Deepak Chopra on the Soul of Leadership


Deepak Chopra on the Soul of Leadership

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” — Deepak Chopra

I was listening to Deepak Chopra the other day, on how to be a more effective leader.  Deepak always makes me think, but what I especially liked about this talk was the way he breathed new life into an old topic.  In this case, he took leadership to a new level by talking about the “soul” of leadership and providing a rich framework for flexing and testing your leadership skills.

How To Define a Leader

Deepak described a leader as “the symbolic soul of a group of consciousness.”  He said that group consciousness could be a family, an organization, a community, a country or the whole world.  He went on to say that the leader represents the longings, the aspirations, the deepest desires of the group, so in a sense, “the soul.”

A 7 Step Framework for Leaders

If you can spell “Leaders”, that’s the key to remembering Deepak’s leadership framework.  Each letter represents a different aspect of being an effective leader:

  1. L – LOOK and LISTEN. Look and listen with your flesh – eyes and ears.  Look and listen with your mind – so you analyze the facts.  Look and listen with your heart — how do you feel about things?  Paint a vision.  The vision has to be compelling.  It has to be inspiring.  It has to be a story.  Deepak says we can get all the facts, but  what gives soul to facts is story.  The story has to authentic and it has to make a difference in our lives.    Without the story, facts remain clinical.  People are actually buying into a story, not the facts.
  2. E – EMOTIONAL BONDING.  Be comfortable with your own emotions.  Understand the emotions of others.  Use emotional intelligence.  Manage relationship in a way that fosters that bonding.  Deepak says that when people are emotionally bonded they are much more effective.
  3. A – AWARENESS.   Be aware of needs and know what’s needed here.  Deepak reminded us there are 7 levels of need from safety to survival to belonging to self-esteem to creative expression to hired consciousness to success.
  4. D – DOING.  Be action-oriented.    If you’re not taking action, then it’s just a dream.  Be a role model for action.  As a tip, Deepak suggests asking your colleagues, “Am I doing what I said i was doing?”  Ask for feedback.  Take calculated risks.  If you’re not going to task risks, then the story remains the same.  According to Deepak, the story only changes when you take calculated risks.
  5. E – EMPOWER YOURSELF.  Empower others.    One of the best ways you can empower others is by noticing their strengths.  Deepak pointed out that according to Gallup research, if you don’t notice their strength, they disengage.   If you criticize them, their disengagement goes up by 20%.  If you ignore them, it goes up by 45%.   If you notice a single strength, disengagement falls to less than 1%.
  6. R – RESPONSIBILITY.  Take initiative.  Take risks.  Above all maintain good health.  Deepak says that .leaders who are really effective are emotionally and physically grounded and stable.  That means getting good sleep, exercising, watching their diet, and they now how to manage stress.

How To Inspire Others

Deepak shared a simple recipe for inspiring others:

  • Adversity, uncertainty, chaos that actually drives the creative impulse.
  • Welcome periods of adversity.
  • Welcome periods of crisis.
  • If you don’t have a crisis, create one.
  • Once you create a crisis, you will see there is opportunity there.
  • People’s behavior is determined and their impulse to create and their impulse to move into the future and their productivity is actually created by how they perceive a situation.

Deepak also said he prefers “inspire” over “motivate” because to him, motivation is just mental and doesn’t last, whereas inspiration is about inspiring the spirit.

Always Look for the Opportunity

What separates the “lucky” from the “unlucky”?  According to Deepak, the difference that makes the difference is looking for opportunity.  Deepak shares the following strategies to find more opportunities:

  • Always look for the opportunity in the situation.
  • Always look for what’s happening.
  • Don’t follow the culture, you have to lead the culture.
  • Set the gold standard.
  • Welcome adversity.
  • Welcome the unknown.
  • Welcome uncertainty.
  • Look for the future.

Lucky ones see opportunities where other people see problems.  We’re surrounded by opportunities all the time.

Instill Hope in Others

When the chips are down, one of the things that keeps everybody going is hope.  Deepak is a fan of instilling hope in other.  Here’s a pragmatic way he shared to rekindle the hope in others:

  1. Ask the people on your team to give a three minute speech about what’s good about what we’re doing.
  2. Ask everybody else to say what they learned from that person about what’s good about what we’re doing.
  3. Reframe the problems as challenges and opportunities.

Deepak says that if you have 10 people say what’s good about what we’re doing, and then each person gets to express that,  you feel hopeful and inspired.  In my experience, this is both a simple and effective exercise for bootstrapping hope and opportunity.

Ask yourself How To Co-Create the Future

Rather than be a victim of circumstance or play the blame game, you can shape your path forward by asking yourself some resourceful questions.  Deepak shared the following questions as a way to own your future:

  1. Ask yourself what kind of world do I want to live in?
  2. What kind of organization do I want to create?
  3. What kind of team do I want to be in?
  4. What’s my role in creating this?

With the insight, perspective, and framing that Deepak shared, this was more than just a talk – it was an experience.

Photo by Joi.


  1. JD,
    “Co-create” – I really love that! It reminds me that we can create with others, even in the midst of challenges – and when we do, some pretty amazing things can happen!

  2. I like how it’s really all about soul, caring and balance — the best stuff to lean towards in all aspects of our life.

    Off to “lead the culture” of my own making now…. 🙂 I like that! Says to me “Be who you are, you are unique and bring blessings with your uniqueness!”


  3. @ Lance — I really like the fact that life’s not scripted and we can write our story forward, and help others write theirs. I have noticed that people that continuously turn lemons into lemonade tend to make the most from life.

    @ Jannie — You have a skill for surfacing the funny side of life. The more carbon copies I’ve seen, the more I appreciate uniqueness. I think our minds have infinite slots for one-of-a-kinds, but quickly fill up when there’s more than one.

  4. Hi JD,
    It is interesting that great leaders get the “lucky” breaks… which of course just means that they are able to find the golden nugget in any temporary defeat.

  5. This is at the core of what I am experiencing now! I wanted a change, and the universe is bringing it to me. After experiencing fear at first, I decided to take it as a beautiful opportunity to bring abundance in my life.

    I am ready for the ride, and enjoy seeing the unfolding of my co-creation. I am involving all the members of my family, friends and trusted members of my support group to send me beautiful light during this journey.

    The rewards of taking leaps of faith are much larger than staying in the status quo.

  6. I loved E the most. It was sharp change for me to keep my emotions cool down to northwest standards and it made me feel uncomfortable. I use it more often now and I feel more empowered.

  7. J. D. There was so much here that resonated for me. I’m very grateful that you have shared this. I find this astounding: “One of the best ways you can empower others is by noticing their strengths. Deepak pointed out that according to Gallup research, if you don’t notice their strength, they disengage. If you criticize them, their disengagement goes up by 20%. If you ignore them, it goes up by 45%. If you notice a single strength, disengagement falls to less than 1%.” Thank you, this was a real gift.

  8. Hey J.D.,

    A lot of juiciness in this post. Not sure where to even start with what’s cool about it. My personality most gravitates to this line:

    Don’t follow the culture, you have to lead the culture.

    We get what we either create or let others create. If you don’t like it, jump in and redirect it. We have the power to do this, yet often forget.

    Thank! G.

  9. @ Rob — I like the shift from lucky or victim to empowered and skilled.

    @ Catherine — I think just like the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”, it’s also true that now that you’re ready for the ride, the horse shows up.

    @ Alik — It’s your awareness and continous drive for improvement that keeps serving you well. Some people never see the ceiling that holds them back … you turn the ceiling into a wall and jump it, with room to spare.

    @ Sandra — I was surprised by how dramatic the shift in engagement could be, but it definitely makes sense based on what I’ve seen. I’m glad that one of the practices I’ve adopted long ago is to find the unique strengths of each person on the team and get them to spend more time in their strengths, and less time in their weaknesses.

    @ Giulietta — I like the way you put it, “We get what we either create or let others create.” It’s true. One of my mentors always said, “Drive or be driven” and he was right.

  10. That’s a very useful topic especially for us bloggers,
    I was reading an article yesterday that was saying that a blogger is a leader who leads his reader to a better life. your post made a lot of sense

    Keep it up my friend 🙂

  11. JD: Great post. I am a Deepak fan as well. I really liked the section in your post about always looking for opportunities. I think if we can make certain we are putting each one of those strategies to use, we can know for sure we are opening ourselves to any and all opportunities that are coming our way. Great post and great advice JD.

  12. @ Farouk — I like that … “A blogger is a leader who leads his reader to a better life.”

    @ Sibyl — Thank you. I like your emphasis on action and turning strategies into results. The strategies are enablers of opportunity but only if we use them.

  13. JD, I love this post!
    Very encouraging! I think I love the idea of instilling hope into others, and I laughed at the idea of creating a crisis. haha. I think they come naturally enough for opportunity but I do get the underlying point of it, just never heard it said that way before.

    I like this idea of the soul of leadership. I think for those who especially feel they are to help bring soul ascension on earth it can feel very difficult to not want to just return to Source, because the hardest thing is relating, when most of the time we’re relating to the other side and its so organic and magical. I only recently understood that I’m here to help raise that vibrational energy in this way, links with the hope thing I guess and I love what you said: “what I especially liked about this talk was the way he breathed new life into an old topic.”

    this is something I do feel deeply in my heart and soul lately that I am aligning with, and I do feel more welcoming of this –but certainly it is more influencing leading rather than blending and trying to influence within the framework that “is not soul supportive”. So, I am learning to create in a way that honors this first, so hopefully this time round I can find my voice and really do my part to channel healthy thoughts and energy back from our home. 🙂

    hugs, great post!

  14. @ Jenn — Thank you. Deepak really knows how to dive deep for the good stuff, and turn it into actionable insights.

    Channeling your thoughts and energy is one way to move mountains, even if it means starting with a molehill at a time.

  15. Great article. I like how Deepak explains the meaning of leaders. Look and listen, emotional bonding, awareness, doing, empower yourself, responsibility, and synchronicity.

    I do believe when you have a good leader, they see themselves more as a servant to the group. What I mean is let us work together and find the right solutions for all of us. How can I help.

    This does give hope to others, because they feel safe. When a leader makes you feel safe you are more open to join in with the group and helping find answers. Then the mountains can be moved.
    Thanks for a great article full of wonderful information.
    Blessing to you JD.

  16. @ Debbie — Thank you. I agree — servant leadership is a very effective model. It works because it’s about clearing roadblocks while empowering individuals and working toward shared goals. So rather than a single point of failure at the top, you have a high performing team of individuals co-creating a future, while leveraging each other’s strengths and benefiting from the synergy of a group.

  17. Hi JD .. it’s giving more, taking less, learning much … never wasting a moment of time .. absorbing, opening more doors, giving oneself choices .. following the high road perhaps ..

    Cheers – Hilary

  18. @ Hilary — So true — it’s a perfect example of how much the bigger system / ecosystem we play in makes a difference and how we’re social and connected creatures.

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