INsight/ How Roosters Inspire

How will you develop your leadership in the year of the Fire Rooster? What place will you visit to reflect on that? You can find Chinese temples almost everywhere. This fire burns at the 1,500-year old Shaolin monastery, where thousands of students still come to gain knowledge, learn ethics, and practice kung fu.

How will you develop your leadership in the year of the Fire Rooster? What place will you visit to reflect on that? You can find Chinese temples almost everywhere. This fire burns at the 1,500-year old Shaolin monastery, where thousands of students still come to gain knowledge, learn ethics, and practice kung fu.

Manila, 2 February 2017 — Featuring the world's largest annual migration, the Spring Festival—better known as Chinese New Year—is being celebrated this week by people around the globe. How can the Year of the Rooster help to inspire your leadership this year?

First of all, thanks to those among you who have written me to share feedback how you have used the leadership insights of previous posts in your business and life. I am always looking for such feedback and I enjoy learning from your experiences. 

Exploring Chinese Astrology

In the bright lights and colors of Chinese New Year, I am writing about the inspiration we can find in Chinese astrology. To join me in this conversation, I assume that you know which of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac is associated with your year of birth, and that you have read about the characteristics (strengths and weaknesses) of your Chinese birth-year animal. 

If you have not yet discovered your Chinese birth-year animal, I suggest that you do it now. Finding out is easy. There are many websites on the topic. Here is one to start with if you have difficulty choosing. 

Consulting Chinese astrology for curiosity and inspiration goes as deep as you want. It's not just your year of birth that is important, but also the month, day, hour, and location. With each layer, more details are revealed. Quite similar to Western astrology, which also originated in Asia (Mesopotamia) more than 3,000 years ago. We are dealing with long traditions when it comes to astrology. I read that our year 2017 is year 4714 in the Chinese calendar.

My Chinese birth-year animal is the rooster, and not just any rooster. It's the fire rooster, the sign that is highlighted this year! Because there are five kinds of roosters (and every other animal), each specific one only comes into prime view once in 60 years. Aha, so now you know my year of birth too. I have a big birthday coming up this month.

Taking Opposite Perspectives

Now why did I choose to write about Chinese astrology this time? Because, like other parts of Chinese philosophy, it always takes two perspectives on everything in our life and leadership. Like two sides of a coin. You can call them positive and negative. And everything moves between these poles, like a continuous recycling of energy. It's a refreshing way of looking at the world, and at ourselves in that world.

In Chinese astrology, paradoxically, the rooster year is not seen as the greatest time for roosters to celebrate in the limelight. No, this astrology prompts us to change our thinking, to actually turn it upside down. The year 2017 is for roosters to share their best values and skills with the rest of humanity, for their benefit rather than their own. All non-roosters, pay attention.

This way of upside-down thinking is valuable to us as leaders. It helps us to stay grounded, and to reframe every situation we encounter towards a better outcome, using whatever energy and resources we find. In my study of Chinese philosophy, I keep encountering these refreshingly 'unconventional' ways of seeing the world around us, together with healthy exercises to get spirit, mind and body to work in harmony. 

Three Worldviews on Astrology

The way we use astrology in our life is up to us. We can take inspiration or guidance from it according to our worldview and personal development. I see three ways, each of which is accessible to us, so we have a choice what perspective to take.

The first way is to see the world around us as a mysterious place in which we need to keep ourselves secure from unseen forces that are much bigger than we are. We are part of the system, and our fate and success are largely predetermined by these larger and unseen forces. There are good times and bad times and ways for the activities we undertake, and we compensate for what we are told is inauspicious by introducing practices that will balance them out and keep us safe. Astrology when taken to the details is full of horoscopic advice how to do this.   

The smoke rising up from incense sticks symbolizes the prayers and reflections of those who visit temples during the Spring Festival (Tết) on the Lunar New Year, here at Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake.

The smoke rising up from incense sticks symbolizes the prayers and reflections of those who visit temples during the Spring Festival (Tết) on the Lunar New Year, here at Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake.

The second way is to see our world as a place where science, rational thinking, and hard work determine our success. Full stop. Astrology is largely seen as pseudoscientific and generating advice that gives false comfort and fake prescriptions. Therefore not worth reading and spending time on. You know that Wikipedia tells you that astrology has consistently failed objective tests. If you hold this worldview, then you will probably try to silence the little voice in your head that is still curious about what the Year of the Rooster can bring you. 

The third way is to see the world as a holistic and creative living system that connects and aligns the individual to the universal and vice versa. Our world is in a state of continuous and creative unfolding, allowing us to draw inspiration from multiple sources of knowledge at all levels, to bring out the best in us and others. We respect traditions (including astrology and Feng Shui), yet we are not limited by them, because we are connected directly to the Source of it all. Astrology reminds us of the diversity in our world, and we see that as sources of inspiration for solutions, innovative disruption, and new growth.

These three ways of seeing the world were recognized by Professor Clare Graves and his colleagues as the purple value system of safety and security, the orange value system of science, competition and prosperity, and the turquoise or holistic value system of living and working in an interconnected way with our environment. See my earlier post on these value systems.

Importantly, we have access to all of these three as well as the other value systems identified by Prof Graves. In our personal development we can grow through each of them as we transcend and include each worldview in turn. And we can see that same development show up in the friends and colleagues we talk with, in our groups, and in society. As we learn more and our worldview expands further, we gain more appreciation for the journey that got us to that point, and we discover how we can help others during their journey.

Learning from Chinese Masters

Along my journey, what I learned from my Chinese Dao masters Mantak Chia and Liu Yuantong is that while the basic energies around us do matter (in respect to a purple worldview of astrology and Feng Shui), the creative energies that an awakened practitioner (leader) can tap to generate change around her or him (resembling a turquoise worldview), are much more powerful.  

Chinese New Year is therefore also a good time to study the Dao De Jing, the foremost classic of Chinese philosophy by Lao Tzu, on how to live your life in the best (we might say smartest) way. 

There are many other features of Chinese philosophy that make it so powerful for us to use in leadership development today, and I will write about these another time. 

Three Leadership Questions for Chinese New Year

When it comes to using astrology to inspire your development as a leader in 2017, your approach may depend on the perspective you take, based on the value system that you use most for coping with life's challenges. What I recommend is to explore the third way to reflect on, and answer these questions during this Chinese New Year celebration:

1. What individual strengths does your Chinese birth-year animal inspire you to build for your leadership growth, starting now?

2. What interpersonal skills does your Chinese birth-year animal inspire you to develop to work more effectively with others in 2017?

3. What negative behavior does your Chinese birth-year animal inspire you to replace this year with a positive behavior to support your leadership? 

After you have reflected on these questions, do you still want additional inspiration from people born in the year of the rooster?

Inspiration from Roosters

Here it is then. According to Chinese astrologers, these are some of the positive traits of roosters: observant, inquisitive, charming, caring, confident, independent, enterprising, proactive, accurate, and easy to engage in discussion. On the negative side, it has been observed that roosters can be impatient, critical, blunt, and intolerant of unmotivated people. Take note and may that also inspire you for your leadership this year.

 
If you always give, you will always have.
— Chinese proverb
 

Wishing you good health, happiness and prosperity in the Year of the Rooster! 

Happy Chinese New Year! 

Happy Chinese New Year!