Helping Leaders Embark on a Journey of Self-Reflection –

Dr. Gaurav Bhalla

Business leadership and success in the current era of increasing social and cultural upheavals requires more than a laser focus on delivering increasing profits and stakeholder value.

Traditional leadership training courses often lack the demands of rigorous self-examination needed to make ethical and morally sound decisions in a fast-moving, ever-changing world.

When confronted with the ongoing barrage of challenges, dilemmas and paradoxes — which often require ethical and moral quandaries — where can leaders turn for guidance?

Gaurav Bhalla, Ph.D., author, educator and CEO of Knowledge Kinetics, centers his study of leadership on the rootedness of a leader’s humanity — who they are, what they stand for, what they are willing to fight for and what they are willing to walk away from.

Bhalla’s new book, Awakening A Leader’s Soul: Learnings Through Immortal Poems, is about “Soulful Leadership,” a purpose-centered approach designed for current and future leaders to reflect deeply upon and articulate their intentions for their leadership journey.

Leveraging the timeless wisdom of immortal poems of Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and many others, the book centers a transformative journey of self-reflection and self-awareness to help leaders better define the authentic purpose of their life’s work, and how their actions and decisions impact the universe of their increasingly-expanding networks.

“What matters most is not what’s in leaders’ heads, but what lies within their souls that guides what’s in their heads,” says Bhalla. “The head may be smart, but the soul is smarter…and… wise.”

Awakening a Leader’s Soul advances Bhalla’s core philosophy that a leader must define – and continue to refine – their humanity in order to create and sustain a meaningful and enlightened leadership journey.

In ensuring success, Bhalla emphasizes the importance of a holistic and comprehensive vision of an organization’s impact on social, cultural, environmental, and political realities that go beyond short-term profits and increasing stakeholder value.

For leaders to excel in shepherding their organizations and institutions through the certainty of change, self-awareness and a deep sense of purpose prove to be more enduring assets than personal charisma or executive brilliance. To this end, the book highlights critical leadership lessons, such as the importance of authenticity, trust and integrity; risk-taking and perseverance in the face of obstacles and difficulties; and recognizing the inter-dependence and inter-relatedness in broadening orbits of influence.

Author Gaurav Bhalla holds a Ph.D. in marketing and strategy from the University of Kansas and is a globally acclaimed educator, speaker and consultant. As the CEO of Knowledge Kinetics, he is committed to helping organizations develop visionary leaders and practice customer-first thinking.

He is also the author of Collaboration and Co-Creation: New Platforms for Marketing and Innovation (2010), the much-acclaimed Harvard Business Review article, “Rethinking Marketing,” aand a historical-fiction novel, The Curse and the Cup (2014).

In an email Q&A with Colors of Influence, Dr. Bhalla offers additional insights to his unique approach of using immortal poems to inspire a leader’s journey toward self-awareness.

Why are lessons in poetry effective for reflecting on the nature of leadership, especially character authenticity, and integrity in leadership? 

New times require new narratives and new teachers. Our world today is infinitely more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Leadership crises abound in all walks of civic life, ranging from government to healthcare to education – even religion – because the way in which leaders tackle the challenges and dilemmas facing them has not changed.

If we are to resolve these crises, it is vital for leaders draw on different assets and learn from different teachers. In a complex and uncertain world, the biggest asset of leaders is their humanity, not the executive brilliance of their minds. And there is no better way to connect leaders to their humanity than immortal poems.

As (Percy Bysshe) Shelly said, “We can’t see ourselves till we are reflected onto something.” Poems are like mirrors in which leaders can see themselves reflected in ways they previously hadn’t imagined, or were not aware.

Why is it important for leaders to adopt the framework of “think- talk -act” as outlined after each essay in the book? 

The Think-Talk-Act framework is to help leaders migrate “Soulful Leadership” – which is the central theme of the book – from a mere set of ideas to a living ethos in the reader’s organization. It’s a framework that I use to encourage leaders to go from ideas to thinking to talking to acting. They don’t have to do it, but are encouraged to, so the book and its central thesis of Soulful Leadership become a living, breathing manifesto.

How did your cultural background impact the development of your unique approach to soulful leadership? 

In probably more ways than I can recount. But here are a few:

  • the blending of the masculine with the feminine (we have more goddesses than gods in India)
  • the peaceful co-existence of opposites, such as the metaphysical with the physical, and the lofty with the mundane
  • the ability to go beyond appearances and tackle the essence
  • the realization that focusing on the wellbeing and prosperity of just the privileged few, as opposed to the greatest many, can be a destabilizing force
  • lack of a sense of entitlement — coming from a boarding school, middle-class salaried background
  • courage to think, talk, and act differently (because I am different, have been for a long, long time, and am going to continue to be different)

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