Too Woo Woo For Corporate?

I spent last weekend in the woods of upstate New York.

Wait, sorry.

I’m supposed to call it “taking the in breath.”

That just sounds better, doesn’t it?

In breath.

Filling up.

Yes. Please.

I had travelled to the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies to attend a Women & Power retreat with TED icon Brene Brown and Zen priest Joan Halifax Roshi.

Did I lose you at “Zen priest?” 

Yep. I know.

Omega attracts a specific crowd of, shall we say, open-minded seekers.

It’s the kind of place where no one bats an eye when a Buddhist scholar is onstage with a D.C. power player – and where cofounder Elizabeth Lesser can speak of her love for shamans while wearing a designer dress and heels.

I relate to this blended world because it’s mine as well.

Too corporate to be woo woo, and too woo woo to be corporate.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

After all, too much introspection is the path to neurosis, while too much external focus is the path to anxiety.

So here we are.

In the middle.

But as I was thinking about the theme of the retreat – “becoming the kind of leader the world needs now” – I was struck by something Roshi called “having a strong back and a soft front.”

Can you say “Amen” to a Zen priest?

I certainly hope so because that’s exactly the kind of leaders we are called to be.

Effective and kind.

Generous and accountable.

Inhaling and exhaling.

Strategic and spontaneous.

In other words, cultivating that sacred middle ground again.

According to Brene Brown, this process starts when we release our incessant need to be “cool” all the time.

“Cool” she said, “is the emotional straightjacket.” It’s what makes us less available for true connection, which in turn makes us less equipped for leadership roles.

In business today, it’s sad that any talk of “connection” is filed under “soft skill training” and cut before two-ply toilet paper.

Even the word itself is slighting.


Truth is, connection is one of the hardest skills to master because it’s less about what you do than who you are.

Sure results are how we measure success, but anyone can create a spreadsheet. Connection is what makes us follow people into burning buildings.

And, believe me, there’s nothing woo woo about that.

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