The word “mindful” can be used in many ways, but it’s often used when someone is facing an unexpected or even dangerous situation. For instance, one might be told to be mindful about their expenses or the traffic jam. But can we also apply the word “mindful” to leadership? Is there such a thing as a mindful leader?
What is Mindful Leadership?
As opposed to what many people think, being a mindful leader goes well beyond paying attention to external situations. Rather, a leader who acts mindfully understands and becomes particularly aware of what’s happening within themselves — it’s simply to “know thyself.”
But how can “know oneself” be applied to the workplace or business environment? Or how can it be useful to lead people more effectively? Before we talk about ways to embody a mindful approach to leadership, let’s first understand what “know thyself” means.
Bringing Socrates To The Workplace
According to Psychology Today, “‘Know thyself’" also has a self-help appeal. Is your aim to accept yourself? Well, you first need to know thyself as a foundation for acceptance. Or do you want to know yourself in order to make good decisions—decisions that are right for you? Again, this would be difficult unless you first “know thyself.”
Leaders face complex challenges on a daily basis and, most of the time, are pushed to make quick decisions. If one doesn’t understand enough about their own mind or finds it hard to make judgments without evolving their emotions, chances are, this person is running on auto-pilot to a certain degree.
Reactivity, indecisiveness, and lack of clarity is harmful to leaders and employees — and it can bring a leader down over time.
Michael Carroll, the author of the book Mindful Leader: Awakening Your Natural Management Skills Through Mindfulness Meditation, worked for 25 years on Wall Street, and now works on bringing mindfulness to big corporations.
In his book, he delves into the relevance of mindfulness and meditation at the workplace and how the benefits of meditation can be applied to business situations. He contrasts the typical top-down management style in which employees feel disconnected from the company and poor decision-making tends to occur versus a mindful leader who focuses on bringing out the best in everyone. This latter approach is sometimes referred to as having a ‘coaching mindset’.
Benefits of Mindful Leadership
In the book, Carrol talks about ten principles of mindfulness and how they apply to leading organizations. He addresses some of the main issues corporations face, such as a toxic workplace environment, ineffective leadership, lack of shared identity between company and employees, etc.
According to Mindful.org, there are many benefits of mindful leadership, some of which are:
- It helps us recognize and work with contradictions and competing priorities to cultivate flexibility and understanding.
- It can be applied to any activity to cultivate both confidence and humility.
- It allows us to shift from a narrow, selfish, fear-based way of being to instead being more open, curious, connected, and able to help others.
- It simultaneously embraces individuality and unity — everyone has a particular role and yet all make one team, supported by and supporting one another, practicing together.
How Can I Become a Mindful Leader?
Even if it sounds overwhelming and hard to achieve, leadership presence is tangible, accessible and available in any situation and to anyone. Based on extensive research, there are three qualities present in the minds of great leaders:
To enhance focus and self-awareness, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts, attention, and where you place your energy — whether it’s an email, handling a client, running a meeting, or the people you are with. In other words, you train yourself to be more present in the here and now.
Because so many leaders struggle with this and have no idea from where to start, Mindful Life, Mindful Work, Inc. has developed the Mindful Corporate Leader Training (MCLT).
MLMW’s training is designed to provide the tools corporate leaders need to integrate mindful leadership skills and approaches into how they lead their teams. MCLT will give practical tools that will help you empower your team and develop mindful awareness, mindful communication, and executive presence.
Selflessness in leadership manifests itself as humility and service. It allows the natural flow of work, people and ideas. It increases trust because there’s no secret agenda, as selflessness sets people free from the distrust that arises in atmospheres of secrecy.
Does selflessness make one overly susceptible to being easily manipulated? Well, a leader’s selflessness has to be combined with self-confidence. Without self-confidence, selflessness will turn you into a pushover.
“Compassion is often mistaken for softness, but nothing could be less true. Compassion is not about giving in to other people. Compassion requires courage and strength to sometimes have difficult conversations or make tough decisions.”, says Rasmus Hougaard, on Mindful.org.
But don’t mistake compassion with sympathy. Sympathy is the act of taking on the suffering of others, whereas compassion you can serve and help to alleviate one’s problems without absorbing their energy.
For example, one of your colleagues is facing a health issue and under serious stress. If you feel sympathy for him, you’ll feel sad for him and feel stressed with him. Whereas if you react with compassion, you will notice his pain, put yourself and his shoes and see how you can help.
Leading with mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion makes you more human and less identified with merely your job title. Mindful leaders can build a more compassionate and people-centered culture.
“Vision + Integrity + Mindfulness + Compassion + Culture of creativity is the spiritual
formula of agile leadership in this ever-changing world.” — Amit Ray
Camila Santiago is a content writer and strategist specializing in health and corporate wellness, including extensive experience writing SEO-friendly content. She writes, edits and proof-reads content on wellness topics spanning physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and does so for organizations aiming to improve overall employee wellbeing and professional excellence.