Over the last 30 years, Ginny Whitelaw has been attempting to integrate her study of Eastern philosophies with her career in business leadership training. As the co-founder of Focus Leadership, Whitelaw brings her Zen leadership training into offices across the country. Her latest book, “The Zen Leader: 10 Ways to Go From Barely Managing to Leading Fearlessly,” will be released this week by Career Press.
What can Western business cultures learn from Asian business cultures, and vice versa?
Western business leaders are generally at a level of development characterized by rationality and short-term, Wall Street thinking — the limitations of which have become painfully obvious in the last 10 years. Asian cultures tend to take a longer view, and think more systemically. The entrepreneurial spirit is certainly alive and well in both Eastern and Western cultures. However, speaking in general terms, Western cultures approach business through the eye of the individual, and Eastern cultures through the needs and norms of the group. As a result, in Eastern business cultures, it is at times harder to bring your full creativity to work.
How do Zen terms like “Small Mind” and “Big Mind” apply to business leadership?
Small Mind is looking at things from an ego perspective. It’s our usual way of thinking, which is unconsciously centered on our self and our needs and fears in the situation. Big Mind is “disappearing” into the situation, becoming one with it, and using our personality to serve others.
How can a leader work toward the “flip in consciousness” that you describe in your book?
You have to work with the body. One can actually feel the difference between, say, tension and extension in the body. One’s sense of self becomes larger, freer and more agile, leading to the ultimate flip from delusion to awakening. Once we experience ourselves as a part of — not apart from — fearlessness arises.