Photo courtesy The Business Times

Taking over the country’s governance, especially under the current circumstances in Sri Lanka must take an emotional and physical toll on the politicians.   At this level of stress, how can one keep a rational and a logical perspective, especially when there are so many complex, risky, divisive issues to deal with?

In organizational development theory and practice, the Tuckman Team Development Model (Bruce Tuckman- 1965) states that any team coming together for a common purpose has to go through the stages of Forming-Storming-Norming and Performing and that the cycle is bound to repeat itself.

The Forming stage is when everybody is cooperating with good intentions and controlling emotions.   As this new political leadership, as diverse and different as it is, comes together to work, the Storming stage is inevitable. As they let down their guard, competing personalities, ideologies, values and agendas emerge.

The Storming stage requires strong leadership, emotional control and equanimity from everyone with a focus on the common vision and purpose – assuming it is already articulated and clear to everyone.

Storming stage requires adjustment of expectations and compromise, as the way forward cannot make everyone happy. This is where true emotional intelligence comes into play for the team to move towards Norming and Performing.

As competing agendas jockey for position fissures will emerge, yet experience shows that this is normal and conflict will arise.   Accepting conflict as inevitable and neutral is crucial, and to give and take in the larger interest takes skill, courage and a personal discipline and practice. It is also where the media and other onlookers have to be aware and patient not to capitalize to divide for sensationalism, but to unite for common purpose in the interest of the 100 day plan and beyond. Sri Lanka needs this space in this emotionally charged period.

The Personal Practice

Finding the power of balance is even more important, as the stakes are high and the only way to do so is through a discipline of a personal practice from individuals. The basic personal practice to find equanimity during the Storming stage is through the breath and meditation. This has to be complemented by downtime to rest and rejuvenate through sleep, good eating habits, exercise and positive social relationships.

Science and the Personal Practice

 

The Amygdale is the primal region of the brain and processes both the positive and negative emotions. Amygdale protects us when we are under threat by initiating the body’s response to react. Amygdale will be extremely active during the Storming stage and it can lead to reptilian unskilful action and conflict in relationships.

According to a blog article in Scientific American[i], latest research using MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness meditation practice, the Amygdale, appears to shrink.   As the Amygdale shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with the “higher order brain” functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker.

 

When the “higher order brain” becomes thicker, our limbic system – centre for compassion improves and we become more emotionally intelligent.   This will enable equanimity and balance through the Storming stage. With equanimity, the political leaders may perceive the threats to their own views and ideologies from different perspectives, and may become more comfortable to let go and compromise to cooperate for a common vision and purpose.

Our breath then becomes our foundational ally to help us to find the power of balance.  When we focus on our breath to meditate, we become mindful and present.  Breathing well helps our health and physiology, and clears our mind to realize when unhealthy and negative emotions arise.  It builds self-knowledge, esteem and confidence and helps put things in perspective.

All these point the way to a good prescription for our new political leaders to deal with overcoming Storming stage, fraught with differences and conflict. If the leaders are aware of this natural phenomenon, they will deal with this stage with better skill and move the country in what is left of the next 100 days onto the Norming and Performing stage.

Yet through all this, nothing is permanent, there will be many more Storms as they govern and to realize that those Storms are normal and inevitable is to accept it without judgment, anxiety and fear. It is only a commitment and a discipline from each leader to a personal practice that will enable them to manage self through these turbulent times and perform this difficult feat for the country and its people who have been through so much.

Without management of self no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire, for the more authority they acquire the more dangerous they become. It is the management of self that should occupy 50 percent of our time and the best of our ability. And when we do that, the ethical, moral and spiritual elements of leadership are inescapable.   Dee Hock – Founder of VISA Credit Cards

[i] What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?

By Tom Ireland | June 12, 2014 |  Scientific American

  • Lalith Gunaratne

    Thank you for your comment on the important point of trust. For people to trust they also have to feel comfortable and safe in the space as well as with themselves. The part about the self is the most difficult as, we do not like to put a mirror on ourselves. I will look for the video. Please post a link if you have one. warm wishes – lalith