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Leadership Development 06 April 2016

A mindful leader stays close to their truest self

If you’re one of those world-weary cynical types, it may be time to rethink your stance on mindfulness – because it’s not a fad, or the latest trend. It’s here to stay.

Companies which encourage mindfulness are not only looking after their employees – they are also looking after their productivity and, ultimately, their bottom line. As Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project notes 

‘Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually — requires refueling it intermittently.’

In that spirit, companies like Medtronic, Google and Goldman Sachs have long run classes centred on mindfulness, yoga and meditation, citing their effect on creativity, focus and quieting insidious negative inner voices. So as we look forward into the year ahead, we must recognise that mindfulness is shaping the approach organisations take to leadership.

 

How to be a mindful leader

I’m not suggesting that we all need to meditate in our lunch break or do sun salutations in our offices – although if you’re into that, then good for you, and good for your health too.

Looking through the Insights lens, being a mindful leader means finding your own way to reach that stillness, and most importantly, to get to know the absolutes that anchor you in life, as well as in your style of leadership.

The first step is to get to know yourself – really know yourself, warts and all. Like CG Jung famously said,

‘the most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.’

But it’s such a valuable, even necessary journey if one is to become a mindful leader. If you don’t take the time to look deep into yourself and ask important questions such as:

  • What is my true purpose?
  • What principles do I hold as unbreakable to me?
  • Does my work align with this?
  • Are my actions aligned with this?
  • If not, what needs to change?

 

Then the life you lead could be quietly at odds with who you wish to be in the world. And the end result of that is stress, anxiety and a much less satisfying working life.

So this is your chance to put a stake in the ground. Create some ground rules for yourself. For example, I will never duck the difficult questions. I will always stand behind the decisions of my team. I will not ask people to do something I’m not prepared to do myself. Print them out, stick them on your desk, live by them daily. In other words, be mindful of your guiding principles, always.

So live mindfully. Lead mindfully. Be aware of when your core principles could be compromised. Before you respond to a request that feels wrong to you, take the time to reconnect with your ground rules, and proceed in accordance with what you know to be true about yourself as a leader.

By doing this, you’ll be displaying to your team that you are a leader of principle and strength. They will always be able to count on you, trusting that your intentions are inherently good and principled. Being a strong, calm rock in times of change or difficulty gives your team somewhere to turn when they feel all at sea.

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