Leading authentically through the power of meditation (ft. Dina Kaplan)
If you’re not embodying your authentic self, your team will sense that and begin to lose trust in you as a leader.
Dina Kaplan learned this lesson in her former career as the co-founder and COO of tech startup Blip.tv.
In the male-dominated world of tech, Kaplan felt she had to mold herself into the type of leader she saw modeled around her by other founders: working all the time, exceedingly tough on herself and her team members, and never showing a moment of weakness.
This inauthentic style of leadership led to a large amount of employee churn, low team morale, and eventually to her losing power in the company she had co-founded. As her team slowly lost the ability to relate to her or trust her, they stopped inviting her to meetings and asking for her input.
The tipping point came when Dina started experiencing panic attacks. At her lowest point, she couldn’t cross the street for fear she’d have a panic attack and be unable to complete the crossing in time.
She knew something had to change.
Kaplan took a drastic step to leave the company she’d helped build and embark on a two-and-a-half-year journey around the world. It was in India, on a chance invitation from a stranger on a plane, that she discovered a practice that would change her life: Meditation.
How meditation helps you become a more authentic leader
As Kaplan puts it, “I meditate to have original thoughts.”
Our minds are bombarded with input constantly, from texts to emails to WhatsApp and Clubhouse. As a result, most of our thinking and decision-making is simply responding to external input. There’s no time to figure out what you truly think or desire outside the noise.
Getting quiet through meditation allows you to access the wisdom that exists beneath the daily clutter of input. Ultimately, listening to this wisdom will give you the clarity and confidence to make the best decisions for yourself and for your team.
How meditation can change your company culture
A few years ago, Kaplan started a new company, The Path, that teaches meditation to the modern mind. This time, Kaplan is a completely different type of leader. Through the power of meditation, she’s able to be “fiercely herself.”
And this radically authentic style of leadership has permeated the very core of her company. Everyone who joins the team must sign an ethics pledge to 1) never lie, and 2) never gossip. In practice, this means that if a team member needs help, they must ask rather than pretending to have it under control. Or if team members have a conflict, they must try their best to resolve it themselves before bringing it to other parties.
As a result, Kaplan says her company culture feels light, with a sense of humor, yet still committed to their organizational goals.
She also talks about…
- How attending a meditation retreat (such as the one by The Path, called Mela) can help you get in touch with your most honest self
- The insight she experienced at her first meditation retreat, which propelled her to change how she was showing up in the world
- How you can practice meditation for profound shifts without quitting your job and moving to a cave for a year
Listen to the episode to hear Kaplan share her incredible story of transformation and how she’s helping executives and entrepreneurs become more authentic leaders.