People practice yoga for a variety of reasons: it helps with stress and balance, it builds discipline and strength, it is a form of expression; and sometimes, it gives you something to think about. An instructor recently said, “to fall out of a pose is human; to go back into the pose makes you a yogi.” This got me thinking about leadership.
Like yoga, leadership is something which is practiced but never perfected. When done correctly, it is a constant, iterative state of improvement. There will be some days when the practice goes better than others. Recognizing this is what makes us human, better yogis, and better leaders.
In our achievement-oriented society, we seem to have lost the simple act of empathy. In yoga, you listen to your body. You push yourself the best you can in-the-moment. As leaders, we also need to be in-the-moment. Actively listening to our teams and having the courage to change our perspective to observe the world from the other side. Leaders need to push their organizations into uncomfortable positions to improve and grow. At the same time, they need to know their organization may not be flexible enough yet for the push being given.
When taking a class at the yoga studio, everyone is there for personal improvement. Comparing what I am doing with what someone else is doing is a sure way to fail. Instead, it is about focusing on the work. Leading a team or an organization is about leading the work. It is not about being in the details but trusting the work will be done the right way by the people who are best qualified to do it. The job of the leader is to remove as many obstacles as possible and get out of the way. If you are truly leading, you know the people entrusted to you are going to bring their best.
Regardless of the type of yoga being practiced, there is always a pre-planned sequence of moves. This series of moves is planned ahead of time. Everyone in the class learns to anticipate what comes next. Leadership is about creating a vision; letting everyone know what comes next. When a team of people can see where they are going, know the challenges ahead of them, and believe in the potential of the future, they will follow. However, they will only follow as long as they know you are loyal to them.
Leadership can be stressful. Yet, when you take the time to look at various perspectives, you can recognize the challenge and be at peace with the fact you are continuing to work towards your vision. In yoga, every pose you do puts your body under stress; the soreness and tiredness you feel when done is accompanied by a mental serenity hard to match. Yoga is a way to care for your personal health; leadership is a way to care for the people who depend on you.
Yoga is a form of human expression. It is moving into positions which are sometimes uncomfortable. As leaders, it is also important to express yourself, particularly in uncomfortable situations. Vocalize your support for your people. Praise their efforts and celebrate their good work. To be even more impactful, speak up to correct wrongs and protect them.
One of the hardest things for me in yoga are balancing poses. To stand on one leg and stretch and contort my body is exceedingly difficult; I often fall out of these poses. Leadership is also about balance. You have organizational goals and customer deadlines to meet. At the same time, you also have a responsibility to send those you lead home in better shape than when they showed up in the morning. This is about nurturing them, challenging them, and helping them to forget their concerns and fears for the moment; all while encouraging them to bring their best and helping them to bring out their best.
It takes discipline to show up to a yoga studio for 6 a.m. classes five days a week. People practice yoga for a variety of reasons. It takes commitment and determination. This is leadership. Having the discipline to always be there for the people in your care. Letting them know, regardless of the time or circumstance, you are available to help and support them. Be that yogi leader.
This blog is intentionally written without acknowledging current events. It is my hope that it will be beneficial regardless of the state of our world. Yogi leaders take care of your people and thrive. Namaste.