Monday, March 7, 2011

A Model of Successful Development of Leadership from Within - The Art of Living Foundation

One organization that is working to help leaders and future leaders develop themselves from the “inside out” is the Art of Living Foundation. The Foundation teaches stress-reducing breathing techniques to people from all factions of life including leaders and employees in organizations, aspiring leaders, school children, and communities. These techniques are coupled with meditations and psychological maxims that help people gain the willingness and capability to reframe their approach to life.
Established by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a non-profit, educational, and humanitarian organization in 1981, the Foundation has chapters in more than 140 countries. The sustainable development projects, trauma-relief, and self-development programs conducted by the organization are reported to have benefited more than 25 million people around the world. By nurturing the spirit of service and compassion in every individual, the Foundation seeks to build a global society that is free of stress and violence.
The breathing techniques taught in the Art of Living program have been researched medically, and are shown to have multiple beneficial impacts such as the reduction of Serum Cortisol (the stress hormone), an increase in the beta wave activity in the brain (showing better integration of the right and left brain), reduction in bad cholesterol (with a simultaneous increase in good cholesterol) among other benefits.
The maxims taught in the program encourage acceptance of diversity, demonstrate and show the complementary nature of opposites such as happiness and sadness, encourage independent thinking and collective action, promote a culture of responsible behavior, and encourage considered responses rather than impulsive reactions to situations.
Through this mixture of breathing techniques, meditation, and maxims that aid day-to-day leadership decisions, the Art of Living program has helped to cultivate a more conscious “inner” core of people encouraging them to be ethical and connective leaders.
Among the most interesting benefits of the program is an acknowledgment of a “heightened sense of belongingness” among the participants, who often report they feel more connected to the people around them, and are ready to take responsibility for the well-being of their communities, their nations, and the world.
In an interview dated August 3, 2003, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar indicated that “the big C of corruption can be countered by 5Cs – Connectedness, Courage, Cosmology (understanding life events in a larger context), Care, and Commitment. A lack of connectedness or sense of belongingness breeds corruption in society. That is why, often, you see people looking for connections, in order to avoid corruption! A sense of belongingness among people, among the community, can root out corruption.
The Art of Living's programs in essence appear to be designed to promote the above cited 5Cs, and as such offers a promising model to develop the “inner” leader who is both ethical and connective, and determined to act in the best interest of society.

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