As the full impact of Covid19 began to hit globally back in early February, it came as a realisation that leaders who have attended the Institute for Zen Leadership, learning ‘The Ten Flips’ of the Zen Leader were in an excellent position to deal with what was arising. It was as if the moment for Zen Leadership had arrived.
Think of business leaders you know or you’ve seen in the media, who are seizing opportunities and growing as a result, and who is struggling? Which organisations have the agility to learn from the current situation, adapt and thrive, and which have been unable to turn their ships around?
One of the mantras we teach zen leaders is “Live like a ball on fast-moving waters”. This analogy helps leaders to shift from focusing and worrying about external forces they can’t control and instead let go and place their efforts on their internal power. Covid19 is an excellent example as we have seen world leaders being swept downstream on fast-moving waters trying to fight the virus, instead of letting go and working with it, not against it. As Covid 19 has highlighted, it is essential not to become stuck, expecting a return to what we thought as ‘normal’. This invisible, deadly virus has spread fear throughout the world, at the same time as flipping us into a new reality, grounding the entire global airline industry, shutting borders, and causing the most significant worldwide economic downturn ever seen.
The speed with which we can accept what seems to be catastrophic circumstances, the quicker we can see the opportunity and full potential at that moment. Acceptance is not only the beginning ‘Flip’ for the Zen Leader but also the first sign of transformative energy. It doesn’t mean we have to like what we’re dealing with, but it means we don’t become stuck in whether we like it or not, we work with it. As soon as acceptance starts working, it opens up the possibility of further transformation.
Zen Leaders, rather than allowing the pressure to drain their energy, use it to propel their development and ‘Lead the Way’ creating a better world and manifesting a radically new consciousness. These leaders lead beyond their egos and attract the future with joy and enthusiasm. Being able to build and align energy is a foundational tool for sustainable leadership, and ‘Flip Two’ allows the Zen Leader to ease out of ‘Tension’ that holds back growth and into ‘Extension’ the home of opportunity. In this process, the three laws of energy management are a vital resource, the first of which is ‘Rhythm, not relentless’. The Zen Leader understands that this new consciousness emerges in waves, a rhythm of increasing effect and endurance, and becomes skilled at sensing and matching this rhythm and building out from here. We see this with Covid19 as a second wave begins to circulate the globe. The creation of methods that can come and go with each wave of the virus, such as social distancing, wearing masks and testing & trace systems, allows governments to align their energy and vision with a way of working that is intrinsical to the virus, not against it. The Zen leader sees these measures as merely part of the rippling path that lies ahead and continues without resistance.
We develop this rhythm further with Flip 3 by learning to shift from coming to going and going to coming, the art being to identify measures on both sides that tell us when to move. So in the case of a lockdown, the flow becomes going into lockdown, (we have tested and can see the data showing an increase in the virus) and coming out of lockdown, (the data is showing a reduction in the virus spreading). As time passes ease comes into the flow of back and forth allowing us to work with both poles of the paradox and in doing so reaching a higher-level goal, which in these times may be a more sustainable economic model.
Covid19 also demonstrates that we cannot always control what happens to us, but we can forever control our response to it. In Flip 4 the Zen Leader must sincerely inquire into how we play into the situations we face, and what they relate to in us; is our response aggravating, or maybe even building, a position or are we supporting the transformation out of it.” We can ask ourselves ‘What do I fear in this situation?’ Inquiring deeply into this question is to find the root of those fears. Positive, go-getting people may at first think they don’t fear anything, but becoming stuck and not being able to move forward is evidence of fear itself. We know that fear attacks in the dark, and once we begin to discover the root and see our fears, they can no longer get all of us. The good news is that by shining the light of awareness on these, we know the fear is not itself afraid. As Franklin Roosevelt said ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. The Zen Leaders core practice to build this awareness is sitting meditation. Sitting still with all our senses open, we cultivate a condition of complete relaxation and complete awareness, inside and out, all at the same time. Once we claim our power, we’re able to move into it and stand ‘on top’ of the fear. Emanating energy from ‘in here’ and transforming the situation, or problem ‘out there’.
This thread of awareness is a continuing theme through the training and practices of the Zen Leader. Flip 5 builds both self-awareness and understanding of others, taking us, ‘From the ability to Play to Your Strengths whilst Strengthening Your Play’, by utilising a psychometric assessment based on four patterns of energy that show up in our bodies. Awareness in our body gives us conscious access to more of its moving parts and the ability to use and flip us between the energy patterns of Driver, Organiser, Collaborator, and Visionary. That’s why mindfulness in the body is the foundation of training in any martial art or sport, as well as dance, yoga, music, physical therapy and many other forms. This awareness and ability to use physical movement to change our energy pattern allows us to field our best player, pulling up what we call for in the moment rather than a static habitual pattern in which we are stuck and doesn’t serve us. What may have been a winning combination in the pre-Covid19 world may no longer hold true in the Covid19 reality that we currently live.
As the Zen Leader develops using the tools and practices, the capability arises to explore the remaining five flips. These take the Zen Leader ‘From Controlling to Connecting’, ‘From Driving Results to Attracting the Future’, ‘From Its All About Me to I’m All About It’, ‘From Local Self to Whole Self’, and ‘From Delusion to Awakening’. Those who strive for control, and attempt to control their world, going from Controlling to Connecting find freedom, opening up vast new territory for having a broader, more sustainable impact in the world. Those who move ‘From Driving Results to Attracting the Future’ by living in the present, and learning the art of less is more, begin to connect more., and ‘From Its All About Me to I’m All About It’, takes the Zen Leader deep into the realms of how can I serve the situation. The final two flips the ‘Whole Self is Revealed’ widening our net beyond what the mind alone can conceive, and we move ‘From Delusion to Awakening’ discovering a place of stillness in which I and all things arise.
There are no short cuts to the bigness of the Zen Leader, and flipping your world into a new reality of limitless possibilities is only achieved with practice. The key to this practice is returning again and again and doing so with joy and enthusiasm.