I have worked with and for mindful leaders. These individuals have been grounded, insightful, intentional, kind, patient, present, calm and inspiring. I have also worked with and for leaders who have not seemed very mindful and often appeared distracted, lacking in self-awareness, unaware of their impact on others, and reactionary rather than responsive.
Are you a mindful leader?
What is the first thing that comes to mind as you respond to this question? Just notice, without judgment, any thoughts or feelings you might be having.
Are the leaders you report to and connect with mindful individuals? How do you know? What qualities or ways of being and leading do you notice in mindful leaders?
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a process of training the mind to be fully present in the here and now. It can help us become more effective in every aspect of life and work.
Mindfulness is a self-awareness skill that focuses on the present moment and on the development of non-judgmental awareness and self-compassion. This allows us to be aware and accepting of our current reality, even if it is uncomfortable. This in turn allows us to engage in our life and work as it is, while maximizing our ability to consciously respond and make positive changes. It also helps us be more compassionate, kind and attuned to others.
Here are 4 ways to become a more mindful leader:
1. Take time to breathe with awareness – notice the path of your inhalation and exhalation. Feel the sensation of your breath in your body. Notice your chest and belly rise and fall with each breath. Notice the breath, breathing you and drawing your attention into the present moment.
2. Notice your senses – what do you hear, taste, smell, feel and see in this moment? Bringing your full attention to your senses is a way of bringing your awareness into the present moment.
3. Meditate – start gently. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably, free from distraction. Be still. Bring your attention right here, right now. Notice when your mind has wandered, as is bound to happen over and over again (that is what the mind does). When this happens, without judgment simply note what is on your mind at the moment and allow your attention to come back to focus on the present moment. When your timer goes off, notice the sound of silence afterward.
4. Cultivate mindful moments – take intentional time to slow down, enjoy purposeful pauses, be still and appreciate and notice what is going on many times throughout your day. Even a one minute mindful moment can have a positive impact on you and others. Just for a moment, suspend busyness, rushing, multi-tasking, having your attention on many things at once and give yourself permission to stop, be still and notice. Leadership success is about balancing both being and doing.
Mindfulness can help you be a more grounded, present and effective leader. It can also support your own health, well-being and vitality. The simple action of becoming mindful changes your body’s physiology and has a calming effect.
Remember, mindfulness is a set of skills, not a technique. It can be learned and practiced.
Being a more mindful leader can help you to:
- Be more productive
- Feel greater balance and calm
- Find positive solutions to problems
- Stay focussed on what matters most
- Reduce stress and overwhelm
- Be compassionate with yourself and others
“Mindfulness is a state of being. In mindfulness, you are participating as an observer of your own behavior and cultivating that part of the mind that can impartially witness whatever you are experiencing – body sensations, emotions, impulses, thoughts or memories – without trying to control or direct what is being noticed.” – Marlena Field
A focus on mindful leadership is ultimately about:
- Becoming more conscious, more intentional and more aware of one’s inner processes
- Balance in emotion and thought that leads to health, well-being and optimal performance – providing a strong foundation for leadership success
- Supporting leaders to be more grounded, self-aware and compassionate – this reduces stress not only for the leader, but for others too – inspiring individuals and teams to greater productivity, engagement and high performance
Pause and Reflect
- How can becoming a more mindful leader benefit you and those you lead or influence?
- When might mindful awareness be useful to you as a leader?
- What situations or circumstances could benefit from you being a more mindful – fully present, grounded, compassionate – leader?
- How might you bring more mindful moments into your work, team and organization?
May you live and lead with ease.