Saturday, 18 August 2012

Becoming a Thought Leader

We can bear witness to the fact that nearly 300 million persons   in  India are trying to survive each day on what we spend for a cup of Cappuccino.Does it  make you  sit up ,think and do something , however small?If it does , then you are a thought leader.Who are thought leaders?They are the persons who traverse constantly between the private and the public ."They are bridge builders who connect the local and the global , the past and the future, the heart and the mind" .They connect commerce and conscience. To be a thought leader , on needs imagination , sensitivity, reflection , dialogue , expression, integrity  and  courage   .  Basic assumption of a thought leader is:"What I am  and what I do does matter."
                         The Art of Original Thinking(The Making of a Thought Leader) by  Jan Phillips(225 pages) was first published by ProLibris Publishing Media Ltd on August 1 2006 , and I read  this "book with a difference" in August ,2012 .                
                    To live imaginative and inspired lives  takes time , the courage to go within, and the commitment to a practice of silence.It takes verve and stamina and rebellious originality.The poet Mary Oliver says:"In order to be the person I want to be , I must strive hourly against the drag of others."That is why we need time alone, every day, to re-root ourselves in the fertile soil of our imagination.  Any of us who are trying to be creatively and compassionately are at the risk of being outcasts.Robert Grudinsays:"Creativity is dangerous.We cannot open ourselves to new insight without endangering the security of our prior assumptions.We cannot propose new ideas without risking disapproval and rejection ."Thought leaders become thought leaders by endangering the security of their prior assumptions .
                                  Often when confronted with situations where people ask for our help , we ask them to wait and ourselves go to get help .Jan disagrees.In a crisis , do not go  from the scene .YOU ARE THE HELP.Solutions exist nowhere but within ourselves .She asks us to take the responsibility , rather than moving away in the garb of getting help .                                           
                      The book  tells us about the power of story and story telling ."What we believe is possible for ourselves comes from the images and stories that have entered into our consciousness."Where do the thoughts originate .In our conversations with family , friends ,in  media.'Being in the presence of others whose experiences are vastly different from ours, causes us to see ourselves and our beliefs in a new light."Do not wait in silence.Interviewing folks about their lives and values enlightens you.Donot follow the words of others as doctrine.Ask new questions."Think of your own experience, work and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does."When you tell what you have never told to any other person , you find parts of yourself that had been long lost, simply because there is some one else also to hear and receive them .But you have to go first .You can be the cause of a profound conversation if you dare to go first .
                Thought leaders engage in deepening themselves in silence and study, then reaching outward with awareness gained on the inner journey, merging with others to synthesize and share, collaborate and create.The have the integration of the inner and the outer , insight and action .          
                       It gives us the concept of triple Bottom Line- People , Planet and Profits.Put the people and planet before profits. When this is done , profits follow automatically. Jan quotes "A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America" by Ian Mitroff and Elizabeth Denton . They found  that spirituality is one of the most important determinants of organizational performance. People who are more spiritually involved achieve better results .In fact , they suggest that spirituality may well be the ultimate competitive advantage"Spirituality"involves the continuous unfolding of the human spirit."I do not know if these observations hold true only  for America .But I am sure that markets , society, governance systems and level of education in India  indicate that these observations  do not hold true in contemporary  India.(It is an irony that Jan quotes copiously from Indians  Mahesh Yogi , Raman Mahrishi and Sri Aurobindo Ghosh.)
                    The book  gives a very large number of quotes from other authors and in this sense can not  be called original. It has many references to eastern mysticism ,with its  somewhat circular and often confusing jargon , making it  a kind of metaphysical  work. In addition , it  brings  in the Millennium Goals set by the UNO,  micro finance of Mohammad Yunus of Bangla Desh , and global environmental issues.It  jumps all over , with no logical order in thinking or presentation .
But despite its weaknesses, , the book  has  some new and attractive thoughts , which make it a worthwhile read, and gives you  value for  our time .It is  full of interesting, inspirational and educational  stories.
                      While I do not believe that  thoughts  alone bring about a change , thoughts are essential foundation for any meaningful purpose, change  or activity .In this sense , understanding the processes and systems that go into the making of thought leaders are important for any person or organization  who want to bring about a change .I recommend you to read this book by Jan Phillips on thought leaders.