The First Leader in My Life:

Since I wrote my blog about COMANDS: The Seven Traits/Skills of Effective Leadership, many people have asked me to say more about my grandmother, Esmat Bazarganan, who was basically the first leader in my life. I also wrote about qualities of mindful awareness and the four kinds of experiences that followers are drawn to as they look up to a leader and that my grandmother embodied these qualities so well.

To recap, according to Gallup worldwide research, four qualities that draw followers are: Hope, Trust, Compassion, and Stability. As I reflect back my grandma mindfully embodied and exhibited these qualities that followers need from their leaders. She did that by engaging people in ways that were natural, kind and compassionate. People loved her and wanted to be around her, they wanted to do things for her and be a part of her life. She never explicitly talked about her life mission. She simply lived it. Esmat was not educated as her time and culture had not allowed for it. However, as smart and effective as she was, had she had the chance she could run a multi-billion dollar corporation with ease.

My first recollection of her is when I was only three or four years old back in Tehran. She would take me to religious gatherings where women sat around a room leaning against the wall. Sitting on floors covered by Persian carpets is the traditional way of sitting in Iran. These gatherings were in someone's home, and there was a teacher who spoke about God and how to be a good person. As I think back, I realize she must have picked the teachers and teachings very carefully as I don't remember any dogma or a judgemental God preached about. All I ever remember is talks about forgiveness, kindness, compassion, love for family, neighbours, the poor and human kind. Most vivid image I have is how she engaged me with these sessions through actions than words.

She would pack a handkerchief with some pita bread, a Persian cucumber, some feta cheese, a knife to cut the cucumber and a salt shaker to sprinkle salt on the cucumber. The sight of the salt shaker alone made me feel so happy, for the salt intensified the taste of the Persian cucumber. She made sure that we sat in the corner of what was a rectangular room so I could turn around and eat without feeling odd or embarrassed. It was in the details that I felt cared for. She wasn't just taking me there to teach me stuff.

An hour or so after arriving at the gathering, she would open her bag and my heart would pound with the joy of knowing what was coming. She'd have me turn my back to the rest of the room, then gently open the handkerchief, neatly organize the cheese and the bread and peel the cucumber, cut it in small pieces and sprinkle the salt on it. Ah, the aroma! I can smell it now. She'd make these perfect small bites out of the bread, cheese and cucumber and feed me while keeping me close to her body, close enough that I felt her warmth and love, completely safe.

I sat in the corner of those rooms every Wednesday and Friday morning, week after week with pride and joy, feeling as if I was the most important person in the room. The more I felt important to her the more carefully I listened to the teacher. I aspired to be loving and caring to others, the way she made me feel one with her.

Since I felt she cared about my happiness, growth, mental, emotional and physical needs, I trusted whatever she told me and did what she asked of me. er compassion was in the understanding that learning is not by force, rather by engaging with care and creating interest. It was the quality of attention she gave to the process, the mindful awareness she exhibited with my inner experience that prevented me to be bored or resistant to doing what she asked further inspiring me to pay attention and present.

In two ways she created a sense of stability : 1. By maintaining a balanced mental and emotional presence and 2. By consistently placing me in events that provided training for my heart and mind. We didn't have much, as I grew up, but as long as she was in charge fear, worry and anxiety were absent. That reinforced a feeling of security and hope.

All through my years of growing up until she died when I was twenty-seven and she nightly-four she maintained all those qualities not only with me but with everyone she encountered. During the last 20 years of her life, Esmat became best friends with a woman who gave teachings of the heart and played a vital role in her friend's success. By her subtle yet powerful leadership qualities she attracted people of all ages to attend her friend's teachings. When she passed, her graveside at the forest lawn was covered by hundreds of rows of people wearing black and paying their respects. We had no clue as to how many close friends she had had. Every person who ever came across her path felt the same level of care and connectedness and just as close to her as I did.

You could see that she was wise and skillful in leading others organically. Her wisdom and effectiveness did not come from education, for she had none, and it did not come from learning strategies to achieve hard set goals, rather her wisdom came from listening through her heart and connecting to the essence of humanity, which is an important part of the COMANDS Leadership model.

If you are a leader in any capacity or work with others consider responding to the following 5 questions:
1. How could you, as a leader, capture the hearts of your constituents at home, at work and in society, so that they will trust you with all their being and do anything you ask?
2. What can you do that tells your employees and followers you care about them without using so many words?
3. What trainings have you put them in that emphasized the heart, attentiveness, and self-love?
4. In what ways have you paid attention to your family or friends as though they were the most important people in the world?
5. In what ways do you manage your own emotions and show up to your commitments with equanimity, clarity and joy?

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