Naropa University President Chuck Lief recently interviewed several leaders who will be speaking at the Mindful Leadership Summit in Washington, DC on November 6-8, 2015. In advance of the Summit—which brings together more than 750 leaders from business, the nonprofit sector and government—Chuck Lief sits down with Mo Edjlali and Eric Forbis, the co-founders of the Summit.
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Chuck Lief: What distinguishes Mindful Leadership Summit from Wisdom 2.0, the Mind and Life Institute, and others?
Mo and Eric: Wisdom 2.0 and the Mind and Life Institute are both doing great work, but we’re focused exclusively on mindful leadership, and on how to bring mindfulness and compassion into organizations. How does a leader develop the self-awareness, authenticity and compassion that will inspire others, and that will help bring out the best in them? We’re interested in speaking with leaders who are energized about mindfulness, and about its potential to help bring about positive change into their workplace, and can then actually introduce it into the organization’s culture.
Chuck Lief: What are some of the highlights of this year’s Summit?
Mo and Eric: The Summit is so fortunate to have some really incredible speakers and leaders: Bill George has been at the forefront of the entire conversation about mindful leadership for many years, and was was formerly President and CEO of Medtronic. Others include Richie Davidson from the University of Wisconsin, and one of the leading neuroscientists in the country studying the intersection of contemplative practice and brain science. David Gelles from The New York Times and author of Mindful Work is another featured speaker.
Another highlight is having a day devoted to day-long, deep-dive leadership intensives. This is where some really juicy work can be done.
Chuck Lief: You both freely speak about your personal contemplative practice. How did that inform the vision of the Mindful Leadership Summit?
Mo and Eric: For us, contemplative practice forms the bedrock of mindful leadership. Giving your brain and your nervous system that daily support is so important. Training your brain to stay more in the present helps you develop self awareness, and more awareness of others, which is crucial for mindful leadership.
This can also help lead to being more compassionate. Cultivating the heart is vital for mindful leadership. Leadership can’t all come just from the head. So, when we look for speakers for the Summit, we look for people who have their own contemplative practice, and we make sure we create opportunities for bringing in speakers who can talk about the value of compassionate leadership in especially compelling ways, and who can share stories around compassion that will connect with the attendees.
Chuck Lief: It seems like Mindful Leadership is offered everywhere these days. A lot of people tie it to work in corporations, Google perhaps being the most visible example. My experience of the summit last year was that it had great relevance for people outside the business world as well. How would you describe your target audience?
Mo and Eric: We have lots of leaders at the Summit from government and nonprofits, leaders from education, both K-12 and higher ed, as well as entrepreneurs and people from the corporate world. Last year, Mark Tercek, who is President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, spoke publicly for the first time about his own meditation practice. He talked about how mindfulness has helped shape him into a better leader, and about how he feels mindfulness can play an important role in the environmental movement.
Mindfulness is beginning to play an important role in education, and this year David Germano of the University of Virginia will be talking at the Summit about some of the amazing things that are going on around the country in the area of education. The founders of the Holistic Life Foundation of Baltimore will discuss the work they’re doing with meditation and yoga in some inner city schools there. Perhaps they’ll inspire others at the Summit to follow their lead. This is one of the things that gets us most excited about the Summit—sharing success stories, and helping leaders see how they can do some of these things in their own lives, and in their own organizations.
Check out more interviews from this series:
Author: Chuck Lief
Editor: Travis May