What is Mindful Leadership?


Before getting to what mindful leadership is, let’s start with the definition of mindfulness. After all, discussions of mindfulness are seemingly everywhere: in business magazines, psychology journals and even in mainstream media.

To clear up any misconceptions, let’s first discuss what mindfulness is not:

  • It’s not about religion, incense, pillows or candles;
  • It’s not about emptying your mind or “chilling out”;
  • It’s not about changing thoughts and emotions;
  • It’s not Transcendental Meditation; and
  • It’s not just concerned with managing stress.


So what is mindfulness?

Simply stated, it is

purposely paying attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally.

Our waking minds spend about half of their time wandering either to events that have occurred in the past or issues that may happen in the future.  In addition, most of our wandering thoughts occur during our commutes to and from work, while we’re in the workplace and when we’re in front of any kind of digital screen. As a result, we cannot put forth our best efforts because we’ve lost our attention to the ever-increasing distractions that pull us away from our task at hand.

In our organizations, mindful leadership can help us regain those present-moment connections whether we’re interacting with a colleague, considering a decision that needs to be made or planning an improvement to a process.

Mindfulness Publications by Year

Mindfulness Publications by Year

Some of the world’s top companies train their employees in mindfulness, including Google, General Mills, Aetna, Intel, Yahoo, KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Barclays and KPMG. Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies are also taught in the finest academic settings such as Cornell, Duke, UMass, Brown, UC -San Diego, Iowa and Harvard.

Mindful leadership is complimentary to Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (EI) which is widely accepted as the best predictor of leadership success in business today. In fact, research has shown that

mindful leaders are more likely to act ethically and demonstrate the key components of EI (self-awareness, self-management and social awareness).

Goleman and Mirabai Bush (one of the original developers of Google’s mindfulness training) like to talk about how mindfulness techniques can be the solution to “continuous partial attention”, or multitasking. They agree that multitasking is the biggest problem in business today.

Mindful leaders also are skilled at working with fear which is the biggest obstacle to change management success. Our economic and technology advances force organizations to respond quickly to changes that originate internally or with our competition. Daily volatility in the work environment creates sharper ebbs and flows with the stressors that leaders and their teams feel. The resulting fear can stagnate progress and lead to instability but mindful leaders are better able to respond effectively to change and move their teams efficiently toward ever-changing goals.

Mindful leaders also possess the skills necessary to manage the stressors of our business culture where more is expected despite having fewer resources. These skills include

  • understanding how they react to stressors;
  • delegating work effectively and closing the loop with others during follow-up;
  • inspiring those with whom they work by aligning their work with the organization’s values;
  • understanding how their actions affect others which help them think more strategically;
  • making better decisions in a timely manner;
  • being less likely to default to “that’s the way we’ve always done it”;
  • listening to themselves and others more effectively;
  • structuring their workdays to allow for creativity; and
  • having better focus on the tasks at hand.

By training our managers in mindful leadership techniques, several critical results can occur. The first is the improved health of you and your colleagues. Burgeoning research concludes that mindful skills can aid with depression, strengthen the immune system, reduce anxiety as well as many other physical, emotional and behavioral manifestations of stressors encountered by leaders across all business types.

Mindful leadership also is demonstrated through improved focus. By being aware of when our minds are distracted away from the present moment, we become better able to work more efficiently and effectively.  In fact, in his latest book Focus: The Hidden Driver of ExcellenceGoleman states:

“those who focus best are relatively immune to emotional turbulence, more able to stay unflappable in crisis and keep on an even keel despite life’s emotional waves.”

Finally, and most importantly to CEOs, stockholders and Boards of Directors,

mindful leadership leads to improved results.

The traits of a mindful leader build trust within teams and organizations which, in turn, improves individual employee engagement. As more and more employees equate their contributions at work with greater value, turnover, presenteeism and absenteeism decrease as do their associated costs. Mindful leaders are also better at leading through periods of change by staying focused and keeping their teams from becoming overwhelmed.


So how are mindful leadership skills developed?

Mindful Solutions provides workshops and webinars that train leaders how to practice mindfulness within the context of their current roles without having to set aside extra time to meditate or participate in exercise groups. While there is no magic wand (it’s practice, practice, practice), you and your team can learn how to respond more effectively to negative emotions that throw your efforts off track.

You can learn how stay focused on the present moment and the work at hand. You can learn how to better manage change in your organization and actually learn how to embrace it. You can learn how to calm your “monkey mind” and grow patience as you’re faced with more and more stressors.

Most importantly, you’ll become a role model for those with whom you work so that, as they start to model your mindful behavior, the workplace begins to be a place your team looks forward to participating in.

As you can easily see, all of these results funnel up to improved productivity and service quality as well as more satisfied customers. Mindful leadership is the preeminent model to get your organization beyond just surviving in today’s pressurized business climate.

Why not get in touch with Mindful Solutions today and get started with setting your team up for success?

Share This