There are two things many of us need to do during these angst-inducing times: Breathe deeply….. and pour a nice cold glass of Chardonnay.
Los Angeles-based Shar McBee may have found a way to combine the two. The entrepreneur and highly successful self-published author (To Lead is To Serve, Joy of Leadership) has a relatively new one (meaning pre-pandemic) called Leadership With a Twist of Yoga. The idea came about after regularly speaking to companies on how to get employees motivated and attract volunteers. She has also been a serious Yogi.
A big part of yoga is service to others.
“A big part of yoga is service to others,” McBee says, “and it is about balance and stability.” Two other things we need during this time.
A bubbly but modest woman, McBee takes pride in knowing she has often been ahead of the curve. “People thought I was crazy to quit my job as a broadcast journalist and go to India to study yoga,” she says. But that’s what she did for more than a decade, ultimately organizing huge yoga and meditation events around the globe. “Later, everyone thought self-publishers were losers, but I persevered. Then, one day a young techie I met said, `You should call this guy in Seattle. He’s starting an online bookstore.’ Fortunately, I did. Jeff Bezos answered from his garage. He encouraged me and then thanked me for putting my book on his new platform.” (She was also the first person to tell me about Pickleball, but that’s another story.)
Sip and Surrender
So, where does the imbibing come in?
People always laugh at the combination of leadership and yoga so we started joking: let’s add wine, too.
Lately, more wineries have invited McBee to speak—virtually of course—to their supporters and staffs. McBee promotes the benefits of these sessions like this: “Leadership skills that will bring results immediately. People will want to say yes to you. Yoga to improve your balance and flexibility. Plus, don’t forget the wine! Together, we’ll toast your new people skills. ”
Radio stations have started broadcasting the inspirational and tasty events. I listened to one from the Cobblestone Winery in Napa. A tad skeptical at first, I soon found myself following McBee’s practical suggestions about breathing.
“This first exercise is not just about bringing air into your lungs,” she explained to Zoomers. “It’s about filling you up with a life force, removing sluggishness.”
“I already feel more relaxed and less moody,” said the vintner beside her that day.
“Don’t do this if you’re in a car,” she laughingly warned, as the tendency is to close our eyes while exhaling. She also gave tips on what we can do at our desks or even at home: “Most of us want to rise up [and express our thoughts],” she says, “but listen and let others speak first.”
Serving and Stretching
“Often, only two or three people attend LinkedIn Events,” she later told me. “When 130 signed up for the first one, we knew we had something unique.” More wineries are on the schedule, so McBee can master hew new ‘sip and surrender’ concept.
“I am currently teaching—particularly techies—about the yogic principle of surrender,” she explains. “They may think it means giving up, but it actually means you become more powerful. When a raindrop surrenders to the ocean, it becomes the ocean. It becomes more, not less. Surrender in leadership is as simple as listening rather than talking; trusting your intuition; not fighting to be right.”
Surrender in leadership is as simple as listening rather than talking.
McBee’s techniques have brought admiration from many quarters…with or without the alcoholic addition. “Shar McBee’s concept of ‘to lead is to serve’ emphasizes that if we expect others to give, we ourselves must set an example,” said former President George W. Bush. “It’s a concept that has really stood the test of time.” After this statement, Bush went on to talk about qualities you need to lead a group and told a story from To Lead is to Serve about a sports coach. “Who knew!” McBee exclaims.
Sue Toigo, who runs a foundation that helps young people of color get business degrees, hired McBee a few years back. “She painlessly instilled in me the importance of allowing other people to help me with the mission,” says Toigo. “She left me with tools to make what had been the most onerous part of my work into one of my easier tasks.”
When The Arthritis Foundation put out a calendar of daily quotes, it included one from McBee: Have Fun Every Day. “It was right next to one from Maya Angelou,” McBee says, beaming.
I’ll drink to that. And this is all making sense. We know that wines need time to breathe, so why shouldn’t we? Not to mention that they get better as they age!
Michele Willens’ collection of essays, From Mouskeeteers to Menopause, can be purchased on Amazon.