When I admitted to liking my friend AJ’s posts on LinkedIn but not often reading them, she wasn’t offended. “Oh, I read yours” she replied. “I want to know what she’s been up to this week?!” So, let me tell you about the hot monk …

Every year when Gen Rabten (aka the hot monk) visits Wellington I go to hear him speak.

Every. Single. Year.

And contrary to what my friends might tell you, I don’t just go because he’s dashingly handsome – although there’s some truth to that – I go because he never fails to shake me up and bring me to tears.

This funny, kind, radiant human being’s gift breaks my heart wide open (and I’m sure, many others in the audience too).

He gently reminds me of what it is to be human; that we’re all crazy, we’re all struggling, and we all need love and connection. He offers solutions for cultivating a peaceful mind, happiness, and connection despite what’s happening in your life.

He gives me hope and hope may just be the most important thing in the world.

In my opinion – he is quite simply – the bomb!

How does he do it?

He radiates love, humour, humility, and wisdom, and that’s a cool combo.

His simple, elegant, and amusing stories leave you knowing you’ve just heard a great truth.

This year he spoke about the importance of becoming wiser (not intellectually smarter) which resonated with the work I do.

Now, perhaps it’s the type of audience he attracts (people who are open, searching, and possibly even desperate for answers), but I can tell you this, my audiences are not so kind.

They need hard data if I’m to convince them of the importance of developmental mindfulness for having a growth mindset, getting leaders walking their talk, and ensuring a psychologically safe culture.

And I get it, I really do. I’m a hard data gal myself.

But sometimes I wish I could just ‘Gen Rabten’ you. That I could break your heart wide open into seeing that there is a deeper truth hidden in plain sight, that no amount of research can ever dispute.

And the truth is, that intellectually knowing something is not really knowing it at all.

To see that truth, you must open yourself to the possibility that knowing more stuff (the accumulation of more facts and getting multiple degrees) doesn’t necessarily make you a wiser, or better human.

To be the best leader (person, partner, parent, colleague, and friend) you can be, means deliberately and consistently working at it.

It’s not something you know, it’s something you do, which is why sending leaders on yet another workshop or course to learn more ‘stuff’ simply doesn’t work.

Developing as a leader is not an intellectual process.

Why? Because knowing what to do and doing it are two completely different things.

Under pressure it’s human to forget what you ‘know intellectually’ and revert to old unconscious habits like avoiding conflict, not holding people accountable, getting angry, aggressive, and defensive (very un-leader-like), and denying, justifying, or blaming others.

If you haven’t done the work on what presses your buttons and traps you back into kneejerk reactivity, you can’t put what you know into practice.

But when you learn how to manage your inner experience and align your behaviour with your values, you cannot help but show up as the leader and person you aspire to be.

You always have a choice over how you respond. Other people and circumstances (trying though they may be!) are not responsible for who you are being.

Real change happens when leaders adopt a growth mindset.

As I listened to Gen Rabten speak, I realised, this is what I bring to leadership.

My job is to train leaders to tap into their wise pre-frontal cortex and to consistently show up as the best version of themselves.

It’s called vertical growth, and that’s inspiring!

Incidentally, I bumped into Gen Rabten over refreshments, so I thanked him (as you do…). When he smiled and looked knowingly into my eyes, I admit to feeling a little starstruck. I may have even blushed.

My friend AJ suggested all is not lost, I could become a Buddhist nun! She obviously does not understand the Buddhist vow of chastity …

To find out more about The Mindful leader: Vertical Growth program go here https://mindfulatwork.co.nz/leader-programmes/

Special thanks to Brendan Boughen for the cartoon.