Thirty years ago, the mantra of the business world was "greed is good" because (as the movie Wall Street put it), "greed captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit ... greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind."
This isn't a life philosophy so much as a management theory. It encouraged--nay, demanded--that executives pursue their own self-interest and self-enrichment, not for themselves but for the betterment of mankind.
The "greed is good" theory was a departure from earlier concepts of good management, which tended to emphasize stewardship of the company, its employees, its customers, and the community at large.
Steve Jobs begged to differ. For him, it wasn't greed that caused individuals (and therefore mankind) to evolve; it was mindfulness. Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson quotes Jobs explaining this way of thinking:
If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle things--that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.
In the midst of the "greed is good" craze (which isn't over yet, alas), Jobs was embracing mindfulness, which is its exact opposite. Mindfulness focuses on the internal/mystical; greed focuses on the external/material. See? Exact opposites. Now, eight years after Jobs's death and 30 years after he embraced the mystical, neuroscience has proved that his intuition was correct. Brain scans have recently shown that mindfulness meditation makes you a more effective and creative manager. According to a recent article, "The Neuroscience of Meditation," published in the British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing,
It has been shown that mindfulness, as a result of neuroscientific changes caused by its practice, can enhance attention, whereby the anterior cingulate cortex (the region associated with attention) has shown changes in activity and structure as a response to mindfulness meditation. Fronto-limbic networks involved in processes that improve emotion regulation, and reduction in stress, show patterns of engagement through mindfulness meditation practice.
In other words, mindfulness meditation helps a manager become better able to 1) concentrate for longer periods of time, 2) remain calm when under pressure, and 3) better handle job-related stress, all of which are of great benefit to managers. Mindfulness also increases creativity, according to research conducted at the University of Amsterdam and published in the Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin, which noted that Studies examining effects of mindfulness on factors pertinent to creativity suggest a uniform and positive relation.
What Jobs intuited and neuroscience has now confirmed is that it's not the carrot of greed that motivates great leaders. It's their ability to find inspiration within themselves and then communicate that inspiration to others. Brilliant!
Article originally published in INC.com.