True Leadership

This is the second in a series of articles based on the Six Ways of Ruling, a teaching a teaching that was first presented by the founder of Shambhala, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1978 and further expounded upon by his son, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, in his book Ruling Your World (Chapters 22-23). The “Six Ways” are qualities of a leader who wishes to join heaven and earth; that is, to execute power inspired by wisdom. The six qualities are: benevolent, true, genuine, fearless, artful, and rejoicing. This article is based on a talk on November 29, 2012 at the Washington, DC Shambhala Center.

One important quality of a leader who would be just in the execution of power, is that she be true.  The word true has its roots in being faithful or trustworthy, like “true love” or “true north”. Ultimately, the Proto-Indo-European origin of the word may have been dru, meaning “tree” and implying a certain steadfastness and weightiness. There is a sense that one is not simply being capricious or self-centered in his or her decisions and action, but that they are true, faithful to, or firmly rooted in some weightier principle. For a wisdom leader to lead justly, she must be grounded in a profound principle or belief.  From the leadership perspective of Shambhala, that principle is “basic goodness.”

Conviction grounded in confidence
Being “true” means making decisions and taking actions that are firmly rooted in conviction in basic goodness.  This conviction, grounded in confidence, Dechen Choling Treeis like the force behind a strong breeze, or the roots under a mighty oak tree. If a leader bases his or her decisions on basic goodness, even when the wisdom of their actions may not be readily apparent, you still feel you can trust that leader. The branches of the oak can sway back and forth in the wind, but you can count on the fact that the tree’s strong roots will keep it firmly anchored in the earth. Similarly, the wise leader may, from time to time, need to tactically engage in activities that appear out of sync, unconventional, or even irresponsible.   But if the connection to basic goodness remains unbroken in his or her intentions, you should be able to see (if you look deeply) that that leader is actually acting quite consistently and faithfully at a deeper level.

“Big Mind” and Natural Diplomacy
Staying true to the view of basic goodness gives us natural diplomacy. Why? Because staying connected to a common principle that binds us all, anchors us from swaying about in the ocean of emotion, partisanship, and antagonism. As leaders, we’ve probably tried getting what we want through negativity, coercion, or passive aggression. Sometime it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it never really feels good. Deep down it feels petty and weak. When we relate with a “small mind,” we only see positions as territory to defend, objections as threats to be annihilated, and dissenters as enemies to be wrestled with and vanquished.  However, when we rest in a “big mind” that sees the basic goodness of the situation and everyone in it, “small mind” and the inclinations that go with it can be conquered.  So when you find yourself getting caught in the internecine warfare of another staff meeting, board meeting, team meeting, or family dinner, pulling yourself up and out, and connecting with “big mind” will allow you to take the true leadership position.

by Chris Montone