How to Use Mindfulness to be a Better Leader
When business leaders discuss mindfulness, several words consistently pop up: focus, productivity, and resilience. The first two are expected, but the last one is surprising.
Mindful work practices, especially in leadership positions, help eliminate some of the stress and distractions that zap our energy. We also feel more capable of tackling challenging tasks and difficult decisions. Mindfulness provides clarity on what’s important so we’re less likely to feel overwhelmed.
The Center for Creative Leadership has worked with many large companies on their mindfulness practices. They describe four fundamental skills of mindful leaders:
- Focus – During mindfulness training, participants learn to focus their attention on something specific, and then notice when their attention has wandered and redirect it. This prepares you for sustained attention when problem-solving.
- Clarity – As we practice mindful leadership, we see our own conditioning, biases, and filters. We learn to see what is, not what we hoped to see.
- Creativity – When we’re flooded with tasks and busywork, we have limited space for creativity. Mindfulness creates space for creativity and innovation. Sometimes it’s applying focus somewhere else. For example, Albert Einstein would regularly take breaks from his work in physics to play his violin and then return to work and see things differently.
- Compassion – Mindful leaders make choices with the understanding that we are all in this together. They demonstrate empathy and think about the ramifications of their choices and actions.
Mindful leaders practice Active Listening in the office. They pay specific attention to not only what colleagues and employees say, but how they say it, and what their body language is like. Leaders who are poor listeners are often perceived as arrogant and are less likely to have engaged employees.
When we listen with focus we also Empathize more. Empathy is viewed by employees as one of the most desirable leadership traits. Employees want leaders who understand them and their challenges.
Mindful leadership goes hand in hand with Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Good leaders are sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of their team. They can provide emotional support when needed and understand the necessary balance between personal and professional.
Mindful leaders are self-aware and regulate themselves. They are aware of how they behave and how others perceive that behavior. They are also more aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Teammates and employees see this kind of leadership as more authentic and people are more apt to follow authentic leaders.
It’s easy to give in to stress and move through your day on autopilot, but this can prove detrimental to both your personal and your work life. Taking a few minutes to focus and prepare your mind can provide you the mental space to be more creative, innovative, and productive. We need clear-headed leadership now more than ever and mindfulness is a useful tool for any business executive.