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Deepak Chopra on "The Soul of Leadership"

On Friday, as the keynote speaker for the Mobius Forum, Deepak Chopra spoke to a crowded Spangler Auditorium on the subject of “The Soul of Leadership.” Chopra, a world-renowned author on the subject of spiritualism who often relates principles of quantum physics to Eastern philosophy, told the crowd that “a leader is the symbolic soul of a group, and that group can be a family or a nation.”

Chopra contrasted the “visionary leader” model with the “tyrant king” model of leadership. Of the tyrant king leader, he said, “Through enslaving others, he becomes the most miserable of slaves.”
On how thoughts manifest into reality, Chopra explained, “Thoughts, dreams, and fantasies translate themselves into electrical storms in our synapses” that ultimately determine and shape “what we do as sentient beings.”

Spirituality, Chopra said, is often confused with religious officials and icons that eventually and inevitably become defiled, making a parallel to Boston’s Cardinal Law and the current sex-abuse scandals of the Catholic Church. Rather, he argued, spirituality is “a domain of awareness where we experience our universal nature,” and continued, “At the level of our souls, we are all sinners and saints…we all have in us the divine and the diabolical,” and that those “ambiguities” are indicative of humanity’s shared commonality.

This awareness, he said, “allows us to realize that the sinner and the saint are just exchanging notes,” and that “at one level we are all the same.” He separated conceptually the soul, the mind, and the body by saying the “soul is the observer, the process of observation is the mind, and the body is the object of observation experiencing the world through the five senses.” Chopra charged, “Our academic world has ignored the role of the observer, which has been relegated to the role of theologians.”

The concept of “tangled hierarchies” featured prominently in Chopra’s remarks, a concept he said is well grounded in both quantum physics and Buddhism. In each paired relationship, Chopra said, “Each creates the other.” He listed seven: observer and observed, messenger molecules and receptors, sensory apparatus and the physical world, organism and its environment, and followers (and their needs) and leaders (and their responses). To illustrate, Chopra said that common debates such as the one about “nature versus nurture” ask the wrong question because “they are part of the same continuum.”

Comparing consciousness to a flashlight, Chopra said “if you broaden the beam, you’d see that everything is related to everything else,” like “the waves in a lake caused by other waves; And these waves that are contributing to the effect of all the other waves.”

On the subject of leadership, Chopra argued that “leaders and followers co-create each other.” He listed seven fundamental responses in human nature: fight/flight, ego, inner direction, knowingness/intuition, creativity, visionary/higher guidance, and unity. He added, “One or more of these responses predominates in every situation and must be known by the leader.”

Chopra also said there are seven types of leaders in society: the protector, entrepreneur/politician, team builder, nurturer, innovator/creative person, visionary, and saint. Each role, he contended, has a “shadow side,” except for the saint. For instance, combining responses with type, he said politicians are driven by an ego need and often have shadow sides that include selfishness, greed, and manipulation.

On democracy, Chopra claimed that choosing a leader gives only an illusion of democracy, that in fact the leader is an expression of the consciousness of the people. He said Hitler was the manifestation of a collective psychosis. He said today’s leaders “are contained in, and created by, [a] field of activities” that included in part “opinion polls, nuclear weapons, cell phones, terrorism, and anesthesia.”

The presentation included a series of acronyms to frame a particular topic, and the one Chopra used to prescribe solutions for growing leadership capabilities was “LEADERS”: Look and listen, Empower, Awareness, Doing, Expanded consciousness, Responsibility, and “the most crucial element” Synchronicity.

Of great leaders, Chopra said “They were experts in coincidence and timing.” He said they understood that “behind every coincidence is a great conspiracy of the universe,” and “that good luck is opportunity met with preparedness.” He criticized society for having “no system, even when we understand, for nurturing the needs of society and training leaders on the basis of that.”

Dr. Chopra concluded with, “My inner is your outer. Your outer is my inner. The perception of inner and outer is based on an illusion. There is no difference.” Earlier he said, “There is no such thing as a physical world” and that quantum physics has shown that reality is really just a “quantum soup,” revealing a certain universal relationship among all things.

“My thoughts in here are as much a reflection of the patterns in the universe as the beautiful patterns on the wings of a butterfly,” he said.
Dr. Chopra is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. His brother is a professor at Harvard Medical School, and his son is a student at the Kellogg School of Management. In his remarks, Dr. Chopra joked that his son didn’t meet the standards of Harvard Business School.

April 16, 2002
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