“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one”, said Jeff Marcous, co-founder and CEO of Dharma Merchant Services in his panel discussion on conscious leadership. If you’re a trekie, these lines sound oh so familiar to you.
Jeff is one of the progressive leaders who define the primary objectives of commerce other than wealth creation. He has built his business on the 4 pillars of conscious leadership: sustainability, dharma, which is a Sanskrit word for “righteous duty”, sacred commerce and conscious capitalism.
The idea behind the 4 pillars of conscious business is to engage in business with the best interest of others above our own. “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it that makes a difference. Business has the power to enable positive transformation in the world. It can lift people out of poverty, foster education and enable medical discoveries amongst other good things. When you act in the best interest of others, commerce becomes sacred. And it’s this sacred commerce that sustains us”, says Jeff.
Does the model of conscious business before profits work?
“We wondered about that when we started Dharma. But as a zen practitioner who follows the 8-fold path in my personal life, I wanted to create a company that was built upon the same values. I wanted to run my business with the right view, right intentions, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration and right mindfulness. Especially in the finance sector, this is a very different way of doing business. We became a magnet for people with the same values and have been serving our community for 9 years now”.
5 lessons from a conscious business leader
1. Rally behind a higher purpose
Dharma represents purpose. If you have heard of Maslow’s pyramid, you know that at the top is self-actualization. In other words, the underlying factor for self-actualization is purpose. When this purpose is greater than you, your actions will come from a place of purity, bringing you sustainable happiness in return.
“The current model of how we maximize shareholder value is not sustainable. Our culture has embraced the pursuit of happiness as more wealth–not just materialistic wealth creation but also the acquisition of more beauty and social validation. These don’t lead to sustainable happiness. Happiness is the byproduct of leading a meaningful and purposeful life”, explains Jeff.#Happiness is the byproduct of leading a meaningful and purposeful life. Click To Tweet
2. Lead by serving others
Once you approach leadership with the intention to fulfill a purpose, your mind will shift to a service-oriented attitude. The question becomes how you can serve others. “The presence of mind is not the same, and the result is not the same when you serve yourself first. When you know your life is about service to others, you’ll also serve yourself”, adds Jeff.
Jeff knows this well. He volunteers at San Quentin State Prison where he teaches meditation and life skills to inmates. He has seen the lives of many inmates transform, which in turn has transformed his.
3. Hold space for others
Holding space is about listening, sharing and comforting. Jeff’s team has a weekly ritual to invite space into their lives so they can be fully present in their work. They start every Wednesday with a group clearing exercise. The goal of this exercise is to uncover what’s keeping them from being present and release that energy.
In the first part of the exercise, they explore the factors that are holding them back and the associated emotional responses. In the second part, they acknowledge what they’re grateful for as they clear the negative energy. This routine has had a profound impact on team dynamics and trust.
4. Nurture your team’s health
The above exercise is a wonderful example to use with your team regularly to help connect and reconnect with each other as human beings.
Other tools Dharma uses to preserve team health besides the popular group lunches, off-sites and parties are celebrating mistakes and presenting to each other their defining life moments in 45 minutes. “Cultivating a deeper understanding of each person as a whole and their motivations helps put things in a different perspective. It helps us as a team to understand how to best and communicate and work with each other. Our bond is very strong as a result”, notes Jeff.
5. Make stakeholders a part of your family
“The definition of a stakeholder goes beyond our team, family and friends. We consider everyone we have come into contact with directly or indirectly to be a stakeholder. We want to make these people feel welcomed into our community. We want them to benefit from our actions even if they don’t always know that they do.”
Thank you, Jeff for walking on the path of a conscious leader and spreading the word about how conscious companies can succeed using quadruple bottom line goals of people, planet, profit and purpose. May your dharma (no pun intended) take you to places beyond imagination!
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