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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Jess Stuart talks about Leader Zen


Jess Stuart is a popular author, international keynote speaker and experienced leadership coach. With 15 years in HR and a background in the corporate world working in leadership development across many countries and industries businesses find Jess can speak their language. Jess talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Leader Zen.

Self-mastery & mental fitness for calm, conscious, capable leaders. This is a new kind of leadership for a new kind of era. Post-pandemic challenges have changed the face of how we work and lead. It requires evolution and a new focus for leaders.


We’ve often spent years on growing leadership skills (horizontal growth) but now we need to invest in the inner game (vertical growth). Self-leadership, self-regulation, new perspectives and more complex and sophisticated ways of thinking. This enables us to make wiser choices, be less reactive, develop wisdom and insights to evolve and transform how we lead. Walking the talk, knowing ourselves and navigating the challenges that arise.


These are the key skills leaders of the future need. It’s the stuff that AI can’t replace. Future-proofing leaders with the skills to lead in uncertain times, with inclusivity and the ability to lead multiple generations into this new world.


What inspired you to write this book?

The pandemic has changed the face of our workplaces and taken its toll on our leaders. The world looks very different now and we’ve got more generations in the workforce than we’ve ever had. All bringing new ways of thinking working and expectations. Leadership has evolved in terms of the skills that are required in this new era. Our leaders must evolve with it to ensure they’re not left behind and can lead others through these uncertain times. Grappling with talent shortages, hybrid working, employee engagement and turnover it’s a tough time to lead. Add to that empathy fatigue, change weariness and impacts on staff morale the last few years have had. It’s no wonder burnout is on the rise as we adapt to a new normal and lead others through this landscape.


What research was involved?

Based on my decade in HR working alongside leaders and my subsequent decade coaching leaders. I’ve also been lucky enough to live alongside and study with Buddhist monks and nuns across the world in many different countries. These experiences alongside my own career and leadership development training have proved invaluable.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

For all my books I take myself off on a writing retreat. Usually somewhere quiet and rural, I turn my phone off, no internet, no distractions – I get some deep focus and I just write. Even if it’s not perfect I focus on getting the words out of my head onto the page for a very rough first draft to work from! Then it’s months of editing and shaping that draft until we get the final product.


What did you enjoy the most about writing Leader Zen?

Weaving ancient Eastern wisdom into western modern people's psychology to find new ways of supporting leaders to flourish in this new era of leadership. I love that I get to combine my passions in a way that makes an impact and helps others.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I always take myself off to my favourite restaurant to celebrate the book's arrival when I can hold it in my hand and send it out into the world. It’s also a special moment opening the box when they arrive from the printers and seeing the final product in real life!


What do you hope people will take away from your new book?

This book is designed to help readers:

· Develop the kind of calm that is contagious, when you speak, others listen.

· Leverage self mastery, mental fitness and awareness as core leadership skills

· Harness the ability to adapt to change and bounce back from set backs

· Increase focus and concentration to perform at your peak

· Become fearless but wise, compassionate and respected

· Build empathy with the ability to regulate and control emotional response


As a conscious leader, you know who you are and stand in your power. Cognisant and composed you overcome the challenges ahead to make an impact.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I’ve enjoyed Atlas of the heart by Brene Brown and Belonging by Owen Eastwood this year so far. Full of wisdom we can transfer into our daily lives.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m thinking about the next book already and looking forward to seeing this one get out into the world and make an impact. I’m excited about delivering the leadership development programme that sits alongside this book and sharing its message with others.


Inspire Publishing

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