Letting people discover how they can flourish as leaders of teams and organizations, and in their personal lives. The key to this lies in how we experience people and the world around us. Because how we deal with the reality of that experience determines our behavior and success. We create the conditions for this by more clarity and insight and by developing a broader repertoire of actions. That’s what I’m committed to in each of my activities, as an executive coach, author and speaker, and as meditation teacher.
The big challenge for leaders is to make their organizations truly of value to society. In times – such as now – of complex and profound transformations that create great uncertainties, this is not easy. In order to be able to give direction to this, leaders must show more than substantive knowledge and extensive management competencies. They must also fully contribute their personal, human qualities. As an executive teamcoach, I help leaders and their teams discover how they can be effective in this.
The key to this lies in how we experience and deal with people and the world around us. That is the starting point for conversations. Leaders focus the attention of people, teams and organizations on what the situation demands of them. In an interactive process, they combine the emergent external reality with the internal abilities and desires of the organization. In this way, they ensure a continuous development of purpose and mission. Leaders identify and articulate the value that the organization can have for society and inspire and encourage their people to realize that value.
In the conversations we bring thinking and feeling together, so that autonomy and inner freedom are given space as important raw materials for conscious leadership. Because often preconceived opinions, anxieties and fixed thought patterns stand in the way of our success. Recognizing and letting go of them is liberating, opens up the intellectual space to think differently and more deeply, and offers insights into a broader repertoire of actions.
During the conversations and their elaboration in change processes, I use my extensive experience in leadership roles, supplemented with my knowledge of and experience with psychodynamics in teams, the system approach of organizations, and mindfulness-based culture change. We integrate insights from psychology and neuroscience into leadership and strategic management. The emphasis is thus placed on the human qualities at stake, next to the necessary organizational development processes. Because true leadership requires being fully human.
My blogs and podcasts, essays, articles and books have as a connecting theme what it takes to be of value to the world. This can be about our personal, inner life, but also about our political and social activities as active citizens. How we can contribute to a better society and how we can shape our responsibility for other people and the fragile planet on which we live.
Conscious leadership, in the sense of understanding external circumstances in combination with our inner reaction to them, is a regularly recurring theme. But also, the question of how we can continue to develop our inner self through knowledge, insight, and practice. A way of working that finds its basis both in Greek philosophy, especially among the Stoics, and in Buddhist psychology. And how do we connect that with activities in the world to build and maintain social and political systems that promote the flourishing of people and care for the natural environment.
The inspirations for my work come from various sources: Greek and contemporary philosophy, Buddhist psychology and philosophy, neuroscience and psychoanalysis, organizational science and leadership studies, political-social theory, and art. Critically seeking inspiration for ‘the good life’ and avoiding dogmas, it is striking how many parallels there are between the Greek philosophers and the early Buddhist texts. And from both traditions comes inspiration not only for inner life but also for a virtue-based relationship in living together with each other.
About these themes I write blogs, publish podcasts and meditation exercises, and I authored articles, essays and three books: Social Work in the Netherlands. Current developments (1994), Mindful Leadership for effective teams and organizations (2012) and Mindful Working. Master your workload in 8 steps (2013). In addition, I regularly gave and give lectures about it.
At first glance, meditating seems to be about our inner life. Yet that is only partly true. At its core, meditating means practicing how to deal with our experiences. They consist of our perception of the world from within and from outside – with our reaction to it – and that determines what attitude we adopt and behave towards the world, others, and ourselves. Meditation is therefore always about the connection between our inner self and the outside world.
As a meditation teacher I support people to gain insight into thinking and feeling, awareness and reactivity. By gaining insight into reactive patterns – in the form of preconceived opinions, anxieties, and fixed ways of thinking – we make room for autonomy and inner freedom, to shape ‘the good life’.
From my experience with Buddhist meditation practices in different traditions (Theravada-Vipassana, Zen, Shambhala) and my training as a meditation teacher at Bodhi College, I emphasize in my guidance a deepening and broadening of mindfulness in all its aspects, an emphasis on the technique you might say. And on the other hand, I pay a lot of attention to meditation as practicing entering into and deepening of social relationships. I compare themes from classical Buddhist psychology with the approach of the Greek Stoics. For example, mindfulness and the brahmaviharas (kindness, joy, compassion, and balance) can be compared to the Stoic ways of finding our calm and regulating emotions when dealing with others. Or the lokadhammas (the eight worldly winds: profit and loss, praise and blame, pain and pleasure, good and evil reputation) with oikeiosis, being at home in the world. An important source of inspiration for me is the non-religious way of looking at secular Buddhism, which is closely related to European humanism.