I recently returned from Homecoming Weekend at Dartmouth College, where I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the 17th President of the College. Dr. Kim is an honorary member of our Class of 1982, as he graduated from Brown University that same year. So, we saw fit to invite him to cocktails prior to our Class Dinner to get to know him better, as for many of us, this was our first opportunity to meet him.
Dr. Kim is an extraordinarily impressive and accomplished individual and exemplifies leadership with a capital “L.” After graduating from Brown, he received his M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School and just for kicks he earned a PhD. in Anthropology. He co-founded Partners in Health in 1987, in his spare time at medical school. The Boston-based non-profit partners with impoverished communities in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi, and the United States to provide medical care and social services. PIH has been front and center in helping the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Dr. Kim has chaired and led many organizations at the intersection of medicine and social policy. More recently, he has received a MacArthur Genius Fellowship (2003), was named one of America’s “25 Best Leaders” by US News & World Report (2005), and was selected as one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” (2006). And if you think Dr. Kim is a geek, forget it; he played quarterback for his high school football team in Muscatine, Iowa! (He has been spotted playing flag football on the Dartmouth Green and showed up at our party wearing his Dartmouth Football cap and sweatshirt.)
In his remarks to us, he outlined how he came to Dartmouth to build better human beings – truly extraordinary leaders; the kind of leaders we will need to tackle global problems such as HIV/AIDS and climate change. He noted how truly remarkable and accomplished leaders all possess the quality of humility, something that instantly reminded me of one of the characteristics of Level Five leaders in Jim Collins’ bestseller “Good to Great.” During the Q&A following Dr. Kim’s remarks, I asked him how he had managed to retain his humility, given his extraordinary success. After some self-deprecating remarks about reading a raft of critical emails, articles and blogs, he became quite serious and brought up his meditation practice. He meditates as often as he can given his busy work and family schedule. He credits his mindfulness practice with helping to keep him balanced and humble and recommended a meditation practice to anyone that was in a position of leadership or aspired to maximize their leadership capabilities.
I could not agree more. I have been meditating off and on for ten years and have stepped up my practice in the last three years, as I have transitioned out of investment banking and into executive coaching. The health benefits of a consistent meditation practice have been studied and demonstrated for years. Here are a few facts:
Studies have shown that a daily meditation practice has lowered blood pressure in patients, lowered stress, and increased focus and concentration.
Meditation is an effective treatment for reducing stress and anxiety that accompanies daily life and chronic illness.
Harvard Medical School has determined that areas of the brain which deal with attention and processing sensory input have been found to actually thicken over time in a sample of volunteers who followed a daily meditation practice.
If you would like to begin a meditation practice, there are numerous websites and books on the topic. Or, you can probably find a local meditation instructor, although I do not think that is entirely necessary. One book that will jumpstart your practice is “The Mindful Leader: Awakening Your Natural Management Skills Through Mindfulness Meditation” by Michael Carroll.
Here is to your continued mindfulness!