Book Review: ‘Quantum Leadership’ by Tsao & Laszlo

Reading Time: 10 minutes

In almost all 7 years of my experience in the fast-paced marketing industry, I have worked with numerous businesses – small and big – all of which have habitually (and understandably) prioritised profit, and only profit, in every key business objective penned down in a marketing brief.

Through these day-to-day experiences, it has been ingrained in my brain that business – since time immemorial – can only exist to make a profit and nothing else. A lot of businesses are generally not built to provide a public good, which has led to poor integration between profit strategies and investor demand for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG). This is a reality that I believed will continue to be as such far into the future.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when the book ‘Quantum Leadership’ by Tsao and Laszlo challenged that jaded perspective by boldly proposing that humanity (starting with the reader) subvert this ostensibly immutable reality. It is an interesting proposition that is – I think – best presented in a problem-solution frame as follows:

The Problem: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)’s veracity is met with a lot of cynicism today

  1. CSR is framed primarily in financial calculation, with disingenuous regard for the social responsibility aspect. Case in point – Volkswagen. In order to maintain their brand image (and consequent profitability) as a provider of supposedly environmentally-friendly cars, the company used “defeat devices” to cheat on pollution emission tests.
  2. Efforts are only decelerating (and not reversing) social and global detriments. Take for instance McDonald’s. The fast-food conglomerate’s recent eradication of the plastic straw glosses over its maintained usage of plastic-laced paper cups, plastic utensils and more.
  3. The importance of CSR is experiencing waning interests among business professionals.

That is because the world is currently focusing more on a consciousness of separateness and selfishness, and less so on a consciousness of connectedness. As the book very aptly puts it:

“… the ontological narrative of separateness and selfishness continued to act as a powerful behavioural pull in many parts of the world still characterised by environmentally unsustainable growth, racism, other forms of discrimination, social exclusion and rising income inequality.”

With these issues in mind, the book proposes an ambitious solution.

The Solution: Quantum Leadership

What is Quantum Leadership?

A quick Google Search tells you that Quantum Leadership is a leadership informed by quantum thinking (i.e. consideration of an issue from all/multiple sides, and put the appropriate consideration into action at the optimum time).

The book gives more meat to the skeleton of this definition. It presents Quantum Leadership as a business leader’s learning journey comprising of personal practices that progressively evolves his/her consciousness to be intrinsically caring and compassionate. This should subsequently precipitate leadership abilities that intentionally or inadvertently nurture in others similar commitments to empathy, trust and collaboration.

Can Quantum Leadership be a viable solution to our world’s problems?

I think it is easy to dismiss this notion as idealistic. However, history proves that social revolutions have happened before and are therefore possible. The American Revolution and the French Revolution of the late 1700s are examples of social revolution, in which the ideas of individual liberty and freedom inspired uprising. 

At its genesis, Quantum Leadership values can stem from a leader’s personal practice and snowball into a company-wide practice to birth a Flourishing Enterprise (i.e. a business/agent of world benefit; Chris Laszlo). Through business interactions, a multitude of organisations may evolve to espouse the same idea that champion empathy, trust and collaboration. The pinnacle is a social revolution that shifts the global focus away from separateness, self-interest and tribalism, so it can evolve into a more caring and compassionate state that commits to (1) increasing positive economic outcome, (2) nurturing a healthier natural environment and (3) improving human well-being.

As it all stems from developing quantum leadership qualities at the individual level, the book suggests a couple of practices to aid in such a development.

7 individual-level daily practices to nurture Quantum Leadership

This is personally my favourite part of the book as it provides actionable steps on how the individual can make the Consciousness Leap (i.e. the leap from a consciousness of separateness to a consciousness of wholeness).

1) Journaling

In the process of recording your experiences and articulating your insights, journalling is exceedingly effective at introducing clarity to problems and challenges that are overwhelming. Ironically, we may hesitate to start this practice as it seems overwhelming. That is why – to overcome this mental hurdle – the book recommends writing everything that comes to mind without concern in getting it exactly right, and to do so regularly.

As we journal to review our day-to-day experiences and challenges, Frederick and Chris also implore readers to write about what makes them feel “happy, joyful, serene or inspired”. This is a very important practice because focusing on positive emotions tend to bring more benefits and build greater resiliency over time – compared to dwelling over negative emotions.

It also helps to periodically review old entries as a process of reflection. You’ll be surprise how this practice can unearth fresh insights and clarity into our consciousness and its evolution.

2) Mindful Meditation.

A common misconception of mindful meditation is that its purpose is to quiet the mind or achieve a state of eternal calm by focusing on the breath. That isn’t the case. What mindful meditation really aims to do is to cultivate meditative awareness through an applied practice that places emphasis on how one focuses; it essentially develops one’s attention. There are several derivations of mindful meditation dating back to ancient India and China; the common underlying theme in any meditation technique is attention skill development.

So, how can we exercise mindful meditation? ‘Quantum Leadership’ recommends unified mindfulness (UM) – a type of mindful meditation exercise developed by American mindfulness teacher Shinzen Young. The goal is to develop the following attention skills: concentration power, sensory clarity and equanimity (i.e. calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situations).

To practice it, you should find a quiet and safe place where you can sit or carry out normal activities throughout the day and with your eyes open or closes, allow your attention to move freely. When your attention drifts to an experience you see, hear or feel, the book advises that you spend a few seconds paying attention to what you detect before allowing your attention to move freely again. In that process, try to detect details about the experience you are noticing. Repeat this process again and again, spending a few seconds at a time labelling and noticing details in any experience you detect.

Another variant of mindful meditation is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon-Kabat Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. It combines science, medicine and psychology with Buddhist meditative teachings to address sources of stress in our lives. Formal practices include:

  • “Body scan” technique to increase mindful awareness of our body,
  • Mindful walking
  • Attending to physical sensations during gentle movement of the body
  • Loving Kindness Meditation (i.e. a practice to help cultivate compassion for oneself and others)
3) Qigong.

Chances are you’ve seen Taichi played out near your void deck or neighbourhood park. Compared to Taichi, Qigong is simpler and more free-form as it focuses less on mastering specific forms and more on cultivating energy.

With its roots in China, Qigong practices include intentional movement, rhythmic breathing, heightened awareness, visualisation of the Qi or energy flow and the use of chanting or sound. The practices’ goal is to achieve equanimity, tranquility and stillness or the shift to smaller and smaller movements on the path to complete stillness.

The book posits that when you start to support the body’s natural tendencies to return to balance and equilibrium through Qigong, you gently build greater strength, flexibility and balance in the muscles and joints. This is where health and well-being benefits can arise.

4) Nature Immersion.

Harvard naturalist E. O. Wilson is one of many scientists to put forward the evolutionary hypothesis that nature has a restorative power. In fact, there is a growing body of scientific research proving the benefits of connectedness with nature, which includes health improvement, stress relief, reduced negative emotions like fear and anger, enhanced positive affect, etc.

So, how much time in nature do we need to see its positive effect? 5 hours per month is sufficient! That is 15 minutes per day, for five days a week. The location you can choose to sit or stand in can be a city park just as easily as in the forest; even a park with paved paths and street noise will do. Simply listen to the natural sounds, focus on the way your body feels, and observe your surrounding for a mindfulness approach.

Sometimes, it can even be as simple as “just being”. To illustrate the experience when you “just be”, the book quotes John Muir, the early twentieth-century American naturalist: ” Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshines flows into the trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

5) Yoga.

Yoga’s purpose of connecting the mind and body is often forgotten in classes that emphasise just the physical fitness routine and competition on flexibility. Evidence-based benefits of yoga include decreased stress, increased muscle strength and other improvements to mental and physical well-being. As progress achieved through yoga’s more tangible and measurable compared to other practices that focus solely on the mind, you might want to try out this practice.

So, where do we start with yoga? The books recommends that we begin by finding a qualified instructor, but we can also start yoga practices on our own with the following generalised steps:

  • Learn to breathe intentionally through the nose and belly in three parts (i.e. dirga pranayama breath) when holding yoga poses. Be kind to your body; do not force your lungs into overcapacity, as your lungs should feel comfortably full and not like they are going to burst. Your breath should come in and go out smoothly.
  • Start by sitting into a brief, mindful meditation that centres yourself and focuses on your breath. you can set an intention to begin your practice with a meditative mind.
  • Then, follow a series of beginner postures before ending it all of the relaxation pose (i.e. shavasana), where you lie on your back and consciously relax your body for 5-10 minutes before coming up to a short seated meditation for another 5 minutes.
6) Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Reading about loving-kindness meditation (LKM) personally brought a lot of nostalgia for me; it dug up old memories of my primary school days and how I would stand amongst my schoolmates during morning assembly to recite the aforementioned mantra right after the Singapore National Pledge.

LKM is essentially a meditative practice and a form of self-psychotherapy in which we send goodwill, kindness and warmth toward others by silently repeating a series of mantras that would gradually help us develop a mental habit of selfless or altruistic love. While there are several renditions of LKM mantras, there are generally three parts to it.

The first part focuses on loving kindness to the self; the second part focuses on someone who is present in our life, whether that is someone we care about deeply or don’t get along with or even only briefly encountered (e.g. a homeless person you pass on the street); finally, the third part aims to send love universally to all beings.

  • May I / you / all beings be filled with loving kindness
  • May I / you / all beings be peaceful and at ease
  • May I / you / all beings be free of physical pain and suffering
  • May my / your / their heart be filled with love.
7) Art and Aesthetic.

While the book doesn’t state this explicitly, you should know that art doesn’t have to be limited to painting; we can consider dancing, singing, sculpting, sewing, etc.

Some of the healing effects of practicing these various art include feeling comfortable in embracing surprises, developing trust in not just the artistic process but ourselves, and appreciating the many diverse ways of be being in the world. Exploring the creative aesthetic process can also lead to a cathartic experience that helps us find new meaning or possibilities, e.g. recreating our identities and ways of being in the world.

Consider selecting a piece of art and contemplating it slowly. Be aware of its effects on your physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Ask what it might say to you if the artwork had a voice. Then, respond without words, using only movement such as drawing. You can even write down your experience and share it with another.

Expression through the arts is a powerful path for personal development and positive change, and one effective means of addressing issues of human suffering, building community and facilitating change. When practising expressive art, intentionally see it as a means to explore how art shapes your perceptions and influences your ways of being.

Group-level practices to nurture Quantum Leadership

1) Appreciative Inquiry.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) uses an inquiry process that intentionally focuses on the power of strengths instead of shortcomings to build cooperative capacity in whole systems. The process allows the voices in self-managed groups (scalable up to 1000 people, convened over 3 or more days) to be heard. If you’re not sure where to start, the book suggests the following questions for the basis of an introductory appreciative inquiry exercise (best asked in a spirit of discovery) with the purpose of exploring and amplifying strengths, aspirations, opportunities and desired results:

  • What was a high-point moment for you in leading positive change or collaborative innovation? E.g. what were the most memorable parts of the initiative, including challenges, innovations and insights? Reflect on root causes of success. What are your thee best qualities or special strengths?
  • Share your observations of moments when people feel most passionate and connected in your organisation. Can you share an example of a hot team, a great innovation, high engagement or extraordinary performance? Assuming your company will change in the future, what are the best qualities or signature strengths that you would want the company to keep or build on, even as it moves into an emerging future?
  • Reflecting on what your organisation could become in the next ten years, what are some powerful images of an extraordinarily desirable future that come to mind?

These questions invites a fresh way of seeing the world, as you infuse relationships and communications.

2) Rituals and practices that attempt to shape community and society

Take for instance, a group art practice. The experience of having one’s art witnessed and honoured by others can be life changing, offering insight and clarity that are transformative. The book highlights the following steps on how you can begin a group art practice:

  • In a group setting, draw a line from one side to the other on a piece of cardboard. This is the line of your life.
  • Above and below the baseline are your peaks and nadirs at different stages of your life. Intuitively draw the ups and down from birth to the present, and then imagine what it might look like ten years into the future.
  • On the same or another surface, draw the line of your life in an artistic way, using any and all materials you wish to use.
  • Share first in days and then with the group as a whole.

Intrigued by what ‘Quantum Leadership: New Consciousness in Business’ has to offer? Get a copy for yourself!

Drawing on extensive research, Tsao and Laszlo show how leaders who pursue Quantum Leadership are more likely to flourish with significant benefits to both business and society. These include greater creativity and collaboration along with an increased capability to inspire people and produce lasting change.

Readers will come away with a deep understanding of quantum leadership and the day-to-day practices that can help them achieve greater effectiveness and wellbeing at work.

Available in Kindle, Audiobook, Hardcover and Paperback

At Talenox, we’ve always maintained a culture that prioritises the team’s well-being, with an unlimited annual leave policy and flexible working hours granted to each and every teammate. On top of that, to ensure that all our teammates have empathy for our users and their well-being, we are one of the only few companies that require every single teammate to help with Customer Success monthly.  This empathy helps us to build our product and experience with a consciousness of wholeness.

We still have a long way to go as we maintain our focus and key strengths, all while growing in other markets in the region.  And we look forward to many awesome years ahead helping more SMEs along.

Do you relate to our journey and would like to be part of our team to grow together? If the answer is “yes”, feel free to reach out to us over at AngelList and Wantedly. We are constantly looking for great team players and would love to speak to more talents along the journey.  Stay happy and safe!

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