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sequence that of the business

sphere could be described as
rather chaotic. The waves of
change do not seem to be subsiding. Instead, they appear to be
growing stronger. What is your
view on the recent developments
in modern society?

Tom Best

The Energy of Leadership
A Brief History of Evolutionary NLP and Practical Applications in the World of Business.

The following interview of Tom Best by Slovenian NLP Trainer Sandra Bohinec
Gorjak was originally published in the June 2011 issue of Marketing magazine
“MM361”, a marketing and business entrepreneur magazine in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Tom Best, an internationally
acclaimed and highly sought
after NLP trainer (NLP –
Programming), cultural
communications theoretician
and practitioner. In his
research-education work he
focuses on the intersections
between the cultures of the
modern Western world and
Native American shamanism,
as well as connections
between theory and practice.
In Texas, USA, where he
works as a lecturer and
researcher, he founded and
heads the Texas Institute for
NLP, conducts training
courses and cooperates with
many international
educational and business

Sandra: The course of your professional life took you from cultural
anthropologist to NLP trainer and
finally to Native American shamanism. How would you describe the
set of circumstances that led you
down this path? How did you come
to encounter the Native American
shamans? Do you continue to maintain relations with them?

raised a bony fist and rapped me
painfully three times on the chest directly over my heart as he shouted the
words “No half way!” My eyes rolled
back in my head, the world started to
spin and… something changed in my
life. I realized that I really had been
living ‘half way’… not really fully
committed to my life… and that there
was another way to live.

Actually, I began my exploration of
the world of the shaman many years
before my interest in NLP. My first
real exposure to shamanism was
about 40 years ago when I met an old
Taos Pueblo Indian from New Mexico
named Juan Gomez. I had just participated in my first Native American
Church ceremony in rural New Mexico. The experience itself was profound… a true opening of the ‘doors
of perception’. It was an intense
night of drums, rattles, prayer songs
and visions. As I walked out of the
tipi at sunrise, I was lost in a world of
confusion and doubt, not quite sure
that what I had experienced during
the night was real.

Since that time, along with my wife
Bobbi, I’ve studied Hawaiian
shamanism or Huna (which Bobbi
introduced me to in 1987), Hopi and
Navajo ceremonialism, some of the
shamanic disciplines from Mexico,
and in recent years, Bobbi and I have
worked and studied with shamans
from the high Andes of Peru. The Peruvian experience has been extremely important in our personal
and professional life. We have been
taking groups down to Peru to work
with a remote tribe called the Q’ero
for the last 16 years. On our most recent trip last October, we brought together people from six different
countries to experience the People of
Mountains and Stars.

Juan, a very short and very, very old
Indian holy man, walked up to me and
held me with his eyes like a mountain
lion staring at a rabbit. He slowly

I came to the world of NLP through
the doorway of my interest in aboriginal and primitive cultures. In

1981, I was completing a University
degree in cultural anthropology and
religious studies when I first heard
about NLP. I was becoming disillusioned with classic anthropological
models, since they told me very little
about the consciousness of traditional
peoples – of how they really experienced their world. NLP immediately
illuminated the darkness of their
inner life. For example, I discovered
that the NLP technique of ‘The New
Behavior Generator’ is structurally
equivalent to a Navajo Indian sand
painting ceremony.
I’ve always been curious about what,
specifically, it is that we define as
subjective experience. My own experience, based on the evidence of my
senses, has led me to conclude that
there are human beings in the world
who are having the subjective experience of communicating with stars,
listening to mountains, calling the
wind, seeing luminous filaments of
energy and using those luminous filaments of energy to heal others.
In many ways, I think that NLP is a
kind of 21st century shamanism. You
can travel through time with timelines, you can become another person with 2nd position shifts, you can

explore the inner-regions of the psyche through various NLP techniques.
These are also ‘shamanic’ abilities.
Much like NLP, shamanism is a
bridge between the ‘present’ and the
‘possible’ human. It, too, allows you
to ‘clean the instrument of the self ‘
and enables you to participate in a
realm of higher human functioning.
As I investigated the structural similarities between NLP and native
world views, I began to explore the
deep cultural programming of technological societies. I did this because, having been in the NLP
training community for quite some
time, I had begun to notice a significant shift in the world of NLP. Many
people were realizing that mere
techniques were only a pale foreground to the background of consciousness. NLP practitioners began
to suspect that there was another
evolutionary stage in the development
of NLP, and indeed, in themselves as
well. They realized that, as western
technological cultures, we’ve not
only created ‘maps of the territory’
we have stepped into and have become lost in those maps.
Sandra: The current state of
human civilization, and as a con-

Well, of course, one of the most popular folk metaphors to describe the
current period in history is the Chinese ideogram for Conflict. It’s said
that it’s made of two separate
ideograms, one of which represents
‘Danger’ and the other which represents ‘Opportunity.’ Personally, I
think this current historical moment
is much more than that. The acceleration of history which technology
has forced upon us has diminished
our participation in meaningful relationships with others and the
world. Gregory Bateson, a great
American ‘systems thinker’ and one
of the grandfathers of NLP points
out that we have created our current
economic, social, political and personal crises by relying on a “lethal
triangle”, composed of these three
sides: 1.Technology; 2. The replacement of natural context by artificial
context (ie the current ecological
crisis); 3. Conscious planning without unconscious process.
The most serious side of this triangle
is ‘conscious planning without unconscious process.’ In other words, our
technological societies rely almost exclusively on the rational cognitive
mind of the ego without consultation
and connection to the wisdom of the
unconscious, the spirit, or what Bateson called ‘the wisdom of the full circle of life.’ As a result, our economic
and social structures are dominated
by power, dominance, abuse and
short term satisfaction. The good
news is that, like any ‘healing crisis’
these dire warnings give us the opportunity to change some of our basic
presuppositions about our business
and personal lives.

Sandra: During unstable conditions, the role of leaders is particularly important and challenging.
When frustration and apathy run
loose in business environments
(global crisis, dismissal of workers,
frequent order cancellations, manipulative influence of the media)
questions arise: are leaders able to
muster the strength and energy
necessary in order to steer companies through the crisis period and
understand it as an opportunity
for development
Leadership is about creating a compelling vision and motivating people
to achieve it. Businesses that don’t
have this capability, can’t hope to
survive in today’s turbulent economy. In order to create these new visions for the 21st century, our
models of business and particularly
of ‘leadership’ must change. A commitment to new forms of leadership
that includes a real appreciation and
honouring of others must come into
being. Lao Tzu, the great Chinese
philosopher put it this way: ‘The bad
leader is the one who the people dislike. The good leader the one who
the people praise. The Great leader is
the one who leads the people to say
“We did it ourselves.”
When leaders participate in business
organizations that value the worth
of others, then the ‘strength and energy necessary to steer companies
through crisis’ is a natural by-product. When conflict transforms into
cooperation, life force energy spontaneously increases for everyone in
the system.
Sandra: How should sales and marketing professionals develop the
motivation to hang on? How to take
personal time off and restore depleted energy in the widespread
pandemic of time shortage? Is there
any room left for actually believing
that business and life are about to
turn for the better? How to ensure

that the thought of “better days”
doesn’t remain merely an idea?

mover and shaper of global consciousness.

Our professional and personal lives
are dynamically connected to energy in its many forms. From our
physical body to our performance in
the workplace to the highest aspirations of our spirit, the way we use
our energy determines the quality of
our lives. At times, in both our professional and personal lives, our energetic flow becomes blocked and
we experience physical pain, emotional distress or mental anguish...
and our lives become difficult, and
although there are various techniques and strategies for reducing
stress in a complicated world, these
strategies are only symptomatic and

If you look at the symbology over
time, it’s very interesting. Just look
at the evolution of architecture and
the city. In the beginning, the campfire was the social focus of the community. As time passed and religions
came to ascendancy, it became the
church that was the focal point of
life as evidenced by their central location in most medieval cities. With
the growth of humanism and
democracy, the central point in the
city became the governmental buildings. And now, with the growth and
undeniable importance of commerce, it is the office tower that
dominates the cityscape.

The critical thing to keep in mind is
that we are the ones who created
these disfunctional systems in the
first place. And we, each one of us,
are the only ones who can change
these systems. Perhaps they had an
appropriate place in the past, but
with our rapidly shrinking world and
the globalization of business, it’s time
to create something new. Certainly
we are creative enough. The question
is, are we compassionate enough and
do we have the will to change. Ultimately each individual must make
that decision for themselves.
Sandra: There appears to be an increasing demand for socially responsible and innovative
communications approaches. Communication has a wide range of effects in the business world, not
only on marketing but also on culture and society. How would you
rate the social responsibility of
today’s managers?
Not only managers, but CEO’s and
departmental personnel all have a
tremendous social responsibility in
today’s world. With increasing globalization, business is the primary

The social responsibility that goes
along with this focus is immense.
Fortunately, this ‘social responsibility’ is ultimately in the hands and
hearts of business men and
women… and the expression of
those hands and hearts can change.

civilization. A certain Spanish conquistador-overseer thus wrote to
the king of Spain: “We had found
this land in a state where there
were no thieves, no lazy or evil
men. Everything was in good order
and balanced with great wisdom,
and the leaders were well respected.” What about our society,
full of inequality, exclusion and exploitation? How can we rediscover
some of that wisdom and harmony? How can leaders regain the
respect of their followers?

sun, the mother moon, all have spirits. And, do you know, they are families just like us! And they all have a
participation in our real world. We
are all implicated in reality.

John Grinder, the original developer
on NLP, in his book Turtles All The
Way Down, put it this way “When we
propose looking to intact traditional
cultures for the kind of balance and
aesthetics which will guide us in creating personal culture, we are implicitly making a claim, namely, that
there is a wisdom to the organization of traditional cultures which
does not exist in our society.”

As we evolve, and the world around
us seems to grow smaller and often
more threatening, our need for an
understanding of ourselves as global
citizens increases. This requires an
appreciation for the uniqueness
around us. It requires that we be
able to see beyond the mask of isolated ego and celebrate the rich cultural diversity the world offers. On
our beautiful planet, there are people who talk to stones, who listen to
the rain, who learn from the trees,
who know the secrets of the waterfalls and the waves... and they are
still alive, still with us. Their unique
‘species of consciousness’ is tremendous resource on our planet.

Self-awareness is the first step.
When a managers learns how to
manage the complexity and challenge within themselves, they naturally use those skills in dealing with
others. Awareness, and especially
self-awareness, strengthens the enlightened manager. Awareness also
helps them to understanding issues
involving ethics and values. It creates the ability of being able to view
most situations from a more integrated, holistic position.

The most significant difference between the native world and the
world of technological societies is
the difference in their relationship
to the environment. Much of NLP
has arisen from strategies designed
to change our “mental maps of reality“ and has been designed for application in an environment from
which we are largely disconnected.
The operational presupposition here
is that humans are separate from nature. The environment, whether it’s
a tropical beach, your past history,
your boss, your relationships or the
voices in your head, is seen as something to be mastered and manipulated as you climb the ladder toward
success, enlightenment, power… or
just a better life.

Sandra: Reading historical facts on
the Inca civilization, one comes
across information stating that the
already the first Spanish conquistadors discussed the interesting organization of this ancient

The key principle in the shamanic
world, on the other hand, is that the
environments has spirit. Everything
has a spirit. The water has a spirit,
the mountain has a spirit, the stars
have spirits, the wind, the father

Sandra: How can managers increase their own awareness of the
complexity of the consequences of
their actions?

So, in search of this ‘wisdom’ which
our technological culture lacks, it
becomes obvious that one important
place to look is toward cultures that
experience ‘balance’ and ‘aesthetics’
as qualities arising within an environment which is sacred and in
which all things are connected.

Shamanic consciousness is a deliberate pattern of thought and behaviour designed to focus the mind,
integrate the body and spirit, bypass the analytical and security filters of the ego, and accomplish a
specific healing or helping purpose.
Shamanic consciousness permits
you to live in a world in which
everything is alive, everything has a
spirit and everything has meaning…
and that is an experience that
brings richness to your life as a
human being. The integration of
this world-view into our own lives
validates our current reality in a
unique way by planting ancient
seeds in a modern garden in order
to allow a new tree of consciousness
to flower there.

Ultimately, our leaders can learn the
same lesson that the ancient Inca
leaders knew so well… you gain the
respect of those you lead by respecting them, then and only then are you
truly worthy of their respect.
Sandra: How should the leader,
using the energy of the dialogue,
shape the values and business
ethics that drive the reputation of
the company? Why is personal energy and strength of character so
important when it comes to leadership?
‘Personal energy and strength of
character’ has within it the potential
for healing one’s self and, thereby,
others. Many people have broken
spirits and have suffered from a variety of emotional hurts. Although
this is part of being human, enlightened leaders recognize that they also
have an opportunity to “help make
whole” those with whom they come
in contact. In his book “The Servant
as Leader”, Robert Greenleaf writes:
“There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served
and led if implicit in the compact between servant-leader and led is the
understanding that the search for
wholeness is something they share.”
Sandra: Change is an important
factor of business life. It can be
positive or negative. How can its
prefix be influenced by the leader
and his leadership energy?
For me, this question is best answered by the following quote from
an aboriginal Australian woman that
expresses the true essence of business and being human… “If you have
come to help me, you are wasting
your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up
with mine, then let us work together. “
© 2011 Tom Best