LEADERSHIP IS MEDITATION IN ACTION
We can easily accept that the Dalai Lama is a leader, even when he’s sitting in silent meditation. But what about business and financial leaders? We see them as action-oriented, focused on money, obsessed about the bottom line. Somehow the Zen principle that by “sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring will come, and earnings will grow” doesn’t quite fit the image of a leader on Wall Street or in Corporate America.
On the other hand, we know that many business and financial executives do meditate while, for example, jogging or surfing, practicing Aikido, or playing a musical instrument. And many like Carnegie and Templeton try to live with this mindset every day and everywhere, in the boardroom, customers’ offices, clients, suppliers and employees, and in meetings with investors—they know that somehow they’re guided by unknown and mysterious sources.
Aaron Feuerstein is example of this type of leadership character, a man whose actions speak louder rather than some fancy corporate mission statement. Feuerstein is the owner and CEO of New England’s largest textile mill, the manufacturer of Polartec. Feuerstein is a gentle man in his seventies who loved working. When the day was over, he preferred a quiet evening at home reading poetry and sharing inspirational literature with his wife.
Feuerstein became a national hero. The “Mensch of Malden Mills,” as he was known, was thrust in the national spotlight when fires destroyed his textile factories in the late nineties. Instead of taking the insurance money and retiring, he not only rebuilt, he continued paying all 3,000 employees for the three months it took to get back into operation, because it was “the right thing to do.” Feuerstein would probably not describe his way of life as a meditation any more than he wanted to be called a hero.
And yet, in the larger context—where anything can be a meditation … where results count more than rituals … where you can even be meditating without knowing it … where the trick is focusing on whatever you’re doing at the moment—the selfless actions of Feuerstein are a far more powerful meditation than any monk passively sitting in meditation for decades.