Leadership karma, like all karma, results from your intentions and the actions they lead to.
Karma is the law of cause and effect. Simply put, if you plant a kale seed, the effect will be a kale plant (hopefully). If you plant tomato seeds you get tomato plants. Cause > Effect.
Karma comes in two varieties:
- Good karma
- Bad karma
Jack Kornfield, Buddhist, meditation teacher and psychologist, explains why actions alone do not determine karma.
“Suppose a man picks up a knife and plunges it into another man’s body, causing his death. What kind of karma has he created? If the wielder of the knife is a skilled surgeon undertaking a risky procedure to relive suffering, the karma is positive, even if the patient dies. But the same act, done out of anger, will produce the painful karma of murder.”
The karma we create affects us and those around us, well into the future. Like this:
The most effective way to direct your leadership karma is to clarify your motivations and set your intentions, intentionally.
Leadership Karma - how to set your intentions
Intentions are matters of the heart, followed by a commitment of the mind. To set your intentions, consult your heart. To consult your heart, quiet your thinking brain because it will misguide you. Your better self will lose as a result. Karma.
The brain says, “He disrespected me.” The ego says, “Ouch”. The mouth slams him in front of the entire team.
The heart says, “Treat people with kindness and compassion.” Your heart isn’t concerned with whether your ego was hurt or disrespected. It simply tells you to be kind and compassionate.
If you decide to lead with compassion, you must do so without qualifications. This doesn’t mean you tolerate poor performance or disrespect. It does mean you address the person, regardless of his action, with compassion.
A true story about leadership karma
Arjun had always been a high performer but wasn’t doing well in his latest role. Martin, his manager, addressed the situation several times. Nothing changed. Martin became increasingly frustrated and impatient. At one point he “lost it” with Arjun in front of the entire executive team. Martin apologized after the incident and then had a heart to heart with himself.
“This isn’t the way I want to treat people. It doesn’t matter who I’m addressing or how impatient or frustrated I’m feeling in the moment. My intention and commitment is to be compassionate.”
Several weeks later Martin met with Arjun. “You’re hurting. I can see it and I’m responsible, in part, for allowing your hurt to continue.”
It was an honest and powerful conversation. They agreed that this role wasn’t a good fit and Arjun would move on within a year. Martin would provide a coach, references, and his own network to help Arjun find a role that played to his strengths. From that time on, Arjun was happier and more relaxed. He was even performing better, although still not in line with his capabilities.