The Zen Leader does not encourage you to just "be peaceful." Nor does it suggest that you work harder, faster, or ignore the pressure. Quite the opposite: the book is about using the pressure to propel "flips" in consciousness that create transformational leaders, leaders who create the future with joy and enthusiasm, rather than drive themselves and their people to exhaustion.
Here we share Chapter 2: From Tension to Extension
Now flip that around. Let out a deep sigh of relief and sit back in your chair. Let your eyes drift into peripheral, 180-degree vision by extending your arms to your sides, palms up and open, and seeing both hands and everything in between. Let your arms drift down comfortably, and imagine a line of energy flowing down the backs of your arms, and out through the backs of your fingertips. Check out the feeling: Is it larger than before? More flowing? More connected? Yes, you may say, but it also feels less sharply focused and...well...less productive. And therein lies a key tension in leadership: it’s easier to trust what we can control and get done using tension than it is to trust what comes when we let go, and let extension operate.
- The cynic who’s always trying to find fault and cast blame
- The worrier, who agonizes over every decision or plays it safe
- The center of attention whose insecurity demands the spotlight
- The arrogant one who must be right and long ago stopped listening
- The perfectionist determined to get reality under control.
If you were playing a game of Charades and were asked to portray any of these characters (try the exercise to the right) you would instantly find that to act it out, you would start tensing your body in specific ways: a furtive, eye-darting look for the cynic, a puffed up chest for the arrogant person, and so on. These gestures are not accidental; in the game of Charades we might exaggerate them to make them more visible, but even when held inside, these same subtle tensions are at work.
You know the importance of this energy direction from Chapter 1, but now you can experience the physical essence of how to send your energy out, not in. Try this: Raise your left arm out to your side. The front of your arm—the flexor side—is what tightens when you make a fist (see Figure 2.2a). Relax your hand and feel a line of energy running along the back of your arm—on the extensor side—running through the back of your hand and out through your fingers (Figure 2.2b). Similarly extend your right arm, and make the same flip to a line of energy running along the back, exten-sor side. Feel into your spine and similarly relax the muscles along the front of the spine and extend slightly along the back of the spine, feeling a lift through the back of your neck, the rims of your ears, and out the top of your head. Sense this line of energy extending down through your legs, gently extending the balls of your feet into the earth.6 Now dial back the gain on all of this until you just barely feel these lines of extension and you have the idea of this third law of energy management: out, not in. This extension manifests physically by relaxing of the front, flexor side of the body and extending through the back, extensor side.