I've been reading (and writing) business books since the 1980s, and, as I've pointed out previously, much of the advice they give today seems hopelessly dated. Ditto with the advice of management gurus. The world has changed; things are different.
Given that's the case, where should an entrepreneur (either internal or external) be looking to improve their leadership skills? Outside of reading about how great leaders (like Winston Churchill) managed during a crisis, I think there's only one place to turn: inward.
Being an entrepreneur means being a leader, and you can't possibly be an effective leader if you're crippled by anxiety and panic. This is true regardless of what's going on in your business or in the larger, outside world.
Popping a Xanax won't cut it. If you want to inspire your team to achieve more than they thought possible, you've got to role model the sense of calm, purpose, and focus from which both creativity and endurance emerge.
Over the years, I've interviewed some of the most talented managers and entrepreneurs in the world, and I can say with the authority of experience that the CEOs whose companies do best during difficult times are those who have a rich internal life.
It might be meditation, it might be prayer, it might be philosophy, but when you're working with these CEOs, you quickly sense that everything they do emerges from and is colored by their self-awareness.
The other CEOs--the ones who are all about showmanship, bluster, and bluff--inevitably reveal, in times of trouble, that they're worse than empty suits.
Of all the ways one might turn inward, mindfulness meditation is the probably the easiest for most entrepreneurs to practice. Because there's plenty of science behind it (see this article in Scientific American), mindfulness doesn't require a belief in the supernatural. And unlike philosophy, mindfulness doesn't entail months of study.
In a previous column, "How Steve Jobs Trained His Brain," I shared the method of mindfulness meditation that I was taught some 30 years ago by world-renowned martial artist Yang Jwing Ming.
If you practice mindfulness, you'll discover that from the very start you're calmer and more centered every day. Your colleague and co-workers will probably notice the change. When situations are challenging, they'll be drawn to you.
One thing you must NOT do, however, is try to convince others in your team to meditate. Demanding that somebody else become self-aware is an oxymoron. (It's very similar to forcing your employees to pray, but that's a story for another time.)
As you strengthen your ability to remain in the moment, it will help you look at problems from a more centered perspective and come up with grounded, sensible, creative solutions. Plus, you'll be role modeling the behavior that you need from your team.
By practicing mindfulness on a daily basis, you'll be stopping your brain from aging and might even be able to put that aging process into reverse, according to the latest neuroscience.
But that's just a side benefit.