Wisdom 2.0’s Compassionate, Chaos-Reducing Brand Of Leadership

Insight from the Wisdom 2.0 conference’s notable thinkers, including Arianna Huffington, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and more.

Where can you go to meet a Tibetan nun, the CEOs of Ford and LinkedIn, an acclaimed mindfulness teacher, and an African drummer–all in one event? Wisdom 2.0. Behind the curtain of this four-day utopian festival are dozens of important takeaways for any business leader.

This conference began four years ago when author and conference host, Soren Gordhamer, raised this question: How can mindfulness and technology peacefully co-exist in a metrics-driven, impersonal Web world?

I attended Gordhamer’s fourth annual gathering in San Francisco with 1,700 other personal development junkies (full disclosure: Wisdom 2.0 gave me a free ride for the event). I arrived in search of insights that would help my clients and readers, most of whom are high-achieving, innovative, tech-savvy, exhausted leaders. In my recent CMO survey, the majority of them told me that they struggle with managing their personal effectiveness and leading their teams.

Speakers came from a broad variety of backgrounds, but they expressed some common experiences. Their insights will help you mindfully modify strategic plans, contemplate acquisitions, reorganize your teams, and pursue new market opportunities:

1. Applying intellect to solve every problem and spark innovation is no longer sufficient. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “Thinking can be incredibly tyrannizing, such as creating anticipation anxiety. We get plenty of training in thinking, but not in awareness.” His three decades of mindfulness teachings, books, and research have made dramatic strides in reducing stress for millions.

2. We have not yet reached equilibrium in how we apply technology to improve people’s lives. MIT professor, author and psychologist Sherry Turkle shared some sobering examples. She has witnessed many mothers breastfeeding while texting–shutting down a critical human connection with their baby. Parents allow their children to use smartphones and electronic games during mealtimes, eradicating important social interaction and conversations.

3. Innovative companies need to take purpose-related discussions seriously. Making money generating double-digit growth are shallow and unsustainable goals. LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner illustrated this beautifully. “Our purpose at LinkedIn is to create economic opportunity for people. If we do it right, then revenue growth will naturally happen. This is very well aligned with managing compassionately.” Weiner’s organization now serves over 200 million members and has 26 offices.

4. Great leaders consistently create white space to reflect and rest. Padmasree Warrior, Cisco Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, spent 19 years working on increasing her meditation time from two minutes to twenty minutes daily. She dedicates her weekends to family, haiku and painting. She said these activities help her maintain the big picture and a broader understanding of humanity.

5. Business as usual is no longer an option. Arianna Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post and investor in Heart Math, a promising mobile stress reduction app, believes that “Our world has become unmanageable. We go from crisis to crisis. Many of our challenges, such as sequestration and the fiscal cliff, are manufactured. Many people with very high IQs are making very bad decisions. What’s missing is wisdom.”

Are your investments and processes living in the Industrial Age and contributing to chaos, or alleviating stress in people’s lives?

Gordhamer also took this concept seriously when he designed Wisdom 2.0’s agenda. Instead of packing the days with endless lectures, tight coffee breaks, and keynote speakers, his planners provided long lunch times, small “tribe” special interest discussions, and myriad yoga and meditation sessions. Meeting planners could learn from his model.

It is time to prioritize and promulgate healthy living, mindfulness, and compassion in our organizations. We need to tap into a higher source of insight to achieve great things in today’s chaotic world.

See you on the mat.

–Lisa Nirell is the chief energy officer of EnergizeGrowth and the founder of Marketing Leaders of D.C. She has helped B2B companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, and BMC Software grow customer mindshare and market share. Lisa is the author of EnergizeGrowth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company. Visit energizegrowth.com to download a free sample chapter through EnergizeNews and follow Lisa on Twitter.

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[Image: Flickr user Giuseppe Lotito]

copyright 2013, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

This post originally appeared in FastCompany.

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