Business Advice from the Dalai Lama

His Holiness is intelligent, spirited, and has a great sense of humor, all great qualities in a spiritual leader or a CEO.

In this crazy time in the U.S. economy, we've seen one company after another implode. It hasn't been difficult to see why so many — especially the larger ones — have failed. Management at these corporations might have profited from the wisdom of the exiled Tibetan leader.

In a his 2009 book, The Leader's Way (Broadway Books), the Dalai Lama joins with a management consultant, Laurens van den Muyzenberg, to talk about the art of making business decisions. Surprisingly (or not), the teachings of Buddha translate quite well to the world of business. These teachings apply equally to a freelancer working with individual clients and the head of a multinational company.

It all starts with Right View, also known as wisdom. His Holiness explains Right View as consisting of two parts: the decision-making process and the values that have to be honored in every decision that is made. He calls those values dependent origination, interdependence and impermanence. In other words, the intention behind the decision must be beneficial to the greatest number of people, or at the very least bring no harm; those making the decision must have an awareness of the impact that decision will have on the organization, customers and others; and leaders must be aware that there is no such thing as a permanent, satisfactory state. Things change constantly, in business as elsewhere in life, and a smart businessperson will continue to adapt and respond to changes and needs in the world and in the marketplace.

How can you put these teachings into practice? Try meditation. There are many days when it's difficult to find the time or patience to sit and meditate, but mindfulness in the things we do have time for can turn them into a meditation and give benefit. A good way to start is with a walking meditation. If you walk to your car or the subway stop in the morning, instead of worrying about your first meeting or getting distracted by the action on the street, slow your steps, pay close attention to each step, and just keep your attention there. Likewise on your way to a meeting, rather than plan your opening remarks, focus on your steps, empty out your brain and allow some space for inspiration. You're much more likely to get a flash of brilliance by clearing your mind than by letting it spin in circles.

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