April 25, 2014

Practice of Leadership: Real Conversations about Conscious Leadership in the Modern World. 


Note: This piece is a collaborative effort by Seane Corn, Hala Khouri & Kerri Kelly

On Saturday, April 26 at the Yoga Journal Conference in New York, Seane Corn and Hala Khouri will be facilitating a conversation as part of the Practice of Leadership series.

This is a series of conversations about conscious and compassionate leadership in the modern world. In this session, we will take on the delicate balance of spiritual values and corporate responsibility featuring community leaders, social change activists and lululemon athletica leadership. It will be an open and honest dialogue that gets at the heart of our practice, our role as conscious leaders and how to create community in conflict.

This event literally came out of our “practice of leadership.” It began when lululemon approached Seane Corn, one of the founders of Off the Mat, Into the World™, to participate in a leadership training program they were curating at the Yoga Journal Conferences.

I told them that I couldn’t be a part of a training program they were hosting, unless they themselves were willing to model true leadership, which includes ownership. Their lack of transparency and silence around the controversy in 2013 was irresponsible. I was pretty certain the conversation would end there. I was very surprised when instead, they demonstrated to me a true willingness to listen, and a desire to ‘make right.’”

What emerged was a raw and honest conversation between OTM and lululemon about what real leadership looks like. We realized that not only did we need more of this space amongst ourselves, but the community did as well. Instead of creating sides and drawing lines, what if we brought people together? Instead of telling people what leadership is, what if we put our own leadership on the line and practiced the qualities of integrity and responsibility by being in an open dialogue about the areas of conflict?

“I believe direct conversations are the most powerful way to lead. Take feedback. Name it. Learn. Move on. When Seane made the suggestion, I felt in my gut the opportunity to do that in community” says Rachel Acheson, VP Brand and Community, lululemon athletica


This isn’t just about taking responsibility, it’s about approaching conflict with honesty, awareness, consciousness and compassion.

Controversy can often bring up defensiveness, blame and impulsive reactions.We want to create a space for everyone to show up in a grounded way with an attitude of humility and curiosity rather than with the need to be right.

“We have an opportunity to have a true civil discourse and put our tools of yoga to test by practicing listening and conscious communication with the intention of exploring best practices, both at a corporate and personal level, that is mindful, honest, and in integrity” ~ Seane Corn

Then the question is “How do we move forward together into action?” Action that backs our words. Action that is difficult; that may require us to sacrifice some of the benefits we have that come at the expense of others. We know that no action is possible without effective communication, so we strive for a potent conversation and hope that it paves the way towards meaningful action on the part of both the corporations and the consumers.

lululemon athletic CEO, Laurent Potdevin, says “I am in this to listen and learn. Collaboration, confidence and humility are the foundation of my leadership. There is no better way to practice that than listening”.

OTM has brought together leaders from the community who we think represent the many voices and perspectives in this conversation, and who can extend the conversation further to the audience and the web to ensure everyone feels included.

“As someone who’s critiqued lululemon in my writing, I’m truly surprised to find myself on this panel. But I welcome it!” says Carol Horton, blogger and author of Yoga PHD. “The opportunity to dialog with representatives of a company I’ve long felt alienated from is challenging, promising, and exciting. I believe this event can model an open, honest, and tough—but also respectful and compassionate—conversation across real and perceived differences. Rather than squaring off into opposing camps, we need to listen, learn, and be open to any and all opportunities for positive change.”

While all of this came out of a conversation with lululemon, this series is about much more.  It’s about our commitment to a process of leadership where we confront our blind spots and expose our shadows; and where we actively work through conflict and disagreement, as a community towards the wellbeing of all.

I think this is really the growing edge of the yoga and conscious communities: are we willing to give up some of our own comforts in order to stand in solidarity with those who live on the margins, and are most deeply affected by greed and inequality?” ~ Hala Khouri, Co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World™

This forum is an opportunity for us all to be in this practice. As yoga enters the mainstream, things are only going to be come more complex and contradictory. We have to cultivate a capacity to call one another up as leaders and engage from a place of fierce truth and love. Only then can we move forward.

“In my own leadership I have made mistakes. Some public, and some made quietly behind the scenes,” says Seane. “We cannot just point our finger outward and blame others and demand change. We must also recognize the way we ourselves are complicit to varying levels of unconsciousness by both our actions and inactions. We have to all be willing to take ownership of our own selfishness, greed, unconscious behaviors and ignorance and choose to grow and expand our awareness. This is the way that real change is ever going to be possible.”


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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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