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By Sunita Sehmi, Walk The Talk

In a society that places so much emphasis on cognitive tasks and productivity, it’s easy to experience a major disconnection with your body’s natural, deep intelligence and its relationship with the wondrous world around you. Nilima helps people in their pursuit for a more mindful evolution, expansion and healing. She does this through a process of self-understanding on many levels: physical, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual. As a certified yoga teacher, her central purpose is to first guide individuals to connect with their Deeper Self and then to live it with authenticity in all aspects of their lives. I was lucky enough to interview this truly amazing woman.

Tell us about yourself.
I have been part of Conscious Capitalism led by people such as Raj Sisodia and John Mackey since 2010 and started my leadership consultancy Roots and Wings in 2004, with my husband, Vijay Bhat. I had reached a point in my corporate career where I began to think what is my purpose? Am I making a difference? I took up the study of Vedanta (Indian wisdom) and yoga and became a practitioner of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother. My husband got diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001 when he was 40 years old. We left no stone unturned, as I looked everywhere for clues: Chinese Medicine, Enneagram, and Jung. We both became students of life, learning everyday. Our first book was born out of our journey, entitled My Cancer is Me. He is happily recovered today.

Tell us more about your book, Shakti Leadership: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power in Business.
I knew instinctively my next book had to be about leadership and personal growth. Health and growth are like inhale and exhale. Coming into wellbeing requires ‘taking the lead’ and coming into your own full power. I realized I had given my power away; I woke up to my unconscious disempowerment as a woman. Too many people, men and women alike, have bought into a notion of leadership that exclusively emphasizes traditionally “masculine” qualities: hierarchical, militaristic, win-at-all-costs. The result has been corruption, environmental degradation, social breakdown, stress, depression, and a host of other serious problems. We call for a more balanced way, an archetype of leadership that is generative, cooperative, creative, inclusive, and empathetic. While these are traditionally regarded as “feminine” qualities, we all have them. In the Indian yogic tradition Shakti, the source that powers all life, symbolizes them. Through exercises and inspirational examples, we show how to access this infinite energy and lead with your whole self. Male or female, leaders who understand and practice Shakti Leadership act from a consciousness of life-giving caring, creativity, and sustainability to achieve self-mastery internally and be of selfless service to the world.

Who is it for and what inspired you to write it?
Human beings and the universe are evolving in a certain direction; there is a distinct trajectory that can be discerned. There is an evident purpose to this process; it is not all based on random mutations. If we can flow into that trajectory and be part of it, rather than be at cross-purposes with it, we can have access to extraordinary power. We become agents of what needs to be. If not, these infinitely powerful forces quickly cancel out our feeble efforts. How do you connect with a place that fuels you continuously? How do you become a whole person in order to be a whole leader? How do you become a flexible person in order to be a flexible leader? These are the questions this book answers. Shakti, the power that is latent in your being, gets unlocked when you become whole, flexible, and aligned with your unique purpose. Shakti is an evolutionary force, moving you toward fulfillment. The more you put yourself in accord with your purpose as a being and as a leader, the more energy starts rising up in you to move you forward. There is a beautiful reinforcing pattern there: the more you are on purpose, the more power you get to meet your purpose. It is similar to the idea of being “in flow.”

“Shakti is power that comes from an infinite source within you that you can tap into at all times. This power is linked to everything, including money, which is what business has traditionally focused on.”

What is Shakti?
Shakti works with the core principle of qi (pronounced chi), not just as a philosophy but also its power. The compelling difference in the yogic tradition is that Shakti is not an impersonal, inanimate force; it is intelligent and conscious. You can enter into relationship with it. Once you do, it serves you, moves you, and fuels you.

This whole game is about power; everyone wants and needs power. Without power, everything remains stagnant. Nothing can become manifest, become actualized. Shakti is the transformative power that manifests ideas into reality.

Critically, Shakti also brings in the feminine dimension, which is lacking in the world and has been for a long time—if not for all time. Shakti is understood as creative and generative, and is therefore represented as feminine. Men as well as women can tap into it. In the yogic tradition, the human journey is one that seeks to end the duality between masculine and feminine, or Shiva and Shakti. It’s not about “separate but equal,” but about evolving into an integrated and synergistic combination of both.

Why do you consider Shakti an infinite source?
Unlike the ego, which can be broken down, no one can take Shakti-based power away from you. You may feel that your power derives from your position. If you are the CEO today, you are vested with privilege and power, but if you were not CEO tomorrow, who would you be? Would people still respect you, look up to you, follow you? Can you hold your sense of self, and can you help bring about meaningful outcomes from that true source rather than from the position vested in you?

“Your body is a true gift, one that contains far more power and wisdom than you were trained to recognize. Use it to access your full blown Presence and Shakti.”

In your opinion what is true greatness?
Courage to attempt to go past your comfort zone and keep going. Surrendering to that greater power, Shakti.

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Take your own medicine (‘Be the change’)

What's the next challenge for leaders?
High levels of fear and stress characterize most businesses; conscious businesses are built on love and care. Recent years have brought a dawning realization that we need to rethink the foundational bases of capitalism, starting with the idea that it is solely rooted in the pursuit of narrowly construed and material self-interest. Human beings have multiple primal drives, including the need to survive and the need to care. Love and work define what it means to be human. The emerging Conscious Capitalism philosophy is about blending the two. It starts with asking the question “What is the purpose of business?” The answer: it is not to maximize profits but rather to uplift humanity, by meeting real needs, providing meaningful work, spreading prosperity, and enabling more of us to lead more fulfilling and more fully human lives. The second pillar is stakeholder integration. Companies should consciously create multifaceted value for customers, employees, communities, suppliers, investors, the environment, and beyond. The well being of each stakeholder should be seen as an end in itself, not as a means to the end of making more money for shareholders.

It sounds like hard work….
Becoming a conscious leader requires a transformational journey. You do not become a conscious leader just by getting behavioral skill training in “what leaders do.” Deeper, foundational shifts are required to connect you to new and true bases of consciousness and power. The person you are is the leader you are; therefore, you have to make the journey inward to transform yourself. The “hero’s journey,” Joseph Campbell’s masterwork, maps perfectly onto modern leadership and business. You need to push beyond your known zone. It takes hard work and you will face many obstacles along the way. It is also a dangerous journey in which you’re going to have to “die” in some ways.

What's next for you?
Gathering and building a global network of Shakti-based leaders and entrepreneurs (Shaktipreneurs) who hold up and hold steady the foundations of a peaceful planet, by creating inclusive organisations, cultures and communities, through elegant products and services that solve real world problems. I have a 9-month training and coaching program to develop such women and create a humanitarian organisation.

In the short term, after the 11-city book tour of the US, I am about to start the India tour with events in Pune, Mumbai and Delhi, end-June. The Taj Group of Hotels are kindly hosting our book launch.  

“Step in, Step up, Step out: Access, Embody and Manifest your Power gracefully”

Shakti Leadership: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power in Business by Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia; Berrett Koehler, May 2016. http://www.shaktileadershipbook.com

Conscious Capitalism http://www.consciouscapitalism.org/

Sunita's Bio

sunitablogphoto nov2015

Sunita is an Executive Coach, Trainer and Consultant. She is of Indian origin and was born in London before moving to Geneva in 1992. She has a Psychology background (specialising in Occupational Psychology) and a Post Graduate in the Development and Training of Adults. She also completed a Masters in Ressources Humaines, Coaching et Gestion des Carrières at the University of Geneva.

During her 25 years experience Sunita's drive has always been to help people to do their best and hence led her to create Walk The Talk.

In her free time Sunita is a Mentor for the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship and a proud member of the School in The Cloud Team.