Linda Bjork is not your typical executive. As the head of the ship that is Bjork Business, she helps business leaders, their teams, their organizations and their brands establish healthy and productive office cultures based on presence, awareness, inspiration and integrity. “There is nothing if you’re not present,” she says. “It’s a universal skill.” To find out why, read on!
How would you describe yourself?
In the big picture, I’m a Renaissance woman, by which I mean that I’ve created a balance between art and science and soul. I’m very much an engineer, I’m very much an artist, and I’m very much a spiritual person. I love business, and I love helping people in their business. I think business has an important role in society, and we haven’t used it the best way we can. And the way we have used it is obviously not working. To drill down a little bit, I work with the inner business of people. Sometimes I use my skills in branding. Sometimes I use my skills in leadership. Very often, I use my skills as a people person. I believe that our minds are the least utilized business development frontier. If we change the ways we use our minds, we can create a much better world for ourselves.
Was there a moment when you realized you had to change your own behavior?
There were a few, like the time I said to an employee, “Do I have to remind you that it’s your job to do what I say?” I was a creative director in Los Angeles at the time. I was reacting to his behavior, and there were a bunch of things I could have said to myself to justify my response, all of which were true, and none of which were relevant. I realized I needed to be my own person, with my integrity and my values and my boundaries.
Right. Because you cannot change another person. All you can change is your own behavior.
Right. And you can learn, quickly, how to go into those situations with awareness and say, “I am aware that I am reacting with anger.” Anger is very quick. That’s why it’s hard to combat. But the more you practice, the more swift your awareness becomes. Then you can identify your emotional reaction as anger but choose to act differently. You can then figure out, from a clear and calm mind, how to proceed to your next decision.
So what happened after this incident?
I wish I could say that it was my big lesson, and that it has been fine ever since. But of course it hasn’t. I did become more aware of the power of my ego. I realized that what I said came from my ego. I’ve had many incidents since then, but I’ve stopped calling them terrible, and started seeing myself with lots of love. And I don’t say things like that anymore. I’ve been a leader for a long time. I was a CEO of Amore, a branding agency based in Scandinavia. I know what it’s like to be a blank screen onto which many people can project their psychological bullshit. I’m the mother, I’m an authority figure, I’m all these things, and it comes up. The worst employees I had were younger men with very dominant fathers. They have an idea about women that doesn’t resonate with having a female boss.
How did you go from being a CEO to starting the business you have now?
I felt called. I noticed that my true joy was in leading and inspiring my staff. I noticed a lot of suffering in other leaders around me. I thought, “I have things to share.”
I know that meditation is a part of your program, and when I arrived, you mentioned that you’ve been meditating for 19 years. Did you start as a result of observing your behavior?
I had a practice throughout. I studied Eastern religions in New York in my 20s, and I learned Transcendental Meditation. I’d always been a little bit of a seeker. Even though my education was in engineering and fine arts, I was always wondering. And like a scientist, I want to test things out. I want to comb through them and make sure. So when all of these different life experiences happened, I felt drawn to exploring the mind. It just seemed like there was something bigger going on.
What role does meditation play in the business you have now?
It is an essential element of everything that I teach, although I do have some clients with whom I never meditate. They benefit from other tools where I can make them present. Some people have too much of a mental block to accept that they would benefit from meditation. In 2006, I started studying mindfulness, and I’ve gone through many eight-week mindfulness courses since then. I’ve also become a trained instructor. Mindfulness offers a lot of great tools that you can integrate into daily life.
What are the three qualities that make a good leader, and how do they make a leader great?
- Presence. If you’re not present, you will not relate, and you will not make good decisions.
- Alertness. You can be present, but when you add awareness to that, you become alert. I can think of no better weapon in business and leadership than to be alert.
- Non-judgment. We have so many preconceived ideas about things, and we have so much programming going on. We live most of our lives guided by programming from other people. We made all of these decisions based on something someone else decided for us. Once we’re present and alert, non-judgment allows us to see many more possibilities in people, situations and business deals. And most importantly, we can see those possibilities in ourselves.