting feedback from various colleagues in her orbit, i.e. as in a circle drawn around her: herself, her boss, boss’s boss, peers, and direct reports.) Many leadership coaches and consultants, as well as in-house human resources professionals, offer 360’s as a service to clients who seek assessments of their current strengths and growth edges as a starting-place for leadership coaching engagements.

Of all the packaged 360° assessments out there, the Leadership Circle Profile (LCP) was the first to intentionally integrate various adult development theories (with an emphasis on Robert Kegan’s “forms of mind” framework) while also being rooted in a dense philosophy that explicitly defines effective leadership as a creative and spiritual pursuit. This combination is what I like about the LCP and why I chose to get certified in it.

Why do I like it?

I also like the LCP because of what it measures.  As the brochure explains, the tool assesses 18 “creative competencies” which “measure key leadership behaviors and internal assumptions that lead to high fulfillment, high achievement leadership.”  It also assesses 13 “reactive tendencies” that “reflect inner beliefs and assumptions that limit effectiveness, authentic expression and empowering leadership.”  The LCP summary report shows how a leader’s creativity and reactivity are interrelated and in dynamic play with each other.

The measurement is done by self-assessment and by 10-20 raters (called “evaluators”) in the leader’s workplace, via user-friendly online surveys.  It is a compelling process and I can understand why LCP certification candidates are themselves required to experience the instrument, and a debrief with a practitioner, prior to taking the course.  What impressed me most was how complex and nuanced the tool is, which manifests in how well it provokes the kinds of questions in a leader that can propel meaningful coaching conversations.  One’s LCP report quickly surfaces interesting areas for productive inquiry.  In my opinion, the LCP’s power is further enhanced by the clarity, elegance and visual appeal of the report materials.

In what situations would this be useful?

The LCP is designed for growth-oriented emerging and veteran leaders in an entity large enough to provide a minimum of 10 (optimally 15-20) evaluators surrounding each participant. Its pricing is geared toward organizations that are committed to making, and able to make, a substantial investment in nurturing better leadership.  The competencies the LCP measures are universally applicable to leaders in any sector or industry.  For my clientele, I can imagine this assessment being useful at any time, and especially in the midst of an individual or organizational transition, because the LCP has the potential to reveal fresh perspectives and new narratives about who the leader is and who she is becoming.

Note:  The LCP is not a performance appraisal tool and should not be considered part of any performance-review process.  As the website explains, “[b]ecause this tool measures internal belief structures and therefore produces more powerful and vulnerable information, treating the results confidentially is of highest priority.” Of course, leaders who take the LCP are encouraged to share the results with their supervisors as part of – what ought to be, ideally – ongoing conversations about their growth.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

The LCP is presented beautifully, with superb graphics, on The Leadership Circle’s website. If you’re interested in a thorough discussion of the philosophy, theories and research behind the LCP, I highly recommend the book co-authored by its developer, Bob Anderson, entitled Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results.  I reviewed it in the Leadership Libraryshortly after it came out a couple of years ago. As I wrote then, I wholeheartedly agree with the authors’ fundamental premise, which is that “the inner game runs the outer game.”  In other words, a leader’s inner capacity for learning, adaptation and transformation directly affects her outer creativity and effectiveness.

For more about the neuroscience behind “leading your life” creatively in all dimensions – including as a parent – consider Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, splendidly reviewed here in Brain Pickings.

 Return to the Leadership Library

Posted in Leadership Library | 1 Comment

Leadership Library Review: The Choice: Embrace the Possible

June 2018

The Choice: Embrace the Possibleby Dr. Edith Eva Eger (Scribner, 2017)

What are the big take-aways?

The Choice is a memoir, a call-to-vocation and a how-to guide to freedom from self-limiting beliefs.  It describes Dr. Eger’s survival of the Holocaust as a teenage Hungarian Jew at Auschwitz and her life journey following that experience: marrying and starting a family, immigrating to the U.S., pursuing many years of education, and establishing her psychology practice (which she still maintains, in her nineties).

A mentee of Viktor Frankl’s, Dr. Eger consults for the U.S. Army and Navy on resilience and PTSD. Much of her autobiographical story in The Choice is bookended by a dramatic narrative about a particular encounter she has with an Army captain who – unbeknownst to her – carries a gun to his appointment at her office.  This incident illuminates the ultimate message of the book: freedom from “jail inside the mind” is a choice, and the choice is ours.

Why do I like it?

One of the things I admire most about The Choice is that it delivers a type of satisfaction I wasn’t expecting at all: it’s an enticingly suspenseful and deeply engaging page-turner.  I liked reading it.  I had a hard time putting it down, and when I did, I kept looking for the next opportunity to pick it up again.  Of course, as anticipated, the book is also terrifying, heart-breaking and grim.  Yet those aspects are strangely balanced by Dr. Eger’s vivid memory, clear voice and astounding ability to recount her brutal tale with an uncommon gentleness and generosity of spirit.  She holds herself and others with extraordinary care.  It is enlightening and reassuring to be enfolded in her compassionate presence, even as a reader.

I also liked The Choice as a book about leadership, which it is – in my opinion – because of its universally relevant emphasis on what Dr. Eger refers to as “the most important truth I know” (on page 271):

[T]he biggest prison is in your own mind, and in your pocket you already hold the key: the willingness to take responsibility for your life; the willingness to risk; the willingness to release yourself from judgment and reclaim your innocence, accepting and loving yourself for who you really are – human, imperfect, and whole.

In my formal leadership coaching and consulting practice, as well as in my informal quest to personally understand what it means “to lead my life,” I have come to view leadership quite simply as this willingness – this choice – to take responsibility.  Taking responsibility sounds so easy (can’t I just say, “I am responsible for…”?), but every full life requires extraordinary courage: to take risks, to learn from mistakes, to grow into larger perspectives of heart and mind, and to come to terms with events and ideas and parts of ourselves that we have deemed unacceptable.

In what situations would this be useful?

Lest you wonder whether this is a a maudlin survivor story or perhaps an over-simplified prescription for self-help, I assure you it is neither.  It is a refreshing, mind-expanding and graceful demonstration of what the leadership of “taking responsibility” – and especially taking responsibility for self-forgiveness – looks like in real people.  In that way, it is a beautiful and useful gift, no matter who you are or what situation you find yourself in, because each of us is at the very least the leader of our own life.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

Many of the themes (e.g. liberation) and sensations (e.g. lengthy periods of equanimity) I noticed while absorbing The Choicereverberated among those I experienced when reading The Book of Joy, which I reviewed in this blog a couple of months ago.  I heartily recommend both books for the paradoxically elegant complexity they offer in role-modeling how to make meaning from some of the most disordered, mysterious and difficult truths about humanity.

Return to Leadership Library

Posted in Leadership Library | Leave a comment

Leadership Library Review: Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems

May 2018

Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems edited by Phyllis Cole-Day and Ruby R. Wilson (Grayson Books, 2017)

What are the big take-aways?

The beauty of this book is that the editors have taken the time to put together an extraordinary compendium of exactly the kinds of poems that encourage three mindful ways of being that I consider best practices of resilience: slowing down, spending more time with nature/natural imagery, and emphasizing gratitude.

The editors explain (p. 18):

The act of reading a poem – any poem – can…become an exercise in mindfulness. And our experience of the poem is magnified when its subject is particularly mindful.  The poem might demonstrate what mindfulness is, recount an experience of it, or offer advice on how to practice it; perhaps it fleshes out a mindfulness theme, such as acceptance, impermanence, non-clinging (“letting go”), compassion, or the unity of all things.  Such mindfulness poems inspire us to live better, and to make our world better; at the same time, they grant us a taste of being good enough, just as we are, in this world, just as it is.

These practices promote the resilience required to nurture an essential quality of effective leaders, which is the ability to accept reality and to work creatively with “what is” rather than to deny undesirable facts by wishing things were different.

Why do I like it?

I like The Poetry of Presence because some of my favorite poets for leaders are represented in this delectable collection: Mary Oliver (“When I Am Among the Trees”), Lucille Clifton (“blessing the boats”), David Whyte (“Sweet Darkness”), Rumi (“A Community of the Spirit”), Naomi Shihab Nye (“Sifter”), Denise Levertov (“A Gift”) and John O’Donohue (“Fluent”), among others.  Plus, the book includes dozens of poets I’ve never heard of whose work I now adore, such as Richard Schiffman (p. 199):

“Smart Cookie”

            after Wallace Stevens

The fortune that you seek is in another cookie,

was my fortune.  So I’ll be equally frank – the wisdom

that you covet is in another poem.  The life that you desire

is in a different universe.  The cookie you are craving

is in another jar.  The jar is buried somewhere in Tennessee.

Don’t even think of searching for it.  If you found that jar,

everything would go kerflooey for a thousand miles around.

It is the jar of your fate in an alternate reality.  Don’t even

think of living that life.  Don’t even think of eating that cookie.

Be a smart cookie – eat what’s on your plate, not in some jar

in Tennessee.  That’s my wisdom for today, though I know

it’s not what you were looking for.

In what situations would this be useful?

As I’ve mentioned in this blog previously, almost all leaders I know – including those who are simply leaders of their own lives – need to slow down, pause for reflection and ponder the paradox of their consequential insignificance much more than they do.  Poetry is one way to slow down, pause, be present, listen and observe.  Indeed, our call to leadership often comes (formally or informally) as “poetry” from a truth-telling core inside ourselves where our vision meets our unique talents. I have several colleagues, as well as coaching and consulting clients, with whom I regularly trade poems in order to address moments in life when only metaphor can fully capture certain universal, crucial, semi-conscious truths.  As David Whyte says, poetry is “language against which we have no defenses.”

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

For further poetic insights into the mysteries of leadership, loss, hope, denial, love relationships, growth, vulnerability and “beautiful questions,” I highly recommend this stunning interview of David Whyte by Krista Tippett for the On Being radio program: “The Conversational Nature of Reality.”  Also, I found a few more poems by (“Smart Cookie”) Richard Schiffman here, and particularly liked “Alone.”  To hear gorgeous pieces recited aloud by various contemporary poets, check out On Being’s Poetry Radio Project.

Return to Leadership Library


Posted in Leadership Library | Leave a comment

Leadership Library Review: Leadership Purpose

April 2018

Leadership Purpose

What are the big take-aways?

My state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, said in a recent statement he plans to sign the new gun laws that were just passed at the end of March by the Vermont legislature:

Vermont is currently one of the healthiest and safest states in America. However, as tragedies in Florida, Las Vegas, Newtown and elsewhere—as well as the averted plot to shoot up Fair Haven [Vermont] High School—have demonstrated, no state is immune to the risk of extreme violence…. As Governor, I have a moral and legal obligation and responsibility to provide for the safety of our citizens. If we are at a point when our kids are afraid to go to school and parents are afraid to put their kids on a bus, who are we?

Regardless of the substance of the laws (which impose restrictions that I happen to support), Phil Scott’s thoughtful, locally counter-cultural and nationally counter-partisan response to the February arrest of a would-be school shooter is perhaps exemplary of leadership purpose.  Deciding to sign this legislation must have been a difficult stance for the Governor to take, but he described himself as “jolted” by the Fair Haven plot and – following a period of personal deliberation and public discussion – he chose to act.

UPDATE: Read and/or watch Governor Scott’s speech upon signing the three pieces of gun-related legislation on April 11, 2018 here.

Why do I like it?

Governor’s Scott’s decision requires guts, and I admire his courage.  With a little over 620,000 people (and still just the one 802 area code), Vermont is a Second Amendment-embracing state with a vibrant hunting tradition and a strong libertarian streak – all of which I respect – and it’s not surprising that the Vermont legislature’s debates on this issue have been so fraught they’ve made national news.  (Although, notably, not to the extent of the state’s debates over the civil unions law of 2000.)

I imagine there are massive, multi-faceted pressures on every Republican leader in the current political climate to leave loose gun laws alone.  In the midst of these forces, muddied by the intense media cacophony, how does a leader listen to both head and heart in order to find his own way forward?  One possibility is to reconnect with and clarify his leadership purpose, especially in light of new information or a greater depth of understanding.  And how does one do that?  A leadership coach like me might ask: For the sake of what do you serve in your role?  What does your head say, and what does your heart say?

It’s possible Phil Scott was answering questions like these within himself when he declared he would sign the gun reform law.  He declared, “As Governor, I have a moral and legal obligation and responsibility to provide for the safety of our citizens.”  To me, that sounds like a purposeful combination of head and heart.

In what situations would this be useful?

Being able to reconnect with and clarify your leadership purpose will serve you well at any time, and particularly in moments of crisis, transformation or indecision.  Here are a few leadership coaching questions that might be useful in these types of situations:

  • What are your top three – or maybe five – core values? How do you embody them in your leadership?
  • What is your leadership purpose?  For the sake of what do you do your job? What brought you to this work in the first place?
  • How would you fill in these blanks: “I am committed to _________ for the sake of _________.”
  • How does your head inform your heart? How does your heart inform your head?
  • The future is calling you to do… what?

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

Here is the list of books and workbooks I most frequently recommend to emerging and veteran leaders who are exploring leadership purpose:

  • The Discover Your True North Fieldbook: A Personal Guide to Finding Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George, et al. (Jossey-Bass, 2015)
  • Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life by Kevin Cashman (Berrett-Koehler, 2008)
  • Appreciative Leadership by Diana Whitney, et al. (McGraw-Hill, 2010)
  • Seasons of Leadership: A Self-Coaching Guide by Susan M. Palmer (Red Barn Books, rev. 2015)
  • Finding Your Purpose by Barbara Braham (Axzo Press, 2003)
Posted in Leadership Library | Leave a comment

Leadership Library Review: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

March 2018

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams (Avery, 2016)

What are the big take-aways?

On the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 8oth birthday, two of the world’s most inclusive (and heroic) spiritual leaders met in Dharamsala, India for a 5-day discussion on the nature of joy, its obstacles and its pillars.  The Dalai Lama has lived in exile since his harrowing escape from Tibet in the uprising of 1959, and Archbishop Tutu survived South Africa’s violence and oppression before chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990’s.  As the book jacket describes these men, “[d]espite their hardships – or, as they would say, because of them – they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.”

Why do I like it?

I like the paradoxical depth, complexity and simplicity of the discussions in The Book of Joy.  In their conversations as recounted in the book, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu gladly share the “secret” to happiness, which is that it is already within us.  Happiness is accessible in our own minds and hearts when we are able to respond to things that occur in our lives with “mental immunity.”  The Dalai Lama explains (pp. 83-84):

“Mental immunity is just learning to avoid the destructive emotions and to develop the positive ones.  First, we must understand the mind – there are so many different states of mind – the diverse thoughts and emotions we experience on a daily basis.  Some of these thoughts and emotions are harmful, even toxic, while others are healthy and healing.  The former disturb our mind and cause much metal pain.  The latter bring us true joyfulness…When we understand this reality, it is much easier to deal with the mind and to take preventive measures.”

In other words, we get stressed out and suffer when we try to control impermanent things that are not subject to control.  Suffering is eased by acceptance of this reality.  Acceptance of reality takes a lot of practice.

This is also true of leadership in general, just as it has been in how these two men have led their lives and their communities, as well as how they have offered guidance by example beyond their own spiritual traditions.  In my view, the abilities to foresee rather than control change, and to take action as frequently as possible from an acceptance of – rather than a resistance to – reality, are the foundations of ethical and effective leadership.

In what situations would this be useful?

We are reading this book right now in my current Leadership Book Group, and we just discovered at our last meeting that most of us are recommending this book to many people.  I find myself mentioning it to folks who are experiencing personal or professional setbacks.  The Book of Joy is a balm; the sorrow and the joy of the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop are surprisingly relatable, and they describe their strategies for working through everyday struggles (e.g., fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, grief, despair, loneliness, and envy, and dealing with illness and death) in terms that are clear, accessible and actionable.

One of my favorite aspects of the book, which I loved in its entirety, is a 40-page guide to “Joy Practices” tucked into the back of it.  If you are interested in starting or expanding your toolbox of ways to grow your mental immunity, this section of The Book of Joy is full of varied, lovely and practical techniques.  Embedded within them are many wonderful coaching questions.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

What comes up for me first – for a variety of reasons – is Robert Greenleaf’s timeless essay, “The Servant as Leader” (previously reviewed here).  Also, because Douglas Abrams (and the Dalai Lama) bring so much illuminating neuroscience into The Book Joy, another pairing I would recommend is another favorite of mine, Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson (also previously reviewed in the Leadership Library.

Return to Leadership Library

Posted in Leadership Library | Leave a comment