Soul traders

Business
has a habit of taking words and re-engineering them to suit its own needs. So
it is with "guru". Test this out by asking a colleague to name two
gurus who have made an impact on the business world. The odds are that they
will come out with Peter Drucker, Charles Handy, Tom Peters or, if they are
feeling patriotic, Sir John Harvey-Jones. You’ll cast around in vain for a
mention of the Baghwan.

But
recent developments suggest all that might be about to change. A growing number
of unashamedly spiritual philosophers – real gurus, if you like – are making
inroads into the business world.

When
an organisation as traditionalist as the Chartered Institute Personnel and
Development in Britain can make room at its conferences to discuss the impact
of shamanic techniques on morale and performance, you know the issue has become
a significant one.

What
is at the root of this growing quest for spirituality in the workplace?

No
doubt it owes much of its momentum to Western society’s wider adoption of
Eastern meditation and self-improvement techniques.

As
the boundaries between home and working life blur, an overspill of some kind is
inevitable. As many US organisations demonstrated in the 20th century,
companies can often flourish on a common set of ethics frequently grounded on a
shared system of spiritual belief.

But
the real problem with gurus will always lie in sorting the wheat from the
chaff. No-one needs reminding that this is an area in which charlatans
flourish.

In
recent years, some decidedly questionable organisations have specifically
targeted the corporate world in their recruitment campaigns. They have managed
to capitalise on the blurred ground between management
"self-improvement" techniques and something more sinister.

Here,
we offer a potted guide to some of the more obviously benevolent gurus that
have emerged in recent years. Enjoy the karma.

Dalai
Lama

CV

His
Holiness Tenzin Qyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the exiled spiritual leader of
Tibet and has an impeccable Buddhist pedigree. Held to be the reincarnation of
the previous 13 Lamas, he can trace his spiritual line back to Avalokiteshvara,
or Chenrezig – holy early followers of the Bodhisattva, or Buddhist way.
Plucked from his peasant family for a life of spirituality at the age of five
in 1940, he was forced into exile in 1960 after the Chinese government
announced the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet. Subsequent brave
efforts bringing about the bloodless withdrawal of the invader won him the
Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989.

Disciples

Everyone
loves the Dalai Lama. He’s up there with Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela on
the world super-icon stakes, and countless celebrities, politicians and royalty
(including the Prince of Wales) have gained inspiration from him. More
recently, he’s been making strides in new economy circles: Mark Benioff, head
of salesforce.com, is a fan.

Message

"Why
do we need to cultivate the thought that other sentient beings are precious and
valuable? Because they are really the principal source of all our experiences
of joy, happiness and prosperity… Our feelings of comfort and sense of security
are dependent upon other people’s perceptions of us and their affection for us.
Human affection is the basis of our existence. Our life cannot start without
affection, and our sustenance and proper growth depend upon it."

Sacred
text

The
Bodhicaryavatara, or guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, on which he has
commented extensively. The text of his Nobel Prize speech.

Pros

The
adoption of Buddhism, with its emphasis on altruism, would make everyone in the
office much nicer to work with. Good value for money: you can attend a
three-day course with the DL for just $150 (excluding service charge).

Cons

Too
much emphasis on being nice may take the edge off competitiveness. Buddhists in
business can appear unbearably smug (Anita Roddick).

Buzz
Words

Peace
and non-violence, compassion, altruism, ethics, precious freedom, lamrinm
chenmo (path to enlightenment), madhyamakavatara (guide to the Middle Way).

Bottom
line

If
you’re going to get into Buddhism, you may as well follow the main man. The
Dalai Lama’s status as an exiled national leader also means you can combine
spiritual satisfaction with concern for human rights.

Peter
Koestenbaum

CV

A
former philosophy professor, Koestenbaum decided 25 years ago to apply the
insights he had gained in philosophy and psychiatry to business strategic
management. Since then, he has emerged as "one of the global economy’s
most trusted sages, therapists and secular priests". Founder and chairman
of PiB and the Koestenbaum Institute, his message is that the key to achieving
business results lies in the development of the leadership mind. To that end,
he has developed the Leadership Diamond methodology, which "compresses the
complexity of universal themes into a simple but not simplistic model".

Disciples

Koestenbaum
has won many admirers in blue-chip corporate circles. He claims to have advised
"with intensity" IBM, Electronic Data Systems, Ford, Citibank, Volvo,
Amoco and Xerox, to name but a few. An extensive author, his books include The
Heart of Business, Managing Anxiety, and Is There an Answer to Death?

Message

"The
Diamond distinguishes four interdependent leadership imperatives or
‘orientations': Ethics, vision, courage and reality. These orientations are
your inner resources, always available to help you if you access them. The
space within the Diamond is your leadership capacity, which is called
‘greatness’."

Sacred
text

Leadership,
The Inner Side of Greatness.

Pros

Links
philosophical insight with bottom-line business issues. Gives advice on how to
break through "stuck points" and gain maximum impact with the least
effort.

Cons

The
notion that you can improve your leadership qualities with the "least
effort" by cultivating your "leverage corner" or weakest
orientation may be overly simplistic.

Buzz
words

Relationship,
orientation, bottom line, stuck points, strategic, systemic, transformation,
teamwork, principles.

Bottom
line

You
have to admire his determination to create a win-win relationship between
business results and human values. Anyone wanting to combine online leadership
learning with applied wisdom and historical depth should sign up.

Deepak
Chopra

CV

Hailed
by Time magazine in 1999 as one of the "top 100 icons and heroes of the
century", Chopra has done more than any other individual to familiarise
the American people with the tenets of Eastern mysticism. Born in India, he is
a qualified doctor who combines his spiritual message with practical
suggestions for physical wellbeing and self-improvement. In 1996, he opened the
Chopra Center for Well-Being in La Jolla, California, offering everything from
yoga, chanting and meditation, to Ayurvedic and conventional detox treatments.

Disciples

"The
poet-prophet of alternative medicine" is a prolific author and translator
of mystic classics. His 25 books, translated into 35 languages, have won him a
strong global following, but his heartland is still California.

Message

"Everything
we experience as material reality is born in an invisible realm beyond space
and time – revealed by science to consist of energy and informationÉ We are now
ready to understand divine intelligence directly. In many ways, this new
knowledge reinforces what spiritual traditions have already promisedÉUnless
some small part of God touches the material world, he will remain inaccessible
forever."

Sacred
text

Too
many to name. His website is currently giving prominence to "How to Know
God".

Pros

Easily
accessible. Bridges the gaps between spirituality, science and modern
commercial imperatives. Provider of imaginative package holidays.

Cons

Can
you cope with all that "primordial sound meditation" (aka chanting)?

Buzz
words

Energy,
quantum soup, information, miracles, darshan (blessings), pujas (rituals),
dormant potentialities, detox.

Bottom
line

If
you’re seeking a more holistic approach to life, this is the guy for you. You
could read his On the Shores of Eternity, new English versions of poems by
Rabindranath Tagore, while undergoing colonic irrigation at the Center for
Well-Being. Either way, you’re bound to emerge feeling positive.

Leslie
Kenton

CV

Kenton
hurtled on to the HR sphere when she told the CIPD that companies should follow
shamanic techniques to improve morale and performance. This former Harpers
& Queen editor is clearly a renaissance woman, combining advice on
achieving health, beauty, personal development and spiritual power with an
undoubted entrepreneurial streak. Kenton achieved sales of £2.3m within two
years of launching her regenerative skin product on to the UK market. Daughter
of the late US jazz musician Stan Kenton, she is also a social and
environmental activist and TV cook.

Disciples

Everyone
from Estee Lauder, through Unilever to the European Parliament. Kenton’s
insistence that good health boosts creativity, power and autonomy – both
personally and in the business environment – has found fertile ground in
corporate circles. Other clients have included Guinness, Boots and L’Or‚al.

Message

"Real
health, creativity and power come from within. The only true ‘guru’ is the
human soul." She can provide tools and techniques to help you release your
potential for energy, health and personal freedom, and thus improve your home
and working life.

Sacred
text

Choose
from more than 30 best-selling books. Passage to Power sounds promising for
business types.

Pros

Learn
how to be beautifully effective at the same time as being effectively beautiful.

Cons

May
not appeal to unreconstructed males who don’t use moisturiser.

Buzz
words

Natural
healing, vibrant, passion, raw, origins, ageless ageing.

Bottom
line

A
breath of fresh air on the management consulting circuit, Kenton’s obvious
ability to practice what she preaches attracts admiration. Sign her up if
you’re serious about work-life balance issues and want advice about healing the
planet.

Yefim
Shubentsov

CV

Testament
to the continuing power of word-of-mouth recommendation, this former
professional artist – known by some as the "Mad Russian" – has been
curing addicts of all kinds for 20 years. Now based in Brookline,
Massachusetts, Shubentsov claims his gift for healing springs from a
"heightened energy field". Nobody knows how he does it, but his
efficacy has been scientifically corroborated. He treats around 500 people a
month.

Disciples

Desperate
individuals from all over the US and, increasingly, Europe. Shubentsov has a
strong following in international fashionista and celebrity circles. Clients
have included Courteney Cox, Fran Leibovitz and the novelist Amy Tan.

Message

"I
am the eraser. Physically, I transform energy. I remove the mistakes in energy
fields that surround addicts. I correct it like it’s supposed to be."

Sacred
text

Cure
Your Cravings, co-authored by Barbara Gordon.

Pros

An
ardent believer in the virtues of common sense, toughness and patience.
Reasonable rates, and excellent follow-up service.

Cons

Possibly
too many similarities with that other mad Russian, Rasputin. According to one
observer, Shubentsov has "all the subtlety of a professional
wrestler".

Buzz
words

Eraser,
your last chance, energy, electromagnetic field, sixth sense, don’t.

Bottom
line

Could
be a useful means of prolonging the lives of talented but dissolute senior
executives.

Dr
V

CV

Based
in the remote Indian town of Madurai, 82-year-old Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy is
the most admired cataract surgeon on the subcontinent. Since he opened his
first eye hospital in 1976, he has restored sight to more than 1 million
people, usually for free. Yet Dr V is so productive that his hospital enjoys a
gross margin of 40 per cent. Achieving this feat has led to him being credited
with solving the mystery of leadership: how you go about translating vision
into reality. As one follower has remarked, "He is a doctor to the eyes
and a leader to the soul. Dr V teaches that work can be a vehicle for
self-transcendence."

Disciples

A
growing band of US business writers who trek to Madurai to see the doctor in
action.

Message

"If
Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas and McDonald’s can sell billions of
burgers, why can’t I sell millions of sight-restoring operations and,
eventually, the belief in human perfection? With sight, people can be freed
from hunger, fear and poverty. You can perfect the body, then mind and soul,
and raise people’s level of thinking and acting."He believes that if you understand
the deeper principles of your work and follow those aims, you achieve a power
that draws resources – money, people – to you.

Sacred
text

Dr
V is a doer, not a pontificator. No sacred text has emerged to date.

Pros

Fantastic.
Dr V has cracked how to find the path to ultimate spiritual perfection, give to
the poor, and still be profitable. The ultimate in utopian volume marketing.

Cons

Message
doesn’t go down too well on Wall Street.

Buzz
words

Perfection,
vision, self-knowledge, self-transcendence, giving, non-violence, truthfulness,
light.

Bottom
line

Dr
V is living proof that the reward for work is not what you get out of it, but
what you become from it. Still, signing up to all his ideals may be a bit of a
long shot for most.

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