Mindful Leadership

By editor - 1.7 2017

Mindful Leadership – Radhanath Swami Speaks at the Bank of England

If you met someone in the heart of London’s financial district and told them a monk was speaking at the ‘Old Lady’ of Threadneedle Street, they might be in disbelief. Although he hasn’t had a bank account or signed a cheque since 1969, and to the humour of the hundreds that attended when he admitted that, Radhanath Swami spoke at the Bank of England on Wednesday 22nd March 2017. Founded in 1694, the Bank of England is a public institution responsible for maintaining the monetary and financial stability of the United Kingdom. It serves as the model on which most modern central banks have been based.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money and National Ambassador for the HRH Prince of Wales charity, Business in the Community, was pleasantly surprised that this event was happening at the Bank: “I think that it is brilliant for the future of the banking sector, London and society in general, because in the city we are not used to hearing that kind of inclusive talk.” Radhanath Swami narrated a story from his childhood that particularly resonated with her. He spoke of how, when he was younger, he stole the only rose from his mother’s garden to present to her on her birthday. “She broke down in tears” Radhanath Swami said, “and told me that it’s not the thing that gives value but the purpose and love by which it is given in.”

In response to his story, Jayne Anne explained, “My husband comes from a very poor background. He grew up in Kenya, and as a Hindu has always lived a life that the Swami talks about. Not as deeply and broadly, but nevertheless, it’s been useful for me because what it has meant in my career is that these values are beyond possessions or the typical tangible pillar of success. The values the Swami represents have meant that I can do my job with integrity.” She said, after Radhanath Swami gifted her two of his books, that a key message she took away with her was “we all have a duty to make a difference, and we are all connected.”

Aakash Mankodi, an analyst for market intelligence at the Bank, and influential in organising the event, said “topics such as diversity, inclusion and mental well-being are important to us. We want to try and explore issues such as how leaders in such a large and influential organisation can improve their impact by actively considering how their attitude, actions and approach at work impacts those around them. Whether there are any best practices that they can adopt from the field of mindfulness that can help leaders thrive, and how they can continue to promote the development of mental well-being and self-awareness to improve the working culture and environment.”

Chris Salmon, Executive Director for Markets at the Bank, introduced Radhanath Swami’s hour-long presentation on the principles of mindful leadership. The Swami spoke on how the highest form of leadership is compassionate leadership, and that greed isn’t the best formula to get the best out of people. By appreciating others and encouraging them we can bring out the good in others and when this is done, people go above and beyond their capacity. “To reach such a stage of compassion, we need to understand ourselves” he continued. “Emerson said that ‘the reason there is so much disunity in the world is because people are so disconnected in themselves’ so we must build an inner foundation of compassion within our hearts.”

Professor Stephen Chan OBE, Professor of World Politics at SOAS University of London, had heard Radhanath Swami speak before at his institution, “I hosted him at my institution and he is very popular amongst the SOAS students. So everyone, whether they have a spiritual affiliation to him or not, really admires his outreach and compassion. We try to support him in every way possible.”

Regarding interconnectedness and unity, Professor Chan remarked, “I particularly like his redwood tree story and the interlinkage of the root systems. I really like seeing that as a way the world should be. That makes me feel happy and reassured that there are people who understand the need for unity, brotherhood and sisterhood in the world.” He followed by speaking on the effects of this presentation at the reputable Bank of England and society in general: “The Bank of England will go through a few difficult years because of all kinds of things like Brexit etc. They have got to be the lightening rod that makes that whole process work without too much turbulence. The world at large, and I used to be a peace-keeping diplomat, is very turbulent too. For instance, the message of not being overcome by fear and atrocity, and still maintaining in one’s heart the possibility of redwood trees and humanity being interlinked should drive all of us.”

The Bank is very diverse and has over 3600 employees. One of them, Priyank, who works for the Bank’s Stress Testing Division in Moorgate, was excited by the talk, sharing, “I’ve just finished his autobiography The Journey Home and I am currently reading his newest book The Journey Within. Everything he said was true. We also know it deep down, but when he says it the aura is different because he truly believes it. I’m happy someone came to the Bank to speak about this topic.”

Radhanath Swami ended with words of gratitude that the Bank had invited him to share his realisations and experiences.