Reading for Leading #26: The people who give us perspective

The people who give us perspective

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

On a recent day off I enjoyed exploring the Freer Gallery in DC, where there’s a wonderful collection of Buddha statues. One particular exhibit made was a helpful reminder of the value of friends with perspective. 

In Buddhism, a boddhisattva is a compassionate person who works to ease the suffering of all beings and foregoes entering Nirvana until all others have become enlightened too. Quite a task, right?  

Where do you find your perspective?
Image credit: author’s own

And as with any aspirational, visionary goal, it can be important not to cling too tightly to it. In the exhibit shown, the plaque below it tells the story of Avalokiteshvara, the boddhisattva of compassion, who was so overwhelmed by the wish to help everyone else, that his head exploded. Sound familiar? Perhaps you’re juggling too many stakeholders…Or there are too many competing demands on your time…Or you’re finding it difficult to see what the right course of action is from here on out…

In Avalokiteshvara’s case, the Buddha Amitabha picked up all the fragments of the exploded head and refashioned them into 11 heads so that Avalokiteshvara might see the needs of all sentient beings more clearly.

You probably don’t want to go through such dramatic surgery to resolve your feelings of being overwhelmed, but you likely have some friends who can give you some equivalent perspective. Who plays the role of the 11 heads in your life? Who do you turn to in order to better understand what might be going on? Not necessarily to reinforce your existing world view or to hold your head in place so that it doesn’t explode, but to help you see things from a different angle, to be reminded of the resources you already have. And perhaps to find a little humour in amongst the struggle too…


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