Embrace the means to the end with yogic leadership

Many Americans have developed a passion for working out and physical fitness. Our western culture derives many benefits from eastern philosophy, culture and forms of exercise. This includes yoga, which has dramatically surged in popularity.

The practice of yoga and its terminology hold valuable guidance that may also be applied to leadership. As expressed in the practice of yoga, the concepts of dharma and karma convey valuable ideals that leaders can tap as they develop their skills.

Dharma and karma

Webster’s Dictionary defines dharma as “the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence: divine law; conformity to one’s duty and nature.” There are powerful parallels for leaders who view leadership as part of their duty and nature … their dharma.

Famous athletes often talk about giving back to their communities and to those who need a helping hand. Leaders should also feel such a call, generously cultivating others who endeavor to build their leadership skills. In turn, they too can pay it forward, exponentially growing the leadership pool.

The term “karma” typically is seen as bringing upon oneself the inevitable consequences of one’s actions.

Both terms are a means to an end, not the end itself. How we comport ourselves in any situation will have an outcome. But, just as importantly, it’s the process that often determines the quality of the result. Strong leaders embrace the journey. As we say in our leadership classes: “What you get out of it will be directly and proportionally related to what you put into it.”

Practiced leadership

Yoga is often referred to as a “practice.” It is not the mastery that is the goal, but rather the journey itself, the practice of yoga. Here are tips to exercise your leadership muscles:

  • Remain steadfastly present. Eliminate distractions. Put the phone down and turn away from your computer screen. Focus your undivided attention on the situation and person you’re seeking to lead. Listen first. Then, offer your wisdom.
  • Check in and learn from mistakes. No one is born with all the answers. A personal debrief to mentally replay the situation and how you performed as a leader can give you insight as to how you can improve the next time.
  • Make it a continuous, fluid practice. Your world abounds with leadership opportunities — at work, at home, on the street. Be mindful and watch for the chance to practice your leadership skills, unselfishly and with confirmed presence.

Success breeds further success. Push your limits, celebrate your victories and view your leadership practice as a lifelong habit. As others watch you, they will be motivated to follow your lead.

Process is the product

Physical fitness and taking care of our bodies leads to longer, healthier lives. And, what we do for the outside yields benefits on the inside, mentally and physically. Approach leadership like you’d approach a workout, whether it’s yoga or another form of exercise; your muscles and resilience develop with practice. Find joy in your leadership journey and enjoy the ride.


Aradhna M. Oliphant is the president and CEO of Leadership Pittsburgh Inc. LPI strengthens regional leadership by connecting current and emerging leaders and high-potential veterans with each other and with people and issues that shape communities. Under her leadership, demand for LPI programs has grown exponentially. A graduate of LPI, Aradhna is deeply committed to the region and serves on many boards.