Deepak Chopra on the Entrepreneurial Soul

The New Age author shares his views about what it takes to be an extraordinary leader.

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By Diana Ransom

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Deepak Chopra
Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Sullivan

After writing more than 50 books on topics ranging from Buddha to getting a good night's rest, Deepak Chopra recently turned his attention to leadership and entrepreneurs in "The Soul of Leadership" (Random House Harmony Books). While there's no shortage of spirituality in this book, readers -- Chopra hopes -- will get a healthy tutorial on how to practically start and build organizations and companies that thrive and possibly even inspire.

Here are his answers to a few of our burning questions:

Why write about leadership and why now?
I've written about physical well-being, emotional well-being, social well-being. And I just thought it was finally important to address business and organizational well-being because the long-term financial success of any business depends on its health and how it's functioning. Also, I feel that the time is right because many people are disappointed with the leadership on Wall Street and at many large companies. So many corporations and companies are reinventing themselves right now.

What are the keys to successful leadership?
Any entrepreneurial leader has one main goal: How to envision that future and how to create that future. So in order to be really effective, the leader needs to harness the intelligence, creativity, emotional engagement and also the emotional connection with the people that are part of his or her team in order to manifest that vision.

Can leadership be learned?
Leaders are not born that way. Circumstance, context, history, culture and precise timing bring out the leader. It's said the civil rights movement was born when Rosa Parks refused to get up from her seat. When asked why she did that, she said she was tired. It is really a mysterious phenomenon, but I believe that in any moment of crisis, there's a moment for leaders to emerge, and they usually do. Among the many, there are always one or two people who realize the opportunity and their potential. We all have the potential. We all may not have the desire. If you don't have the desire, then you're not a born leader. Inherent in the desire is the potential for leadership.

What can entrepreneurs get out of reading your book?
Entrepreneurs are risk takers in general, so they will learn to take calculated risks. They will learn to look and listen at four levels -- the level of the physical experience, or observation; the level of the mind, or analysis; the level of emotions and heart and feeling; and ultimately the level of deeper consciousness where our insight, imagination and creativity are nurtured. So it's much more holistic. For business leaders, what their followers expect most is that they have a vision, and that the vision will be actualized. But what they also want from leaders is hope, trust, values and stability.

Do you consider yourself to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, even though I didn't plan to be. I ended up becoming an entrepreneur of the abstract. I wrote books because I wanted to help my patients. As a doctor, I felt that the medical establishment wasn't doing enough. Although it was not standard medial practice, I started to write books for my patients.

What was the hardest entrepreneurial lesson you've learned?
That it's OK to make mistakes, and every time you make mistakes you learn something. The number of mistakes you make is directly proportional to the amount of success you'll have in the future -- as long as you don't repeat the mistakes.

What advice would you offer entrepreneurs on success?
Your true measure of success is your self esteem. Don't confuse your self image with self esteem. Self image is what other people think of you. Self esteem is the inner core of your being that relies on the inner sense of self. Then also realize that you'll never get anywhere unless you're independent of the good and bad opinion of others. Be fearless.

Diana Ransom
Diana Ransom is the former deputy editor of

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