When No One Wants To Lead

To lead or not to lead

What happens in a company or in a country when no one wants to lead? And what happens to the world when we don’t lead ourselves?

Most of the leaders and executives I have worked with, individually or in a group, struggle with the issue of both wanting, and not wanting to, lead themselves and others. Yes, most people want to lead their lives on paper and most executives have made an explicit choice of wanting to lead others. But not when the shit hits the fan, not when it involves sacrifices, and not when it takes real courage. This struggle has always been present for me as well. I would say that my entire life has been a series of awakenings where I, each time, discovered another self-illusion. It is actually really difficult.

We are deeply conditioned by the society we live in, our family of origin, and the people we spend our days with. Our brains are wired to fear the loss of anything we have more than to rejoice at the potential of gaining something new. We are also wired to fear the loss of social standing (no one wants to be thrown out of paradise, facing nightfall alone in the wild is not for the faint of heart).

The fear of being disliked, combined with a lack of knowledge on how to deal wisely with dissent, are probably the two main reasons why leaders, especially in conflict-averse Sweden, prefer not to act in a clash. Over time this allows tensions to fester and positions get entrenched. It has been acutely visible in the political domain ever since I got back to Sweden, where the pride of being labeled as “good” or the fear of being labeled as “evil”, has stopped any form of needed intelligent discourse, and it has closed the hearts of many.

Finally, the most apparent example of absentee leadership is when a mistake has been made, and there is a fallout based on that mistake. This is probably the hardest test for any leader, and it shows us how far we’ve come in our own development. Unfortunately, in politics, as well as in the business world, most of us end up abdicating from  responsibility, not in the least in the US, where there is always a real risk to get sued, especially if there is money involved. We blame the circumstances, the structures; we plead naivety (Sweden), ignorance (the US), and as the often is the case, we try to pin the blame on someone else.

It is very difficult being a leader in the spotlight, whether in business or politics, if you never  learned how to lead yourself. Therefore it always comes back to basics; namely that in order to lead others we first have to be able to lead ourselves, and to make the commitment to keep evolving as human beings. We have to want to assume the responsibility of being active co-creators of our lives, of being agents instead of victims, and we have to dare to stand up for what we believe in – and to take the consequences of those beliefs. If not, we shrink as human beings, our souls shrivel up and we stop expanding. We never get to fulfill our potential, to become the wise, compassionate, creative, and absolutely unique person and leader we could be – and that the world needs. That is a high price – for ourselves and for the planet – to pay.

Lotta Lovisa Alsén








Yoga, Depression & Heart Coherence

Early yoga days, 2004, on a roof top in Stockholm

Yoga saved my life. Or to put it more precisely; it opened the door to life. My first yoga intensive weekend in Stockholm 2000 was the beginning of a whole new journey that took place in California where yoga was my North Star. A path that I wouldn’t have been able to sustain without my practice. When I moved back to Sweden this summer, 15 years later, I lost my footing, my yoga community, and I stopped practicing except for a few minutes a day. Which is not enough for me. The headaches, as well as my depression returned. It’s difficult for me to stay in the body, so I need a solid 6o minute-practice for a minimum of five days a week, which I find a very cheap, expedient and non-invasive anti-depressant. As soon as I recommitted to a longer session, thanks to online yoga classes with my favorite teachers, things  shifted and life now is increasingly getting lighter. My story is not unique.

Countless studies have been made on yoga’s effect on our health. Here is some of the latest research on what yoga does for our brains and bodies:

  • Yoga increases the so called “feel-good”-chemicals of the brain, which regulate our mood as well as our general well-being. The most well-known are serotonin, (happiness) dopamin, (motivation) and GABA (serenity).
  • Yoga regulates regulates both the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system (which helps us cool down after trauma) and restores balance in the body (by sending blood to the endocrine glands, digestive organs and lymphatic circulation, while the heart rate and blood pressure is lowered).
  • Yoga improves our immune system, probably by lowering cortisol.
  • Yoga reduces inflammation in the body, which we today know is the precursor for many serious diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and depression.

If that wasn’t enough to get you to a yoga class, new research is even more fascinating. According to Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk, professor in Psychiatry at Boston University and specialized in trauma and PTSD:

  • Yoga is one of the very few activities that creates heart coherence. A person that has suffered trauma automatically shuts off the body, the very place where trauma is stored, which makes it difficult to treat psychologically. Only when heart coherence is achieved, and the body is “on” again, so to speak, can the person begin to heal. But even if we haven’t sustained a major trauma, even life’s small stresses put pressure on the body and our heart coherence gets out of sync.
  • Heart coherence is a state “that increases synchronization and harmony between our cognitive, emotional and physiological systems”, according to HeartMath. Some of the benefits are “the ability to build resilience, which helps us dealing with stressful situations and recover more quickly, … as well as improvement of memory, increased ability to focus and process information and overall improvement in learning.”

I’ve been interested in heart coherence for years. When we were working on the video-game, my colleague and I did extensive research on how to achieve heart coherence through sensor technology and deep breathing. I had no idea at the time, though, that yoga did all of that automatically.

Beyond all the effects on the body, we also know that yoga affects our psychology and ultimately our ability to connect with something beyond ourselves.

With all this knowledge at hand, I’m more committed than ever not only to practice, but also to teach others. I’m particularly interested in supporting those suffering from trauma, for example many of the current refugees. Yoga means to unite and to take us from the darkness to the light. Now we understand why.

Lotta Alsén

A Mindful Nation


The UK is taking steps into becoming a Mindful Nation according to an article in the Guardian. The main reason is to find ways of diminishing mental ill-health, which is expected to be the biggest burden of disease by 2030 in developed countries, according to the WHO.

I’m wondering what would happen if all countries set out to be mindful, even if it only was pretty superficial to start with? What would be the practical implications? How would that impact policy and leadership?

The Intelligent Heart & The Refugee Crisis in Sweden


I’ve been contemplating this article for some time now, almost since I got back to Sweden, which was five months ago, after having spent close to fifteen years in the US. For each month, I’ve learned more, and I’ve become increasingly concerned. This is my attempt to bring an outsider’s perspective to the staggering problems ahead of Sweden and Europe. However, I believe there is hope as well, and that there are possibilities to change a quite dark scenario, but it all starts with accepting reality as it is, and then proceed to take action with an intelligent heart.

Righteousness in Sweden and in the US

Discussing the refugee crisis with many Swedes is similar to discussing the problems with the gun laws, the consequences of closing abortion clinics and the effects of climate change with the Tea Party and the Republican Evangelicals. There is such intensity and righteousness in both corners that logic, consequences and reality are hard to find. Which surprises me. Swedes have for the past couple of hundred years been known to be pragmatic and rational, but something changed during the time I was away.  The tide is slowly turning, however, and there is a dawning realization that Sweden must start behaving a bit more like our Scandinavian neighbors. The same cannot be said for the Republican Evangelicals, unfortunately.

Lessons from an American Buddhist Monk in India

Using an example from Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist, psychologist and meditation teacher, that is taken from his book “A Path with Heart,” might illustrate the problems of giving when engulfed with human suffering.  Before Kornfield left the temple where he had studied as a Buddhist Monk in India for several months, he wanted to give away his remaining money to the beggars he was passing everyday. He had prepared s a mindful respectful ceremony, but it ended up with him fleeing for his life when he was run over with beggars. When he got back to the temple his teachers laughed at his American naivety. Another story is about a Western Buddhist woman studying in India, who one day was attacked in her rickshaw. Due to her meditation and compassion training, which she thought was only about having an open heart, she didn’t dare to do anything. When she got back and asked her teacher for advice, he said, “You should have very mindfully and with great compassion whacked the attacker over the head with your umbrella.”

The reasons why most of us (particularly Swedes, who are used to that the Swedish government takes responsibility for people’s empathy through the payment of high taxes), act with such intense emotion upon facing suffering up close, can be attributed to the fact that we are non-skilled givers. Meeting human suffering at our doorstep, combined with a lot of guilt, shame and bewilderment, make us throw pragmatism out the window. Jack Kornfield puts it beautifully:

When our sense of self-worth is still low, we cannot set limits, make boundaries, or respect our own needs. Our seemingly compassionate assistance becomes mixed with dependence, fear and insecurity. Mature love and healthy compassion are not dependent but interdependent, born out of a deep respect for ourselves as well as for others.  Jack Kornfield

Being Good

Sweden has been the most generous country in the world (per capita) when it comes to international aid for decades. The past 20 years, it has also had the most generous asylum policies for people fleeing persecution. In the past four years, Sweden decided to more or less throw the doors wide open by extending the reasons why you could seek asylum, welcoming people with a very extensive financial support, making it the most generous aid-giving country in the world. It is also the country in the world which has taken on most refugees per capita, which now is known by refugees and those seeking a better life, making Sweden the #1 go-to place, besides Germany.

A New Trend of Migration

The reality, though, is that the migration streams that we now are seeing are only partially due to the Syrian war. When transportation is getting cheaper, and people acquire the means to travel longer distances, more and more people living in abject poverty and suffering from wars, like in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, will want to seek a better life. Which many of us living in West would do as well if the situation was the reverse. However, there is no possibility that Europe, in its current set-up with a generous welfare system, can receive more than a fraction of those fleeing, even though hundreds of thousands, or more realistically, millions, from the Middle East and Africa are expected to try in the coming years.

Male Refugees & Gender Disparity

2/3 of the current refugees that have arrived so far in Sweden this year are men, and they primarily come from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, altogether arriving in numbers Sweden never has faced before. Sweden has a population of 9.5M and this year at least 190.000 are expected to arrive, which is more than the size of Uppsala, the fourth largest city in Sweden. The two previous years about 100.000 arrived each year, also with more men than women. Only this year 30.000 “children” (there are virtually no girls in this group and it’s believed that many of these boys are above 18) will arrive. So besides the sheer enormity of volumes, there is a huge gender disparity, which will create extensive problems moving forward.

Men in all societies are responsible for 90% of all crimes, and it’s in the upper teens and twenties that most crimes are committed, usually attributed to the testosterone levels being higher in younger years.  Adding to the fact that many of the refugees have experienced trauma, often leading to degrees of PTSD, which we now know affects the brain and the propensity to aggression, this is a problem that can’t be ignored. Speaking to the women in these immigrant suburbs, they are afraid of how much worse their situation will be due to an increasing male controlling presence. Finally, it’s the girls and the women that are being left behind in the camps in Turkey and Libya. (Often with good reason. The rapes and atrocities that girls and women are put through migrating alone are terrifying, but since all money is spent on the men who arrive here, there is little money left to support the women and the girls remaining in these refugee camps. The idea is often to bring the girls, women and the rest of their families later on, which is important for human reasons and for counteracting the gender imbalance, but adding so many additional people might be logistically and financially impossible). Which makes me want to give special preference for girls and women seeking asylum for years moving forward.

Staggering Costs

The costs are staggering. Just the cost of handling the 30.000 boys is estimated to be 23Billion SEK ($3B), compared with the 30B SEK ($4.2B) that is the entire yearly cost for International Aid, which, now mostly will be eaten up to contribute to the costs of the refugees. The entire Swedish justice and police-system costs 40B SEK ($5B) per year to set things in proportion. On top of this the local municipalities are on their hands and knees. There is no housing to offer and refugees are sleeping in school gymnasiums and in temporary tent camps. The municipalities are increasingly struggling to provide regular schooling and health care to its existing residents and it’s only expected to get worse.

How Syrian Refugees Are Received in the US

And just a note to compare the US with Europe. When the US recently decided to allow 10.000* Syrians to seek asylum in a US population of 300M, they were all thoroughly back-ground checked, and those admitted were being given $1000/per family, with help in finding work and housing, being allocated to places where other Syrians lived, or to places where the is an abundance of jobs and housing. After a year they are expected to become self-sufficient. They are initially given temporary residency, and after a couple of years, if they fill the criteria for getting a green card, for example being able to support themselves, and with no criminal record, they are allowed to become permanent residents. (And it takes five years as a green card holder before you can apply for American citizenship, which requires additional background checks, mandatory tests in history and civics, as well as swearing your allegiance to the United States).

The Integration Problem

Adding to the problems, Sweden is classified as the worst country in the OECD in terms of integration. 49% of the immigrants coming from outside Europe are unemployed, and in certain areas the number is 90%, which means that people end up living on government support indefinitely, often increasingly bitter, disillusioned and disenfranchised. It’s very difficult to enter the Swedish labor market due to fact that there are no simple and inexpensive entry-level jobs available, and government support with no requirements often turns paralyzing. It’s a deep human need for people to know that they matter, are needed, and that they can find dignity in being able to support oneself.  As a direct consequence of the disintegration, there are now 55 areas in Sweden where police at least partially has given up its control, and ambulances to these areas must arrive with police escort. Essentially Sweden is moving closer to creating its own 55 versions of Los Angeles’ South Central.

Should Tribal & Religious Values trump Human Rights?

Many of the refugees that have arrived in the past 20 years stem from the Middle East and Northern Africa, with a cultural and religious background based on non-democratic tribal values, where women and girls, for example, are considered the property of men and where the honor of the families is directly linked to controlling the lives and the sexuality of girls and women. With the rise of Islamism in Sweden, a movement that has been supported by the Swedish government through unskilled and unchecked subsidies, the situation for the women and children living in these suburbs, as well as anyone from the LGBT-community, has deteriorated, with honor killings of women as well as forced child marriages. Sweden now has become one of the world’s biggest exporters not only of music but also of ISIS-warriors. Due to the cultural relativism, human rights are sacrificed in order to uphold religious and cultural rights.

You Can’t Save Everyone

This is a lengthy article, and not what I usually write about, partially because it’s negative (I believe there is a solution, which I’ll write about in a coming article), but I wanted my non-Swedish readers to get a better understanding of what’s going on and my Swedish readers to get a Swedish-American perspective. (And quite frankly, I’m writing this for myself to process how this could happen). This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge need to support the people fleeing a Syria that is falling increasingly apart day by day, or the other places people are escaping from, nor that there isn’t an enormous destruction of human dignity and human potential with having three billion people living in poverty, whereof many are living in regimes that are outright awful. However, Sweden can’t take on the burden of saving everyone, just as you can’t save the beggars as a visiting Buddhist Monk in India by giving away all your money.

The Intelligent Heart

With an intelligent heart, true compassion means a heart with a sense of intelligence and balance, (not righteousness or a desire to be popular and perceived as good) where politicians act with wisdom and are able to intuit a good balance. With that in place, we can initiate a deeper global discussion on what can be done long-term to support other countries in their humanitarian needs, which will require a raising of global consciousness levels, which means, among other things; tolerance, openness, respect for women, girls and the planet, increased education levels across the world and eventually a reframing of the entire nation-state, which also would remove the need for borders.

However, those concepts are at this point philosophical, humanitarian and spiritual ideas, which might take a couple of hundred years of human maturation to be able to put in place. It has nothing to do with the current job description that politicians are paid to deliver on, namely to balance budgetary realities, deliver on the safe-keeping, education and health-care of its citizens, not in the least for those who previously have arrived seeking refuge, and the upholding of International human rights and Swedish laws. Obviously there is also a human responsibility to act in a crisis and do what’s physically possible for those in need, but it cannot be at the expense of what the politicians were elected to do.

I’m ending with a quote from Max Weber, used by David Brooks, in his column in NYT, on the irresponsibility of the Republican Caucus in the US (while different, it is equally relevant for Swedish politicians).

In his masterwork, “Politics as a Vocation,” Max Weber argues that the pre-eminent qualities for a politician are passion, a feeling of responsibility and a sense of proportion. A politician needs warm passion to impel action but a cool sense of responsibility and a sense of proportion to make careful decisions in a complex landscape.

In these difficult times, with so many people suffering, and with a Swedish state on its hands and knees due to excessive giving and insufficient integration, it’s more important than ever to act with an intelligent heart and wisdom. There also needs to be a brand new vision in place to overcome these challenges, accompanied by a new crop of leaders, which I’ll come back to in another article.

Lotta Lovisa Alsén,
October 29, 2015

*The number admitted to the US, I would like to add, is way too low. The US, which has messed around in the Middle East for a long time and partially is to blame for the situation, should open the doors for at least 500.000 to a 1 million Syrian refugees.

PS. The information compiled above comes from SvD, GP, DN, Ledarsidorna and NYT, as well as my own reading from Migrationsverket and the Swedish police. Other sources for trying to grasp the bigger implications of what’s happening in the world are The Atlantic, The DailyBeast and The Economist.  Any mistakes made in accuracy of numbers or facts are mine alone and if so, please let me know.

Starting Over

Starting over, the mystery unfolds in the mundane and in the familiar.

Many lifetimes ago on the inside, yet just a few months back according to calendar-time, I left LA to move to Seattle; a transition which only lasted 4 days. Instead, I ended up moving back to Sweden, which has been a whole new journey and world. Now, I’m discovering Stockholm and Sweden through the lens of a home-coming expat, an immigrant to the country I left behind almost fifteen years ago. Just as I started to understand the US after almost 15 years there, I now see that it’s impossible to understand any country unless you actually live there for many years. The Sweden I left behind is no longer there, and the people I once knew are also gone, replaced with updated versions of themselves. Just as I come in a different package. This entire process is in equal amounts fascinating and frustrating and it feels like a less sexy version of time-travel, where time collapses and all previous versions of yourself and of life as you knew it are present at the same time. Marveling at this phenomenon, and discovering how different the world is from the side of the pond, I can’t wait to chronicle some of these experiences and reflections.

Until then, I wish you a lovely weekend.

The Ending of a L.A. Love Affair

Leaving San Francisco in 2006 to find myself in L.A.


It was love that brought me to Los Angeles in 2006, but not the way you think. Ok, yes, it was what you think, but not really. Love was the catalyst for me moving from San Francisco to L.A. But I was already actively looking for my next step, feeling a desire to expand, when I was introduced to someone whom I came to fall head over heals for. Being an innocent, or fairly innocent business woman and entrepreneur from Sweden, it was like catnip. Impossible not to pursue. On a deeper level, I was ready for an inner make-over. During the five years I had lived in San Francisco, a whole new me was emerging and I was hungry for more. I wanted to break free from ‘Business-Lotta’ and become a yoga-teaching artist of sorts, explore my creativity and spirituality, teach leadership to top executives in Hollywood – with the belief that I could transform the story-factory of the world, and become someone new and better. Shinier.

Being with ‘the cool kids.’ Happy.


It worked. Sort of. Not the love-part, but the intensity of the emotions opened up a whole new universe for me, and so did the invitation to enter into his world. Suddenly, I was hanging out with ‘the cool kids’, with which I always had had a complicated relationship. But these people were different, I thought. They were artists, creators, and they moved through the world with an effortless ease, partially because of their looks, partially because of their upbeat take on life, partially because they were part of the L.A. creatives’ scene with the never-ending pool parties. But not the boring ones with the drugged out models. Instead, the eclectic ones with wigs, burning-man inspired set-ups, great funky DJs, and a strong community of people who chose to pursue a different path. I felt as if I could let out my inner child to play, and while I still didn’t fit in, I had more fun initially than I had ever had before.

Anything goes, which is part of ‘the seduction vortex’.


I believe that is one of the reasons why L.A. is so attractive for so many. It’s not only the patina of glamour that Hollywood lends. The sense of promise can be found in most nooks and crannies in the rest of L.A. A promise and permission to be yourself, especially an idealized version of yourself. If you stay out of Hollywood, L.A. can be incredibly non-judgmental. Indeed, almost anything goes, coupled with a deep curiosity and a lust for life. People come to L.A. to become someone or something. It is the city of dreams and opportunities, a haven for creatives, and a mecca for those who want an audience. Unless, of course, you are a paperless immigrant, homeless or one of the many heart-broken dreamers leaving Hollywood on Greyhound buses every week. But even for many of them, it’s a never-ending seduction. In some ways, it is very much like the Eagles’ song ‘Hotel California’. “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” So you stay, and while you are in sync with all the ‘cool stuff’, even if you are 85 years old, like one of my neighbors, Johanna, a sweet woman with a lot of spunk, yet completely focused on her looks, you wake up one day and realize that you are in fact 85 years old. Despite all the cosmetic surgeries and all the green drinks time didn’t stand still, and you never even managed to exit the hotel lobby. Very few places on earth manage to create that type of seduction-vortex.

Singing at nightclubs in Hollywood. Pinching my arm.


A few years in, I had landed a bit more, found more grounded people and like-minded friends to hang out with and I had become a singer, a dream that I had never even dared to believe in as a child. I was performing at venues in Hollywood, which made me want to pinch my arm. I was exploring other creative avenues as well, and I was discovering myself on the inside, following a series of spiritual awakenings that took me on the now mandatory Ashram-trek to India coupled with shamanic journeys. Work-wise, I did end up coaching powerful executives in Hollywood. But the more I saw, the more disillusioned I got. The inside of Hollywood is more like a fiefdom with dated views of management and of women. Things are slowly changing, mostly because the distribution game has upended the seat of power, but the belief that I could, or wanted to be part of changing that world, disappeared. Yet I still didn’t feel done. I had started writing extensively in English, and I finished a book, a biography and a self-development book, which I ended up not publishing, due to concerns of people who might get hurt in the process.

The Global Investment Fund focused on Women.


Feeling a hunger for reentering the business world, I decided to create a global investment fund for women entrepreneurs together with my own training model for entrepreneurial leadership attached to it. It was a great time meeting amazing people who were all about ‘conscious money’, especially in the Bay Area and together with a friend and partner, we were able to get far in the process. I also joined the woman’s leadership organization 85 Broads (now Ellevate) and shared leadership of the SoCal Chapter with two other women. In 2010, I stepped up as the President of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, focusing on the creative industries in L.A. I sought a reconnection with my Swedish roots, to ‘normalcy’ and to put my leadership theories into practice. While pursuing the restructuring of an organization hovering close to bankruptcy, unpaid, I did learn a lot and together with a great group of people we did turn it around, but I was exhausted. I ended up not continuing with the investment fund due to the many restrictions in fundraising, and because of the realization that it was still the learning/training aspect that fueled me the most.

The first visual of the Video-Game


Instead, I moved my focus to creating a video-game, using storytelling, biofeedback (deep breathing) and a way of teaching the leadership model I had developed through video-games. I partnered up with a wonderful colleague and we fund-raised from venture capitalists, built business models, met more investors, learned the inns and outs of how to create a successful video-game, and the world of sensor-technology. It took us to the first offer of $250.000 in funding, but in a joint decision we turned it down, since it came with too many catches. The more we met with Venture Capitalists, the more I felt a deja-vu over what I had already done back in Sweden, namely living in a VC-based reality. When I realized that nothing had changed since my last VC-funded adventure in Sweden more than a decade earlier, I decided that instead of trying to fight the system in order to get ‘chosen’, or attempt to change it, I’ll do it on my own terms. Starting with what I have control over, and a love for, namely writing.

The Hollywood and VC-pitch for describing the storyline behind the game was: Alice in Wonderland meets Matrix, meets Harry Potter with a dash of the Walking Dead.


So while I still want to build the video-game; I believe in game-mechanics as a superior learning device, especially coupled with biofeedback, I decided to pursue the most fun part of it, namely to create the world around the game through fantasy-writing. The more positive reinforcement I got from producers and writers in Hollywood regarding my storyline and writing (in English, my second language, which made me want to pinch my other arm), the more I realized that that would be my ‘in’. The writing itself would be the way of creating enough Intellectual Property leverage for negotiating with investors, if I would need them at all. When that message started to sink in, it felt as if I were waking up, questioning for the first time my choice of living in L.A. In July, 2014, after participating in a writing workshop with professional writers in Hollywood Hills, a workshop that made me happier than I had been in a long time, I drove home that night, crystal clear that I was ready to move. I had learned what I came for.

seattle skyline
The adventure continues in Seattle, further down the rabbit hole, but now with more joy, trust and surety of footing.


It has taken me few more months to land in that decision, to find out where I want to go, and how I can enable the development of extraordinary leaders and a more sacred form of doing business, while reviving another project AND keep on writing in order to publish the first book from the game-world. Now, it feels very clear why I came here. It was a self-discovery tour, a creative revelation, an entrepreneurial journey and an existential & spiritual make-over, all of which, thankfully, only took nine years. I have no idea if Seattle is the end-game, but I do know that it’s calling me, maybe it’s the same guidance that prompted me to pack my bags and leave for L.A., and for that matter, the U.S. A couple of the new things I intend to embark on creatively is to learn how to play the guitar, with the intent of being able to do some singing-song-writing – and I want to do some improv again, which terrifies me, in a good way. I’m incredibly grateful for everything I’ve learned, and all the amazing friends I’ve met along the path, those who are born in L.A. and those who come from across the world, all of whom that have made L.A. their home. They have taught me so much about life, and about embracing it all, creatively and spiritually. Seeing the starry-eyed expressions of the people fresh of the boat here, Swedes and other nationalities, as well as East-Coasters tired of the snow, their eyes blinking in unison with the lamps on the giant billboards, I salute them all, wishing them happy dream-fulfillment. Yet, I know that I won’t come back and live here again, even though I will visit friends and keep working with clients and creative projects in L.A. So while the physical L.A.-love affair is ending, I’m carrying my love for the creative and the entrepreneurial with me, both expressions of life that are closely related to the soul. Or rather, I believe they are pure expressions of soul. I will pay that forward and continue down the rabbit hole, how far, and wherever, it takes me.

Love & Peace
Lotta Alsén, April 23, 2015

What will it take to change the culture and ethics of the banking industry?


William D. Cohan writes a great article in The Atlantic, ‘Can Bankers Behave‘ on the problems of dishonesty and culture in the banking industry. He posits that while there are some changes afoot, it’s still a long road ahead, if the path towards ethics can be maintained at all.

While I agree with Cohan on all major points, I also maintain that unless leadership and even the definition of leadership changes, the cultural dishonesty problems will persist. Leadership, in my book, starts with how we lead ourselves, which in turn depends on our level of self-awareness, and our psychological maturity. With increasing self-awareness and psychological growth, becoming more whole human beings, we also develop more integrity. So a culture that puts personal leadership at the top will also develop employees that are driven by higher standards; employees that have the audacity to question existing unethical or borderline activities on their own. Obviously, this needs to coincide with changes in the rewards system, together with support from the top that actively encourages the said employees to question what they see as unethical behaviors and encourage them to find better and more ethical solutions.

For all of this to happen, leaders at the top need start with themselves and their own personal growth. They need to be able to espouse wisdom and integrity, leading with example, which unfortunately is counter to what is currently known in most corporate cultures today. Part of this more elevated level of leadership is to create a more diverse and life-supporting culture, both of which are proven recipes for increasing returns AND achieving openness and honesty.

The inner reflects the outer. Starting with developing the inner is the only sustainable path to get ‘bankers to behave’.