Previous Article Next Article Businessesare turning increasingly to spiritual guidance, so you may feel it’s time togen up on some genuine philosophical gurus. Here are a few to start you off onthe path to enlightenment, by Jane LewisBusinesshas a habit of taking words and re-engineering them to suit its own needs. Soit is with “guru”. Test this out by asking a colleague to name two gurus whohave made an impact on the business world. The odds are that they will come outwith Peter Drucker, Charles Handy, Tom Peters or, if they are feelingpatriotic, Sir John Harvey-Jones. You’ll cast around in vain for a mention ofthe Baghwan.Butrecent developments suggest all that might be about to change. A growing numberof unashamedly spiritual philosophers – real gurus, if you like – are makinginroads into the business world. When an organisation as traditionalist as theCIPD can make room at its conferences to discuss the impact of shamanictechniques on morale and performance, you know the issue has become asignificant one.Whatis at the root of this growing quest for spirituality in the workplace? Nodoubt it owes much of its momentum to Western society’s wider adoption ofEastern meditation and self-improvement techniques. Asthe boundaries between home and working life blur, an overspill of some kind isinevitable. As many US organisations demonstrated in the 20th century,companies can often flourish on a common set of ethics frequently grounded on ashared system of spiritual belief.Butthe real problem with gurus will always lie in sorting the wheat from thechaff. No-one needs reminding that this is an area in which charlatansflourish. Inrecent years, some decidedly questionable organisations have specificallytargeted the corporate world in their recruitment campaigns. They have managedto capitalise on the blurred ground between management “self-improvement”techniques and something more sinister.Here,we offer a potted guide to some of the more obviously benevolent gurus thathave emerged in recent years. Enjoy the karma.Dalai LamaCVHis Holiness Tenzin Qyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the exiled spiritualleader of Tibet and has an impeccable Buddhist pedigree. Held to be thereincarnation of the previous 13 Lamas, he can trace his spiritual line back toAvalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig – holy early followers of the Bodhisattva, orBuddhist way. Plucked from his peasant family for a life of spirituality at theage of five in 1940, he was forced into exile in 1960 after the Chinesegovernment announced the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet. Subsequent braveefforts bringing about the bloodless withdrawal of the invader won him theNobel Prize for Peace in 1989.DisciplesEveryone loves the Dalai Lama. He’s up there with Mother Theresa and NelsonMandela on the world super-icon stakes, and countless celebrities, politiciansand royalty (including the Prince of Wales) have gained inspiration from him.More recently, he’s been making strides in new economy circles: Mark Benioff, headof salesforce.com, is a fan.Message“Why do we need to cultivate the thought that other sentient beings areprecious and valuable? Because they are really the principal source of all ourexperiences of joy, happiness and prosperity… Our feelings of comfort and senseof security are dependent upon other people’s perceptions of us and theiraffection for us. Human affection is the basis of our existence. Our lifecannot start without affection, and our sustenance and proper growth dependupon it.”SacredTextThe Bodhicaryavatara, or guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, on whichhe has commented extensively. The text of his Nobel Prize speech.ProsThe adoption of Buddhism, with its emphasis on altruism, would makeeveryone in the office much nicer to work with. Good value for money: you can attend a three-day course with theDL for just $150 (excluding service charge).Cons Too much emphasis on being nice maytake the edge off competitiveness. Buddhists in business can appear unbearablysmug (Anita Roddick).BuzzWordsPeace and non-violence, compassion, altruism, ethics, precious freedom,lamrinm chenmo (path to enlightenment), madhyamakavatara (guide to the MiddleWay).BottomLineIf you’re going to get into Buddhism, you may as well follow the main man.The Dalai Lama’s status as an exiled national leader also means you can combinespiritual satisfaction with concern for human rights.PeterKoestenbaumCVA former philosophy professor, Koestenbaum decided 25 years ago to applythe insights he had gained in philosophy and psychiatry to business strategicmanagement. Since then, he has emerged as “one of the global economy’s mosttrusted sages, therapists and secular priests”. Founder and chairman of PiB andthe Koestenbaum Institute, his message is that the key to achieving businessresults lies in the development of the leadership mind. To that end, he hasdeveloped the Leadership Diamond methodology, which “compresses the complexityof universal themes into a simple but not simplistic model”.DisciplesKoestenbaum has won many admirers in blue-chip corporate circles. He claimsto have advised “with intensity” IBM, Electronic Data Systems, Ford, Citibank,Volvo, Amoco and Xerox, to name but a few. An extensive author, his booksinclude The Heart of Business, Managing Anxiety, and Is There an Answer toDeath?Message“The Diamond distinguishes four interdependent leadership imperatives or‘orientations’: Ethics, vision, courage and reality. These orientations areyour inner resources, always available to help you if you access them. Thespace within the Diamond is your leadership capacity, which is called‘greatness’.”SacredTextLeadership, The Inner Side of Greatness.ProsLinks philosophical insight with bottom-line business issues. Gives advice on how to break through “stuckpoints” and gain maximum impact with the least effort.ConsThe notion that you can improve your leadership qualities with the “leasteffort” by cultivating your “leverage corner” or weakest orientation may beoverly simplistic. And he bears a striking resemblance to Colonel Sanders ofKentucky Fried Chicken fame.BuzzWordsRelationship, orientation, bottom line, stuck points, strategic, systemic,transformation, teamwork, principles.BottomLineYou have to admire his determination to create a win-win relationshipbetween business results and human values. Anyone wanting to combine onlineleadership learning with applied wisdom and historical depth should sign upwith this “rare and valuable father figure” forthwith.DeepakChopraCVHailed by Time magazine in 1999 as one of the “top 100 icons and heroes ofthe century”, Chopra has done more than any other individual to familiarise theAmerican people with the tenets of Eastern mysticism. Born in India, he is aqualified doctor who combines his spiritual message with practical suggestionsfor physical well being and self-improvement. In 1996, he opened the ChopraCenter for Well-Being in La Jolla, California, offering everything from yoga,chanting and meditation, to Ayurvedic and conventional detox treatments.Disciples“The poet-prophet of alternative medicine” is a prolific author andtranslator of mystic classics. His 25 books, translated into 35 languages, havewon him a strong global following, but his heartland is still California.Message“Everything that we experience as material reality is born in an invisiblerealm beyond space and time, a realm revealed by science to consist of energyand information… We are now ready to understand divine intelligence directly.In many ways, this new knowledge reinforces what spiritual traditions havealready promised… Unless some small part of God touches the material world, hewill remain inaccessible forever.”SacredTextToo many to name. His website is currently giving prominence to “How toKnow God”.ProsEasily accessible. Bridges the gaps between spirituality, science andmodern commercial imperatives. Provider of imaginative package holidays.ConsCan you cope with all that “primordial sound meditation” (aka chanting)?BuzzWordsEnergy, quantum soup, information, miracles, darshan (blessings), pujas(rituals), dormant potentialities, detox.BottomLineIf you’re seeking a more holistic approach to life, this is the guy foryou. You could read his On the Shores of Eternity, new English versions ofpoems by Rabindranath Tagore, while undergoing colonic irrigation at the Centerfor Well-Being. Either way, you’re bound to emerge feeling positive about life.LeslieKentonCVKenton hurtled on to the HR sphere when she told the CIPD that companiesshould follow shamanic techniques to improve morale and performance. Thisformer Harpers & Queen editor is clearly a renaissance woman, combiningadvice on achieving health, beauty, personal development and spiritual powerwith an undoubted entrepreneurial streak. Kenton achieved sales of £2.3m withintwo years of launching her regenerative skin product onto the UK market.Daughter of the late US jazz musician Stan Kenton, she is also a social andenvironmental activist and TV cook.DisciplesEveryone from Estée Lauder, through Unilever to the European Parliament.Kenton’s insistence that good health boosts creativity, power and autonomy –both personally and in the business environment – has found fertile ground incorporate circles. Other clients have included Guinness, Boots and L’Oreal.Message“Real health, creativity and power come from within. The only true ‘guru’is the human soul.” She can provide tools and techniques to help you releaseyour potential for energy, health and personal freedom, and thus improve yourhome and working life.SacredTextChoose from more than 30 best-selling books. Passage to Power soundspromising for business types.ProsLearn how to be beautifully effective at the same time as being effectivelybeautiful.ConsMay not appeal to unreconstructed males who don’t use moisturiser.BuzzWordsNatural healing, vibrant, passion, raw, origins, ageless ageing.BottomLineA breath of fresh air on the management consulting circuit, Kenton’sobvious ability to practise what she preaches attracts admiration. Sign her upif you’re serious about work-life balance issues and want advice about healingthe planet.YefimShubentsovCVTestament to the continuing power of word of mouth recommendation, thisformer professional artist – known by some as the “Mad Russian” – has beencuring addicts of all kinds for 20 years. Now based in Brookline,Massachusetts, Shubentsov claims his gift for healing springs from a“heightened energy field”. Nobody knows how he does it, but his efficacy hasbeen scientifically corroborated. He treats around 500 people a month.DiciplesDesperate individuals from all over the US and, increasingly, Europe.Shubentsov has a strong following in international fashionista and celebritycircles. Clients have included Courteney Cox, Fran Leibovitz and the novelistAmy Tan.Message“I am the eraser. Physically, I transform energy. I remove the mistakes inenergy fields that surround addicts. I correct it like it’s supposed to be.”SacredTextCure Your Cravings, co-authored by Barbara Gordon.ProsAn ardent believer in the virtues of common sense, toughness and patience.Reasonable rates, and excellent follow-up service.ConsPossibly too many similarities with that other mad Russian, Rasputin.According to one observer, Shubentsov has “all the subtlety of a professionalwrestler”. He personally admits to “zero diplomatic ability”.BuzzWordsEraser, your last chance, energy, electromagnetic field, sixth sense,don’t.BottomLineCould be a useful means of prolonging the lives of talented but dissolutesenior executives.Dr VCVBased in the remote Indian town of Madurai, 82-year-old Dr GovindappaVenkataswamy is the most admired cataract surgeon on the subcontinent. Since heopened his first eye hospital in 1976, he has given sight to more than 1million people, usually for free. Yet Dr V is so productive that his hospitalenjoys a gross margin of 40 per cent. Achieving this feat has led to him beingcredited with solving the mystery of leadership: how you go about translating visioninto reality. As one follower has remarked, “He is a doctor to the eyes and aleader to the soul. Dr V teaches that work can be a vehicle forself-transcendence.”DisciplesA growing band of US business writers who trek to Madurai to see the doctorin action.Message“If Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas and McDonald’s can sell billionsof burgers, why can’t I sell millions of sight-restoring operations and,eventually, the belief in human perfection? With sight, people can be freedfrom hunger, fear and poverty. You can perfect the body, then perfect the mindand soul, and raise people’s level of thinking and acting.” He believes that ifyou understand the deeper principles of your work (and your purpose in thegame) and follow those aims, you achieve a power that draws resources – moneyand people – to you.SacredTextDr V is a doer, not a pontificator. No sacred text has emerged to date.ProsFantastic. Dr V has cracked how to find the path to ultimate spiritualperfection, give to the poor, and still be profitable. The ultimate in utopianvolume marketing.ConsMessage doesn’t go down too well on Wall Street.BuzzWordsPerfection, vision, self-knowledge, self-transcendence, giving,non-violence, truthfulness, light.BottomLineDr V is living proof that the reward for work is not what you get out ofit, but what you become from it. Still, signing up to all his ideals may be abit of a long shot for most. Comments are closed. Soul tradersOn 15 May 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.