This qualitative study examined the experience of Tibetan Buddhist monks in managerial leadership roles. The research consisted of qualitative interviews with seven monks and lamas who practice Tibetan Buddhism in various management and leadership roles, in the effort to understand their monastic training, ethical tenets and practices, thoughts and feelings about roles, and use of spiritual practices such as mindfulness and meditation.
The findings of the study indicated common themes among the participants. First, the primary purpose of the participants was to practice compassion and empathy in order to help others. Second, Buddhist practices such as mindfulness and meditation were perceived by the participants as contributing to their effectiveness as managers and leaders by clearing, calming, focusing and stabilizing the mind. The practices were seen as allowing better relationship management, decision-making ability, and wisdom, while assisting with stress management and control of negative emotions.
Third, positive relationships with lamas, or teachers, were extremely important to all aspects of training, which for the Tibetans, began during childhood. The monks were more comfortable discussing their respective teachers as leaders, than identifying themselves as leaders. Finally, the monks' ethical tenets and practices were based on the desire to achieve virtuous living. Virtuous living was equated with generosity, patience, right effort, meditation, and wisdom. The monks perceived ethical leaders as those who were diligent, sincere, consistent, and able to separate philosophy from religion. In addition to employing the practice of mindfulness to increase insight and awareness, mindfulness was used as a form of mind watching, or self-monitoring, to align thoughts and actions with ethical beliefs.
The results of this study offer insight into to (a) different approaches of employing spiritual practices in the role of manager and leader and (b) the possibility of practicing mindfulness as a tool in aligning ethics with behavior.