• Timothy Henry

Episode #20: Shakti Leadership

Step into the power of the feminine in leading consciously!

Join Timothy Henry as he interviews his co-host Raj Sisodia and co-author, Nilima Bhat to discuss their book, Shakti Leadership: Embracing the Feminine and masculine power in business.


Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.


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References & Resources:


Shakti Leadership main website - https://shaktileadership.com

Conscious Capitalism main website - www.consciouscapitalism.org


Bhat, N., Sisodia, R. (2016). Shakti Leadership: Embracing the Feminine and Masculine Future of Business: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


Mackey, J., Sisodia, R. (2014). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Harvard Business Review Press.

Sisodia, R., Henry, T., Eckschmidt, T. (2018). Conscious Capitalism Field Guide. Harvard Business Review Press.



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Episode Transcript:



Episode 20 – Shakti Leadership


Timothy: Hello everybody and welcome to episode #20 of the Conscious Capitalists with myself Timothy Henry and my co-host and partner in crime making the world a better place through business, Raj Sisodia. Hi Raj.


Raj: Hi Timothy. Happy New Year. Great to see you again.


Timothy: Happy New Year and happy and healthy 2021 to everyone listening. Today we’re going to do a very interesting podcast. Were going to be talking about leadership and a particular element of leadership that Raj and our mystery guest will be introduced in the second, co-authored and that a book called Shakti Leadership. So Raj maybe begin with introducing your co-author?


Raj: Yes, it’s my great pleasure to introduce somebody who’s been a very special influence in my life and a dear friend and in many ways a teacher for me, Nilima Bhat. As you said the co-author with me on Shakti Leadership, somebody who I met in 2010 our first, and actually our only major India conference on Conscious Capitalism. She was part of a group called Chitta Sangha which means the Consciousness Collaborative. So she and her husband Vijay and about 25 other really extraordinary human beings were all working at the intersection of consciousness and leadership and business.


So we met there at that conference and then subsequently became friends and then eventually started to think about working together. And we found a domain with which I had some interest and she had a lot of depth, which is around the idea of the feminine. I had observed that there was a rise of feminine values generally especially in conscious businesses which are more characterized by compassion and caring and inclusiveness and love. Ideas that I had explored a little bit in Firms of Endearment but I had seen that more. And we did a conference in Boston at Bentley University; one of our Conscious Capitalism conferences was around the rights of the feminine. So over time we started to explore those ideas. So Nilima welcome. Nilima is joining us today from Mumbai which is her home base but she travels all over the world spreading light and wisdom. So great to have you joining us today.


Nilima: Great to be here today with you Raj and Timothy. I’m so excited that we get to talk about Shakti leadership after the past four years.


Timothy: Yeah, and for four more years after that! No sorry, there is a political illusion there. So Nilima maybe begin by saying what was the journey that got you to this place of Shakti Leadership. How did this come into being and why was this an important part of your journey?


Nilima: Wow that’s a long question you know that. How much time do I have?


Timothy: I may do a male thing and interrupt you halfway through.


Nilima: Right. I will try to make it brief but as Raj mentioned we were part of this group called Chitta Sangha and we were looking to create a conscious leadership model knowing well that it was one of the four tenants of Conscious Capitalism. We knew that we needed to bring the wisdom around the word consciousness which is something India really holds the depository for and its 5000+ old year of civilization. So there was a group that was trying to put together a model. I am a trained yoga teacher in the Sivananda tradition. I have practiced integral yoga at Sivananda and it became very clear to me that the world needs this, you need to bring consciousness to leadership and yoga has many fantastic distinct answers over thousands of years so why do we need to reinvent the wheel. Let’s look into the body of work called yoga.


Otherwise as a woman I knew that we need to find feminine leadership styles and we need to find conscious leadership that works not just for men but also for women. And in the field of yoga there is the concept of Shakti, right, which is this innate power of existence that drives everything and that involves everything that fuels change. And if we want to be conscious leaders looking for transformational change then obviously we need to know what this element called Shakti is. And interestingly it’s called the mother because it’s the creative force from which everything is supposed to emanate. So in the yoga tradition that consciousness principle is Shiva which is pure witness, awareness, stillness, what is commonly today known as mindfulness but it’s a kind of actionless space.


For that to form into action and create the outcomes needed you need to create the principle and that which creates and gives birth is the feminine, the mother. So I was thinking here there is all this power around us and it’s called Shakti. And leadership is all about exercising but particularly win-lose power. Like you know someone needs to win and someone needs to lose. And I am right know there is so much power going around and if we all figure out how to tap into Shakti and therefore understand the feminine principle of consciousness that we have a very robust model for conscious leadership based on source itself. So that was one idea that you know behind writing Shakti Leadership.


The other was I was convinced we need model that works for the East and the West and not just by the West for the West. And now people are talking the global North and the global South. So I’ve been like a pig sniffing for troubles for all this good stuff and all the world civilizations. You know I call them the civilization elixir and how could we put that altogether in a model that will give us leadership that works for all. So that’s out Shakti Leadership came about.


Timothy: That’s beautiful. And Raj how did this relate to your journey and how this resonated with you and why was at a good time to be writing that book?


Raj: So after writing Conscious Capitalism and we had all started the movement together and had done Terms of Endearment prior to that, I was interested in going deeper with my understanding of these elements. And I think in terms of conscious leadership is probably where I did not have this background. You know my academic background is not in the management disciplines that typically study leadership. So I was quite interested and as I said there was something in me that was interested in the idea of studying the feminine. And it’s taken me years to actually figure it out, that I was in some way manifesting my mother’s energy in my work already. And in fact in 2018 when I turned 60 that’s what my coach told me you know you have been honoring your mother with your work, that you are bringing that to the world through your writings and that’s what the world is needed and that is kind of what’s your role to play in this.


So I have been dabbling in it at a simple level as I said , talking about what is feminine what is masculine and to what extent our conscious companies and their cultures reflective of the feminine. Then as I got to know Nilima she was writing a column called Shakti Speaks for one of the Indian newspapers which was addressing women’s issues, giving voice to women’s issues and so forth. And I think Nilima came up with the idea of us doing this book together which was a great blessing and a great learning experience for me.


Timothy: So I love this idea of trying to find this balance of masculine and feminine, particularly when we get into leadership. And I’m curious Nilima as we get into this idea of conscious leadership, how do you integrate the idea of conscious leadership with this idea of the masculine and the feminine?


Nilima: So at the least to be a conscious leader you have to be present and you have to cultivate presence and different traditions call mindfulness or centeredness, are what we needed it to create a practice that regardless of gender, leaders could commit to. And then the discovery that in order to come into your presence, you also need to be able to balance your masculine and your feminine side because to be truly centered, you need to - it’s like the Tao symbol, the yin and the yang have to be in this dance together. When you are not present, you are in one or the other. Right, so first of all you need to be in your full power in order to be present and in order to come into your full power you need to be a whole person and in order to be a whole person you need to have developed your healthy masculine and your healthy feminine qualities, values, behaviors, selves, call it whatever right. These are like polarities within us.


And because of patriarchal societies and leadership models, both men and women have learned to over develop their masculine side. Though it’s not wrong or bad, it’s just incomplete. It’s like they’ve gone to the gym and they worked out the right muscle in the right bicep and not even realize there is a left bicep in the same body, you know. And so no wonder we created such imbalance and it’s the imbalance that has led to the problem. So even though there’s a lot of, I’m not calling it wrong or anything, the feminist movements are all about raising up the feminine and almost sometimes calling the masculine out as all wrong and all bad.


And the East because of the idea of Shiva and Shakti and yin and yang so clearly shows us that having one to the neglect of the other makes both bad. So you know going with the feminine and just assuming all things feminine are good and all things masculine are bad is an equal recipe for disaster.


Timothy: Well there’s also a lot of studies I think they’re coming out and I sometimes joke with my children who are 24 and 21, I sort of say to my 24-year-old daughter, you are the future of leadership. And son you better learn some things about your feminine side if you like to be a conscious leader. And I bring this up because I think there are studies now that are starting to say that as we get more and more into a team-based model of management, as teams become the integral point of reference for how you run a business, then the ability to create really effective teams becomes a critical capability. The studies show that women are much better at leading these teams and creating a collaborative team environment with psychological safety. You need to create psychological safety in a team and that women tend to have this more or be able to do this more than men. And so my response to that is read Shakti Leadership. That’s how the men would learn this. I mean how do you respond to that? I mean these Western studies are now coming out and saying these things around team collaboration and psychological safety. How does that relate to the notion that you are pushing forward with this idea of Shakti Leadership?


Nilima: I think it’s just an idea whose time has come. Right. So when you have a problem you finally address the issue. If everything is working fine, if you’re masculine model is working and it seems to have worked all this time then why would there be a need to bring in the feminine. But given that these models are now no longer working and organizations realize that just having leaders focused on getting the task done, doesn’t get the task done. The leader needs to also have emotional intelligence, spiritual intelligence, the ability to gather as they go, take the people along, that relational self, that inclusive self needs to be developed like a muscle is developed. So leadership skill building is needed for that.


So I think it’s become a necessity is the mother of invention kind of thing. So if you realize you are having a problem you need to now find the solutions for it. And if that’s the way in which the feminine is going to be restored through organizations, then fantastic. I wish we didn’t have to go through pain and suffering to come into our wholeness and inclusion but if that’s the way then so be it. I think that’s the way I would respond. I’m surprised we lasted this long I just the masculine.


Timothy: Well you know it’s really interesting. So I am thinking for some of our listeners that are men, there may be a few of them out there listening to this podcast and they are sitting there as a leader and sort of saying yeah something for me to really think about there. What is the on-ramp to Shakti Leadership? How do I, practically, as a male leader, how do I start this journey and what are the first couple of steps?


Nilima: Well first you begin with cultivating presence. And from that presence you try and figure out how you ‘do’ power. How are you getting things done? How do you exercise power? And we surprise ourselves that very often we are doing win/lose power and we don’t even know it. And that to catch yourself and say how can I be doing power ‘with’ in this conversation instead of trying to either take someone’s power away to get my job done or to give my power away to kind of remain in the game.


Timothy: Yeah. So what I hear you saying is that it begins with a certain level of emotional awareness. I’m self-aware and in part of that self-awareness I am able to at least observe my own behaviors. So if you don’t have that you’re not going to get to the next level.


Nilima: Yes.


Timothy: Then within that, and Raj I’d love you to kick in on this, I heard you also say this was about win-win thinking. This is about how do we grow the total pie versus getting lost in this win/lose way of operating. And we’ve often talked about that within the stakeholder model. And in our book we talked about the need for a mindset that is a win-win mindset. Raj is that another way of approaching this is by saying what we want to be cultivating in your organization is a win-win mindset?


Raj: Yeah. And I think as Nilima said the starting point is also self-awareness and we have an assessment in the book to idenitfy your default style. Where do you tend to gravitate? Not all of us have that awareness. Then we can kind of put it on the spectrum of more masculine or feminine. And by the way it doesn’t correlate directly with whether you are male or female, there could be plenty of women in our society has cultured us to have more masculine ways of being. That we’re generally speaking on that masculine side but there could be plenty of men on the other side and women on that side. So I think it starts with that, but then as Nilima said having an understanding of what we’re trying to achieve through our leadership? How do we think about power ‘with’ versus power ‘over’ and recognize that that’s where the idea of Shakti is so beautiful -- because it says there is no shortage of power in the world. You know there is infinite power in this universe. There’s power inside of every electron, every atom. You know everything is buzzing with power. And if we are in harmony with that which seeks to emerge. If we become an instrument of something that is part of the natural unfolding of evolution and of life, then we have access to limitless power. We channel that. But if you’re not in harmony with that then we must source that power from elsewhere, within us right which is a limited source or from others. You know dictators and others basically make the people powerless and most companies in a way are dictatorships right. And so people have to give up their power and then one person holds that power and tells everybody what to do. But that is a limited kind of power. So we have to connect to a deeper source of power and that is why the start of this is presence which then enables us to connect deeply to that source and have access to all the power that we need and then the idea of cultivating wholeness. Recognizing what is our default tendency and then the goal really is wholeness. Wholeness means the positive aspects of the masculine and the feminine are in harmony. Working together right as Carl Jung said ‘every man has an inner woman; every woman has an inner man’. As Martin Luther King said we must be tough-minded and tenderhearted at the same time. So how do we become that? In India of course we have a God for everything right. So there is a God that depicts that beautifully. It’s Ardhanarishava who is masculine on the left side and feminine on the right side. In many ways we are born into different genders. The journey in our lifetime is towards wholeness. We are not limited by the constraints of that birth gender or whatever those might be thought of as but ultimately where able to combine it integrate both of those things together. So how do we become whole? You know that’s a big part of the journey of becoming a conscious leader is a whole person. If you’re not a whole person that means your fractured and wounded within. And how can you then be an effective leader if you haven’t healed yourself within?


Timothy: So there’s one element of this which is really around this personal journey to raise my own consciousness and to see myself as a whole rounded human being. And then there’s another element that I’ve also heard and in the book that is brought out is this idea of power ‘with’ versus power ‘over’. So let’s say I’ve done the survey on male or female traits , and I discovered that I have a tendency towards power ‘over’ and I look at that and I go yeah, I’ve got to move from power over to the power with. Got it. Okay. Now I intellectualize that and I sort of said yep, I’ve got a score and my score is low on this area. I want to improve it which is in and of itself a challenge in terms of that mindset. But now that I’ve decided that I want to improve it, how do you coach me to be better with the power with versus power over?


Nilima: So there are two practical worksheets that are put into the book and what is called a polarity map which is the work of Dr. Barry Johnson. It’s just brilliant. And we applied it to masculine and feminine saying we need to leverage both, the best of both and avoid the risk of falling into the worst of both. And you map your healthy masculine and your healthy feminine qualities. You also map your unhealthy masculine and unhealthy feminine behaviors that are typically your ways of managing things. And then you get this early warning sign when you are kind of falling below the line and begin to get in that toxic space. So to give you an example; when I am falling below the line into becoming too masculine, I notice I become judgmental. And so my action step is to reach across to my healthy feminine. And my healthy feminine I’ve identified is the capacity for compassion and it’s a positive antidote to being judgmental. So just as I start writing someone off, I now have this light on my dashboard that goes off that says, ‘oh pause and move to compassion’ because you started judging, you’ve fallen below the line and that’s no good for anybody including myself.


Similarly if I’m too, I’m just compassionate all the time you know and then of course I go into hyperfeminine. I fall below the line in hyperfeminine and my early warning sign for that is that I start becoming kind of needy and dependent. Typically on the male figure around me who I am looking up to. So then it’s like oh catch yourself Nilima, it’s time for you to move into your own healthy masculine. And in my case that is called self-care. And it’s the perfect antidote to feeling needy and dependent on someone else.


Timothy: So the first step I’m hearing is that we want to use the polarity model to say, for me, here’s the benefits of masculine. Here’s the benefits for me, the benefits of the feminine. Then here’s the warning signs. When I go below the line here’s the thing that happens when I overuse the masculine muscle and here’s the things on the feminine side that can be the overuse of that muscle. Let me bring awareness to that and begin with being able to describe how I can go above the line and what do I need to be watching for to stay above the line?


Nilima: And it’s so brilliant Timothy. It’s so simple and it’s brilliant and you say what, really, 5000 years of patriarchy and this is the solution. In every man, woman and child figured this little piece out we’d all be balanced human beings and it’s as simple as that. It’s behavioral. It’s about being mindful and that it’s about committing to the behavior. That’s it.


Raj: And I think it’s worth underlining a couple of points there. So first of all we have to be able to observe ourselves right, so you have to kind of detach. You know say oh boy I’m behaving like this or I am feelinglike this. So it’s kind of that our two selves that we have within us right. And then as a species and I think especially as the rest of society but society in general, we tend to be bipolar. Right, we go from one extreme to the other. So the current fashion or the trend is over masculine and has done all of this and toxic masculinity and therefore we go all the way to the other side and thinking that’s the answer. But as polarity thinking clearly shows us that’s not the answer. These two things are locked together in harmony so we have to do that. And there’s a whole series of books that came out a number of years ago. I remember one with Hannah Rosin who wrote a book and the banner headline was ‘The End of Men’ and then the subtitle was ‘And the Rise of Woman’. So first of all why couldn’t you flip that and say why do men have to end in order for women to rise. This is not - I think Nilima has a wonderful phrase for that, that we - what do you say Nilima not about falling in love; it’s about rising in love together or something like that.


Nilima: Yes, arising in love together.


Raj: Right, so we are not the enemy of each other. We are the missing pieces in a way and of course that divide exists within each of us because none of us are a pure representation of either masculine or feminine, that’s fortunately so. So I think that’s important to recognize. Our book is advocating for the rise of the feminine because that’s what’s been lacking in men and women. Right, women have had to sort of lock that up and put that away somewhere. But it’s also very much celebrating the healthy masculine. Without that you know we don’t go forward either.


Nilima: In fact what I love about the polarity map work that Barry Johnson says you know, why do we even think we can choose one over the other, masculine over feminine or feminine over masculine because these are interdependent pairs. They are like inhaling and exhaling and we have been told you can only inhale and forget about exhaling. And now we are wondering why all of society and the planet is gasping for breath.


Timothy: Great example. Now you also mentioned there was a second element Nilima. So the one is the polarities and raising my awareness in getting above the line. Talk a little bit about the second.


Nilima: Actually the second is a worksheet in the book and it’s called The Leadership Style assessment that Raj was referring to. But just that one worksheet is just brilliant. We kind of pull it out of research done by Caroline Turner and very well researched within many organizations on what constitutes a masculine style of leadership. What constitutes a feminine style of leadership, particularly in many different domains of leadership? So how do you manage conflict? How do you organize your teams? What are your motivational factors? What motivates you as a leader? And so on, there are five such boxes in which leadership is done and what’s brilliant is there are ways in that one worksheet where you see how masculine leadership is done for those domains and how feminine leadership is done. And both are equally valid options for you as a leader. And once you do the scoring for yourself and you discover you’re perhaps dominate masculine in your style or your dominant feminine in your style. That’s fine. That’s good to know. That’s your self-awareness. It also says play to your strengths. So go play to that and that’s where you immediately are. But we also say think about a problem you are currently facing in which of these five domains is it about. Right there you get the diagnosis to one level of chunk. And then once you diagnose which domains it is about, for example suppose it’s about how you handle conflict. Okay and that it says are you playing to your masculine style and if that’s not working, then how about you look at what’s on the other side of the page which are very simple clear ways in which to behave or operate or act in a feminine way. So right there it tells you this is what you could be doing. And go out there and try it out. And so your style is good when it works and if it doesn’t work, the worksheet shows you exactly what you could be doing to level to the complementary style of the other.


Timothy: Well I think this is so important because I think there’s also a paradigm shift occurring in terms of how we run our businesses. And what I mean very particularly about that is the whole idea of the teal or agile organization. Which I summarize in some of our podcasts as what I call ‘freedom within a framework’. How do you create a framework for the business around the strategy, around the values, around the cultures but then give people some freedom within that to operate which means in fact continuing to allocate the power in the organization closer and closer to the front lines and empowering people at different levels of the organization. Now I would argue that in order for that to work the traditional hierarchical model which by the way happens to come from military and happens to be very male oriented that now, more than ever ,we need the kind of leadership that can allow this empowering enabling freedom within a framework model to work. And so given that I think more and more people are going to be looking at this and sort of saying okay if I want to go to that business model, I need to incorporate this into my leadership model to enable that because without that I can’t do this other one. So tell us a little bit about what does it need to take these concepts and put them into a leadership model for a particular company and help to develop leaders in this way within a particular company.


Nilima: I love that you brought in the teal organization because it’s almost as if and with the COVID world; we’re being forced to leave the old paradigm. And we have no option but to move into a new world and new paradigm. And we need new paradigms for everything. So we need new ways in which we organize our organizations and this is what you are referring to as the teal organization which is on living systems and largely nonhierarchical and we know lots of reciprocity. And at the same time it has to include honoring of natural hierarchies. Right so if you don’t have banks to a river, then that river never reaches its ocean, it dissipates. So that natural hierarchy or that structure, that masculine energy of providing the banks is so important so that the creative energy of the team can flow like that river does.


Timothy: I love that. I mean that’s exactly what I mean when I say freedom within a framework right. Like what’s that framework we create. But you need to have freedom with in it because that’s where the innovation comes because at the end what we are really talking about is innovation and people being empowered to find creative solutions and that’s where this creative energy is so important.


Nilima: And therefore you know while, you know one group of thinkers and consultants are out there teaching how to create the teal organization and how to structure, if you are a startup how to start right. You know I am setting up the Shakti mission right now and I want to start right and I want to set up a teal organization from day one and I’m going to bring in a consultant who can show us how to do that. And that cannot happen if the leadership styles are also not upgraded to the new paradigm that’s needed for teal organizations.


Timothy: Exactly. Exactly.


Nilima: So it’s almost as if Shakti leadership was written four years ahead of its time and I would like to believe it’s not ahead of its time but it’s been around four years so now that when people are talking teal organizations and saying where is the leadership for teal organizations, Shakti leadership has had enough of a salience in the world for it to be now picked up.


Raj: And Nilima why don’t you lunch out the whole model as well. I don’t think you’ve gone through all the elements of it.


Nilima: Right. So the model is the five elements and it begins with presence as a master key. The leader has to first get present. From presence to access their true power which is tap into that Shakti potential within them and not be doing ego-based win/lose power. And from there learn how to become psychologically whole and this is when we talk about becoming the wise fool of tough love. We bring together two very powerful psychological frameworks; one is Dr. Eric Berne’s work on transactional analysis which says your parent and child self have to integrate around the aware adult. So your parent self is your wise self and your child self is your foolish self and we use the word fool with a lot of care, it’s not meant to be denigrating it anyway, it’s a type of being in the sense. The fool has that sense of childlike curiosity and wonder without which we wouldn’t innovate anything. So becoming the wise fool is becoming psychologically whole in the Eric Berne model but then tough love is becoming psychologically whole in the Carl Jung model where he says the animus and animas have to get integrated which is again the Shakti and Shiva model , the yin and yang. How do you bring your masculine and feminine sides together? So playing to your masculine, your tough love is how you draw clear boundaries. How would you say no? How do you discern and not make it all fluffy and get lost in things? At the same time how are you taking your feminine along which is the capacity to care and share and love and empathize and include. So becoming the wise fool of tough love is work. Each of us is perhaps already developed in one of these core archetypes but not in the other. So we have to do the work of building that muscle. So even just thinking about it you get a sense of what is your strength and what is something to be leveraged? Right and in my case I can tell you that I have a lot of Wise. I have a lot of Tough, interestingly. I now work on my Love and I work on my Fool. So that you are whole, which is the third element. The fourth element is flexibility. So the Situational Leadership model explains these four archetypes saying any leadership situation requires you to play one of these four styles and there is no fifth style needed because this is called the four-fold self. There is nothing beyond these four at that level of chunk. We get set in our leadership styles and you mentioned agile. It’s the same concept. How do you become more flexible and flex to a situation as needed and also flex from. If you have these four you know it’s like a Swiss Army knife, if you have these four you have more weapons, so to speak, to play with . Like dance moves if you will, you just have more repertoire and a more complete repertoire.


Raj: To add to that some people might hear that and say well now you’re being inauthentic right, you are showing up as somebody else but actually no. You are showing a political side of yourself as needed right. So it’s still true to who you are but it’s a dimension of who you are as opposed to saying today I’m going to ask like somebody else. No first develop all of those sides to those facets. And I think what presence gives you as Nilima talks about is, is the discernment. No, right I think you refer to it as a sensitive sonar. You can pick up weak signals and then know exactly what to show up with and how to show up other than having that ability to flex then becomes important in that.


Timothy: Well Raj maybe give a practical example of how that applies to you and where does that show up most for you in the roles that you play as a leader?


Raj: Well going back to the wise fool of tough love, I think for me the defaults would probably be wise and love and I need to dial up the toughness and the playfulness. I mean they are dormant within me. The toughness, you know there is something I really had to understand.


Raj: . . . which just because you avoid a conflict doesn’t mean it goes away. I just changes location, and now goes inside of you, and it grows from there. So, I’m learning, as Neha puts it, I need to go from chief harmony officer to chief healing officer, that’s very different. It’s not about harmony at all costs, sometimes healthy conflict is a key part of that. And I think that’s about cultivating personal power, knowing when to say “no” and setting those boundaries. And I think all of that is a critical learning edge, growth edge for me. I need to become whole. I need to make sure that I am able to tap into these things. And so, before I can deploy that in a situation, I need to actually have it available to me as a tool. So, I’m working on that. And then, I think the other side, I think it’s actually, and I don’t have to do that much on the child side because I mean that’s about playfulness and sense of humor, so we can all get too serious at times.


So, yeah, that definitely, now, once you have that in your mind then you can actually observe yourself. It all goes back to observing yourself. You have to kind, and again, I keep quoting Nilima, you have to become your own parent. You have to become your own mother and your own father, in a way, observing yourself and telling yourself what to do in keeping with this way that we have identified that we should show up. It’s a work in progress. And I think we all intend to become rigid and sort of automatic in our responses, but I think mindfulness is about creating that gap between stimulus and response, and then choosing the response as opposed to automatically coming back with a response.


Timothy: Well, this is the real consciousness in conscious leadership. I mean let’s go back to where we started at the beginning, which is you don’t have that consciousness. If you don’t think self-awareness and going on a journey for self-knowledge and self-understanding, if that journey isn’t an important part of your life evolution then none of this going to make sense.


Nilima: None of it. And it kind of brings me to the last element, and then the hero’s journey. So, we talked about presence, power, wholeness, flexibility. The fifth element is congruence, and congruence is about not just lining up fully yourself within – your mind, body, spirit, all lined up – but also knowing your purpose, and then living your life on purpose. So, the person you are is the leader you are, and the work you bring to the world is essentially who you essentially are. So, that is when you feel congruent. You’re not wearing a mask. You’re not stepping into someone else’s shoes. You are expressing who you essentially are as your purpose in the world, so that’s congruence.


And we put a circle around that. We have a very sweet symbol that describes these five elements, and the circle around the symbol is for the hero’s journey. And of course, we all are big fans of Joseph Campbell, so we talk about how to come into each of these five elements, each of these is a power base in itself. And to come into any kind of power requires you to make a journey. It’s never given to you on a platter. You’re going to have to go on an adventure. You’re going to have to die in some way to old ways of being. You’re going to have to face down your worst fear. And only, then, are you going to claim this power base, are you going to earn this power base.


And then, it doesn’t end there. You’ve got to come back and share it with the world. That’s the elixir you bring. And the person you become and the power you have awakened in yourself is something that is medicine that your world needs, and how you come back and share that. And we also describe Maureen Murdock’s work around the heroine’s journey, and how that applies to women leaders. So, the hero and the heroine’s journey is a very key part, and many, many thanks to Joseph Campbell and Maureen Murdock for bringing that work to the world.


So, the shakti leadership model is really a model of synthesis. We’ve taken best practices and frameworks from around the world – ancient, modern, east, west, north, south – and created something that’s easy, that you can count on your fingers, that you can keep in mind, and then you can practice.



Timothy: Nilima, I love the model. I enjoyed reading the book. And I guess the question is, now, what comes next for bringing this to life in the world? How do we bring this to the world, and make this more available for people who are interested in leadership development?


Nilima: I realize to become a shakti leader, you need to go on a longitudinal journey. It’s not just a one-day workshop. I wish it were as easy as that. So, using the metaphor of a nine-month journey to birth your new self, we created the nine-month Shakti Fellowship Program, which is jointly certified with the University of San Diego’s Conscious Leadership Academy. And we’ve had, now, three cohorts, there are 51 women across 13 countries who have qualified, certified as Shakti leaders and as Shakti Fellows. And essentially, they go through a three-track process. ‘Step in’- they do the hard work of inner transformation. They learn these five elements of shakti leadership. Then, they ‘step up’- they learn conscious leadership skills on how to both highly feminine and masculine leadership skills, how to assert and influence, and negotiate, and be a peace builder, etc. And then, ‘step out’- each one has to create a game-changing project.


And then at graduation, they actually present that to the cohort. And they have to describe how they have incorporated the conscious capitalism four tenets, how they have incorporated the five elements of shakti leadership, how they have brought in the matrix of peace model that is from peace through commerce. It’s very, very inspiring to see these women, and who they become, and how they, then, show up. So, the vision is that by 2030, to create 100,000 shakti leaders . . .


Timothy: Wow. Wow.


Nilima: . . . who will collaborate to create peace, prosperity, and beauty through the exchange of multiple forms of capital. So, the book is out in Russian, in Hebrew, and in Portuguese, so these women are coming from these countries as well, and then going back into their countries, not just the English-speaking world, and looking to set up, and already teaching in their countries.


Timothy: Right.


Nilima: So, this is how we want the ripple effect to take place. The other thing, apart from actually creating transformed leaders, inclusive is how do we bring this model to organizations. So, we’ve created a program called Presence and Flex, and to take teams and organizations through six-week, two-month kind of journey, maybe even more depending on how deep they want to go, but getting the men and women, the leaders come together, and go on the journey of how to get more present, and how to get more flexible between feminine and masculine styles together. So, they get a shared language, and then they buddy each other to hold each other accountable. So, this is all about addressing unconscious bias and getting to more psychological safety in that organization, in that team.


And then, we encourage the organization to actually put this into their performance management metric. Let us measure and reward our leaders for being more present and more flexible. That’s how it gets done. So, we’ve had a pilot with a company called Redemption Plus in the U.S. And this is done with Tiara Consulting, that is a women-led consultancy out of the U.S., and very exciting what we can do with Presence and Flex going forward.


Timothy: Love it. Love it. Love it. Raj, on your side, anything you want to add to this conversation?


Raj: Yeah. So, as I’ve been thinking about the work we did together, Nilima, and how it manifests in the world, and the idea of the masculine and feminine in harmony with each other. It still occurs to me that there remains some kind of a hierarchy in terms of values. There are some values that are higher, like love is a higher value than self-interest, or achievement, etc. And so, therefore, just like the expression goes, the mind is a wonderful servant, but terrible master. So, I tweeted something the other day; I said masculine energy, too, is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. And what I mean by that is that we should lead with the feminine, which is love, compassion, and inclusion, and then support that with the masculine – the structure, and the systems, and the resilience, and the discipline, and so forth. So, we project warmth, first, and then the competence.


In that sense, I do think there’s a bit of a hierarchy. It’s not just like these two are co-equals in every regard. I think we need to lead with love, as there’s a whole movement called Lead with Love, and then support that with all the necessary masculine elements. So, I just wanted to get your thought about that because I was also thinking about this in terms of capitalism and democracy. These two things were kind of wedded together after the Berlin Wall, 1989, but over time, they seem to have diverged. There seems to be a battle between capitalism and democracy. And those two things need to coexist, but capitalism needs to serve democracy. What has happened in many countries is sort of democracy is trying to serve capitalism. So, we have to, there’s some hierarchy, what’s the higher value, and let’s not sacrifice the higher value of a lower value. So, it’s a roundabout way of saying that I think we need to lead with the feminine and support that with the masculine. To me, that’s really the answer, ultimately. They’re both important, almost equally so, but one kind of has to be in the front.


Timothy: Well, that’s really interesting because, Nilima, what I heard you say was you were training a lot of women leaders, and it’s curious to me of where are the men that ought to be signing up for this because if we’re coming from a male dominated traditional kind of mindset. What has been the reaction? Why aren’t there, like why isn’t your class half and half?


Nilima: Okay. So, first of all, that’s a choice right now, and that’s for the shakti fellowship, with University of San Diego. Women are underserved. The United Nations SDG’s talk about, SDG 5, we have to raise up women and girls. And so, I’ve created that program only for women. Having said that, in 2019, I traveled to five continents and spoke to, I haven’t even counted how many hundreds and thousands of mixed groups, and both men and women being very, very keen to learn what this is about. And I must say let’s be as broad based with gender because, typically in the front rows, the LBGTQ, lots of them I noticed because they are so grateful that finally here is a leadership model that makes space for them as well. So, yeah, it’s a model for everybody . So, now, I would also like to comment on what Raj just said about there should be a hierarchy in love for example. So, the way I see it is there are levels of chunk, but the two exist at every level of chunk. So, even at the level of love, without power in that, there would be, it would fray, okay. So, at every level of chunk, there has to be two in harmony. And I just wrote an endorsement for a book by Sharna Fabiano called Lead and Follow. And she’s a tango dancer and teacher, and she has applied the entire principle of social dance, and she takes leadership as a conversation, okay. She says regardless of gender, someone has to lead, and then someone has to follow, and that can interchange as well, depending on the context that’s around you. And so, everything with presence, I go back to saying everything with presence, perhaps the one non-dual thing is presence. You can do love from presence. But if you do love without presence, that can also get you manipulated and, so, yeah, I think there will be times where we need to choose and choose one value over another, but at that point, to do it from presence. There will be times where the most loving thing is what may seem cruel.


Timothy: So, if I wanted to know more about the Shakti Mission or about the centers of excellence that you’re thinking of, where can I go to get more information on that? Where would be a good source for that?


Nilima: Right now, shaktileadership.com.


Timothy: So, shaktileadership.com, like in the book, would be a great place where I could go and get more information on that.


Nilima: Yes.


Timothy: Wonderful. Raj, any final thoughts on your side?


Raj: Well, to me, shakti leadership is conscious leadership because there’s nothing in here that is separate from what it takes to be a conscious leader. You have to be whole, right. So, that’s just the name we are giving it in this book. And for me, this became a part of my growth because if you think about what does it mean to be whole, it’s actually the definition of healing includes wholeness and holiness, right. So, the work that I did with Nilima really sort of immersed me in the idea of wholeness, and that’s a form of healing. And so, that’s what has led to my subsequent work as well around the idea of the healing organization; it really comes from that place of wholeness. So, that’s really the journey for me.


Timothy: Beautiful. Beautiful. Well, Nilima, thank you so much for joining us this week. And thank you, listeners. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please feel free to hit the subscribe button on whatever service you’re using to listen to us this week. And if you have any thoughts or comments, please go to the consciouscapitalists.com, and leave Raj and I a note. And, Raj, if people wanted to know more conscious capitalism, what should they do?


Raj: They can go to consciouscapitalism.org. So, this is a global movement. We’re in a number of countries and about 40 or so U.S. cities. So, please do join us and find your tribe.


Timothy: Thank you very much everybody. Thank you, Nilima. And we’ll see you all next week.


Nilima: Thank you, Timothy. Thank you, Raj.






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