Top 5 Leadership Lessons From YOGA

Lalita Raman


Are you wondering what yoga has to do with leadership?

I have done yoga for almost 10 years and I still continue to learn not only the yoga poses but what yoga can teach about myself, life and leadership. When I started yoga 10 years back, it was purely as an exercise and to improve my flexibility. Most of the yoga instructors will tell you that yoga is a connection between mind, body and soul and the common link is through your breath. I used to hear this but never quite understood the real essence.
My journey with yoga in the first two-three years, was one of hate and love. However, where I stand today with yoga is one of love, where I have learnt to overcome some of my frustrations of inflexibility. This is where yoga is like leadership, in that a leader doesn’t take credit only when the going is good but stands through tough times and journeys through them.

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Top 5 Reasons to gain from “The Winter Of Our Discontent”

Life is the best teacher and there is no preview to the various ups and downs that life presents to you in the journey with her.  No school, college or MBA can teach you how to deal with life, how you feel about your experiences and how not to be knocked out.

Many people you meet in your life tell you to be content with life. True that, but the following quote by Oscar Wilde has always been with me to make changes and facilitate growth from where I am.  “Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or nation.”

Think about this quote carefully :

When have you really challenged yourself?

When have you strived to get something done?

When have you decided to end a relationship?

When have you decided to change your job or career?

When have you made life changing decisions?

In each of these situations above, is it from discontent with the current being or situation?

Should we be discontent all the time?

No, I cringe to imagine a situation of discontent all the time because that causes negativity and being in the spiral of negativity is possibly the worst damage that you could do to yourself.

Why and when is being discontent a true guide to life :

1. Cruise Control and operating on auto pilot- In her book, My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. tells us and I quote

“In addition, our minds are highly sophisticated “seek and ye shall find” instruments.  We are designed to focus in on whatever we are looking for.  If I seek red in the world then I will find it everywhere.  Perhaps just a little in the beginning, but the longer I stay focused on looking for red, then before you know it, I will see red everywhere.”

If we settle for mediocrity when we are capable of lot more, we stop to grow. Observe a child and you’ll see how Children are so enthusiastic to learn, to explore, to dare and be curious. Curiosity to learn more about different things in life, different fields and phenomena should always be there. When you stop to learn discontent should enable us to take the next step forward which is to challenge our self for something different or new. ‘Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.’ ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Control your mind – the power to control your mind rests with you and none other.  If you examine life, review, renew and search for new discoveries and push your mind to reach new destinations, you’ll participate in life. Discontentment should enable us to find our inner self and go on a journey within.

3. Relationships – treasure and thank those who didn’t leave you when you needed them the most. Thank those who stood by you during your hardships. Use discontent in some of your relationships to question your own behavior, behavior of others and decide whether to work on the relationship or move on and walk away.

 4. Question – In all forms of communication, one’s impact is most effective when we pay attention to the receipt of our influence.  Questions, in my view, allows one to listen and interject at the relevant time and get the other party engaged and excited about the conversation or the subject being discussed. In the relevant context, a question constructed and asked properly acts as a catalyst. Any question is relevant if asked in the right context and enables you to determine if you can continue to push forward, pull back or change your style.

Initiate and Embrace positive change, a change that leads to growth and improvement. You can initiate change only if you are discontent about the current state of affairs in some aspect of life.

5. Gratuitous – have a sense of gratitude with what you have but never be content with the kindness that you can spread amongst others and with others.  Avoid excesses in that don’t hoard things that are not essential since they will become a source of misery. “Become a hunter of blessings, actively seeking them out in every experience and person you encounter.” ~Kate Nowak

Being discontent with anything that triggers growth, improvement and development of self  is necessary but not one that will lead to negativity and complaints without striving for a positive change.  I would say let me choose to be discontent so that I can grow, develop, and create a positive influence.

Doesn’t Self Improvement Begin With Discontent ?

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7 Essentials to Lead By Example

Do you lead by example?

Did you know that every time you speak but don’t act on you word you are marring your personal image, your personal branding. You may ask how does that happen?

In daily walks of life – how many times do you hear, I will get that done by tomorrow, or we should meet for dinner or coffee or I’m here if you want my help anytime.

In the office, there’s the boss who tells every one to stay late, and then leaves promptly at 5:00pm for a golf game. There’s the CEO who tells the organization to buy into his vision of the future and the Co. though he is planning his exit strategy.  And the CEO who recommends cutting employee benefits and institutes a new rule that every client entertainment requires pre-approval but then buys brand-new luxury office furniture for his cabin and travels on the garb of an official trip and combines a vacation with that trip.

Do you recognize any of these people? What is common in all these people

Don’t you think the over promising and under-delivery.  Not leading by example?

Loyalty and commitment to our word is not a sign of being plain silly or emotional. It is a sign of strength and consistency.

The first key to greatness is to be in reality what they appear to be – Socrates

Why do some just talk & not act?

1. Change tends to happen whether people want it or not, and this can be upsetting.  People are often quite uncomfortable with change, for all sorts of reasons.  This can lead them to resist it and oppose it. They may say one thing to get over a situation at that moment and not plan to act on their word.

2. The inability to say ‘No’ to anyone

3. There are yet others who over promise either to get brownie points or on account of lack of planning and under deliver.

Every time you over commit who do you think gets hurt the most ? None other than ‘You’

So why is it so important to lead by example; and what happens when you don’t?

Think about those people who have inspired you and why you have been inspired by them?

Some of the common examples may be Martin Luther King or Gandhi. Why? Their action was living proof of their talk.

We’ve seen just how powerful it can be to lead by example from some of those whom we have been inspired. But what happens when your video is not in sync with your audio?.

Consequences – Each time you fail to honor a commitment you chip away at the bonds between you and the people who have trusted you or lent their hand in friendship .

There’s hardly anything worse for company morale than leaders who practice the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. When this happens, you can almost see the loss of enthusiasm and goodwill among the staff.

No matter what the situation is, double standards – witnessing people say one thing, and then doing another – always feels like betrayals. They can be very destructive.  If this ever happened to you, you can probably remember that sense of disappointment and letdown.

Strategy- Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.  They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.

If you ask a co-worker to do something, make sure you’d be willing to do it yourself.  If you implement new rules for the office, then follow those rules just as closely as you expect everyone else to follow them. For example, if the new rule is “not to use mobile phones in the office, then make sure you don’t use your mobile in the office. You’ll be seen as dishonest, and your staff may become angry and start disobeying you.  Look closely at your own behavior. If you criticize people for interrupting, but you constantly do it yourself, you need to fix this. Yes, you want people to pay attention to one another and listen to all viewpoints, so demonstrate this yourself.

What is required to Lead By Example – Commitment, Integrity, Responsibility, Honesty, Respect, Courage, Ethics.  Please watch my video on the 7 elements of lead by example.

Why undervalue yourself when you can be your best friend.   Your personal brand is your word and your action. Don’t undermine it.

Do You Communicate?

Think Twice before you speak because words carry a lot of power and will plant and influence the seed of success or failure or hurt and anger in the mind of another.

Communication is an essential ingredient in any relationship. Communication involves interest, curiosity, enthusiasm, support, values, needs, aspirations, problems and solutions.

We live in an age where we spend more time on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of Social Media and don’t even make eye contact while talking face to face with a person sitting across us because the so-called conversing on social media is more important.  We are in an age where we have conquered the highest of mountains but have to master ourselves. We have fuller minds but emptier lives.

We believe in answering a ‘How Are You’ with ‘I am Busy’. We have become more of A ‘Human Doing’ than being A ‘Human Being’.

In spite of more modes of communication we find interpersonal communication a tricky thing to manage.

So how can we improve the lives around us?  By communicating better, from the heart and making a connection with the other, by empathizing, by trusting and listening.


1. Recognition – One of the insatiable needs of every human being is to be recognized, appreciated and cherished and made to feel that They Matter.  No matter who you are and how wealthy or famous you may be, to convey that you appreciate the other person’s perspective and acknowledge the worthiness of the other person by valuing their issues and feelings is imperative.  Day-to-day it is important to show appreciation for the efforts and actions of people with whom you are in touch with at work or in daily life. The tone used cannot be condescending and there should be sincerity in the way it is communicated.

Lolly Daskal (@lollydaskal) conducts a #leadfromwithin chat session every Tuesday at 8pm EST.  What I like most about this chat is the genuineness with which Lolly recognizes each of the participants, either by RT what they have said or thanking them.  Actions speak louder than words and she is a living example of what she believes in and professes.

2. Cross Cultural Communication –  for those who live in cosmopolitan cities or work in multinational organizations we meet and interact with people from cross cultures. Inability to recognize the cross cultural traits will result in ‘Lost In Translation’.  Many a message may be distorted through the communication process, such that even an intended compliment might even turn into an unintentional insult.

Some examples that I have heard, seen or read

* A British boy studying the language in Germany was riding the school bus home. As it was summer the bus became really hot. In a typically British way of asking for the window to be opened he implied it rather that clearly stated it so asked the boy next to him, ‘Bist du heiss?’ (Are you hot?). The boy turned and looked with a startled expression. All the other passengers started to giggle. In the end someone explained he had asked his fellow passenger if he ‘felt hot’ – i.e. was feeling passionate.

* A friend of mine had just opened his restaurant and being a chef himself, he had cooked a rather exquisite Duck dish as part of the main course of A Set Dinner menu.  All his waiters were Chinese and when the dish was ready, he asked his waiters to serve the respective tables. However soon after he had this dish returned by every table. He was rather dumbstruck only to realize soon that the way the waiters had pronounced Duck sounded like Dog.

* In Asia, it is quite common to hear people saying you are very hardworking and it is meant to be a compliment. However when a European friend of mine had just moved to Asia she was very hurt when someone remarked  ‘Jenn you are very hardworking’,  I later learnt that hardworking meant – ‘habitually working diligently and for long hours’.  Though diligently is a compliment, working long hours may not necessarily be taken as a compliment by all since it may indicate inefficiency.

It is important to present your message in a hopeful, non-judgemental, open-ended way and point to common-ground and away from differences

3. Distancing in relationships – Communication can make or mar relationships.  The little space we allow and create in relationships prevents excessive familiarity and allows breathing room within the relationship.

I enjoy meeting people from different walks of life,  making new friends and cherishing old ones.  I connect with people, friends, colleagues, family,  with enthusiasm, trust and affection.  A lot of my relationships have changed my perspective to life, and many others have inspired me to approach life with a different twist.

Each of our relationships go through highs and lows. Communication here is not about talking all the time. It is important to give and  it is equally important to know when to pull back, be it between spouses, friends, parents or in any other relationship.

Giving space in a relationship is important to nurture relationships.  In my experience, the other person actually seeks you out if he or she really cares and it is important to let yourself be missed and to miss.

Space sometimes creates a vacuum in life. It’s when relationships cross the realm of this vacuum that they fuse back together.

4. Paraphrasing – In formal communications especially in meetings or  presentations, it is important to make the content interesting and riveting. Your clarity will help you stay on track and also keep your audience’s attention. Also, decide on only one point to convey. If you try to cram in several points or messages, you run the risk of over complicating your story and diluting its power.

I was having a chat with a friend of mine yesterday on Twitter and she made a very apt comment on the art of communication ” Bad Communication makes minutes seem like ages.”

Paraphrasing in meetings or in a conversation helps

- to show the other person you have been listening to what they are saying
- to check meaning and interpretation

5. Non verbal communication – to be aware of how your own non verbal behaviors like body language, eye expression or facial expressions may impact or facilitate the communication. It is necessary to

- be aware of the message your body language can convey
- have an open posture
- match eye contact. I find people who don’t make eye contact whilst talking to me very offensive and as if they are trying to hide facts.
- match pacing, use silence

In conclusion, Effective communication skills are a function of our interpersonal effectiveness.  Some of these interpersonal skills include Authenticity, Empathy, Unconditional support, Insight (perceive, understand and relate), curiosity, Listening, courage and willingness to offer feedback, ability to confront others without insulting.

What do you think. Are there any essential elements of communication that you would like to add ? Please share in the comments box. Thank you.

Women’s Resilience -The Girl Effect

“A woman is the full circle.
Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”
~ Diane Mariechild ~

A woman has the power to be strong, resilient and vulnerable. As a women, we play different roles -Mother, Daughter, Girl Friend, Wife, Housewife, Various roles in our work lives. Even in World War II, Women played a role in the military, in support services, in factories back home, in concentration camps, and keeping the home fires burning.

In each of these multi faceted role, the trait that stands out most to me is Women’s Resilience. In each of our roles we do our best, come rain or shine.

And Yet, in many developing countries, likes of India, a girl is still thought to be a burden on the family. Even in families, where a girl child is welcomed, many a time,there exists a subtle discrimination, if she is born in a family where they have sons.

Sons are preferred because the perception is that they will look after their parents when they are old, they will help take charge of the family business, where relevant and shine the torch of the family.  In fact, in many an Indian family, girls look after their parents much better than her brothers.

Even in today’s modern world, girls are put under pressure to get married.

Distinction starts from birth where a girl child is stereotyped with the color pink, Barbie dolls, Tea Sets, Ballet, Gymnastics and this article posted by @prajnya re: Gaming & Girls resonates this message eloquently.

Women have far more resilience than men and in fact one needs to remind the women in us that strength does not always come from tolerance, rather from speaking out against violence. A woman should speak up for her rights and assert herself.

Female power involves women taking part in the conversation either in the public arena or at the dinner table, and having the same emotional space in which to do so as men. It means women not having to fear punishment of any kind & be able to speak their mind and heart.

Women need to get out the emotional bondage which many a time the society puts a conscious & unconscious pressure on her.

I had the privilege to be born in a family where independence, respect for women & education for women were and are still considered to be important tenets.  Having grown up in India, I was consciously aware about the discrimination between men and women and I take every opportunity to drive the message of Women’s rights and stopping violence against women.

Let each of us join to Stop FGM, and Violence Against Women in any shape or form.


I have found a Truth

I have found a truth
Khalil Gibran quote from ‘The Prophet’

Say not, “i have found the truth,” but rather, “i have found a truth.”
Say not, “i have found the path of the soul.” say rather, “i have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.


The Pixel Project ( is a global volunteer-led nonprofit organisation working to raise US$1 million in aid of the USA’s National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Malaysia’s

Women’s Aid Organisation via an online fundraiser in which a 1-million pixel mystery collage of 4 to 6 globally known Celebrity Male Role Models will be unveiled online as donors “buy” each pixel for US$1.00.

As part of efforts to recruit Celebrity Male Role Models for the mystery collage, The Pixel Project is pleased to launch their first Voters’ Choice Celebrity Male Role Model campaign through which a worldwide audience votes for an actor to be included in our A-list line-up which includes a Nobel Prize Winner and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

The two nominees with the most votes will be invited to donate JUST 45 MINUTES of their time to have their picture taken for the collage and to join the global community in saying “It’s time to stop Violence Against Women. Together.”

The superstar nominee who accepts the invitation will be revealed through the Pixel Reveal fundraiser which will be launched in the second half of 2010.

Voting is open from 17 May 2010 – 17 June 2010 and you are invited to key in your vote and sign the online petition here: