...mindfulness has the potential to upgrade the hardware (brains) and software (minds) in our heads in ways that make us work better. Darren J Good et al, London School of Business and Economics, 2016
How do we transform leadership that breaks the status quo and instead embodies a mindful presence?
I think most of us have been at this point in our careers: facing deadlines and productivity demands that leave us anxious, with scattered attention, too many interruptions, and not enough hours in the day.
We know this. We also know that there are many benefits to individuals who have a regular mindfulness practice. The benefits of daily mindfulness practice have been studied and proven and written about. We know that mindfulness is quite effective at reducing stress and improving focus, attention, and decision-making skills.
But what about the effect of mindfulness practice on groups of people who must work together, and who might feel that they are competing for approval, promotions, sales, time, and resources? Such common business situations make it difficult for everyone to be cooperative, to act with kindness, and be mindfully present when listening to others. And when we are worried and thinking non-stop about what might go wrong, and faced with deadlines, stressful emotions, and reactions arising from constant change and uncertainty, it's a huge challenge to be non-judgmental of ourselves and others.
We know that a mindful leader embodies a presence of "being here now," and this presence is cultivated by practice of the following qualities:
- Focus – Paying attention to what we say and how we listen
- Clarity – Being aware of what is here at the present moment, not what we want to be here, or what we think should be here
- Creativity – How can we be more creative and innovative? Creativity flows when we have a spaciousness in our minds, instead of a mind that's consistently boggled with "to do" lists
- Compassion – A must-have quality for the mindful leader: compassion for self and others
Mindful leadership happens when we mix focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion with humour, kindness, and reflection.
Mindfulness training for business: What do the leaders say?
Corporations and companies like Virgin Atlantic, Barclays Bank, British Telecom, and UK Parliament in the UK and Google, Apple, Aetna, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Intel, Nike, LinkedIn, Target, and General Mills in the US and Canada , are working towards understanding mindful leadership. It is changing the face of organizations from leadership-by-expectation to inspired, values-based leadership. The changes don’t have to be monumental; they start with someone being courageous to lead and inspire.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader John Quincy Adams
One CEO in his own words
In the following video, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini describes his practice of mindful meditation every morning, where his communication devices are turned off while he is fully engaged in the present, and letting anxieties and worries flow past without judgment. He is also very aware of how this carries forward to his relationships with the company's employees.
Mark Bertolini interview:
Google's "Search Inside Yourself" programs
For another wide-ranging example of how mindfulness training is applied and taught in the corporate world, Google sponsors talks by mindfulness trainers, scientists, and speakers at Google headquarters. Along with personal benefits, the talks describe the behavioral and emotional changes and the ability to manage change that has resulted from corporate mindfulness training. They are available to any employee who wishes to participate, and on YouTube for anyone who may be searching for a new way to motivate and inspire.
In these videos, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Chade-Meng Tan, two of the most renowned and popular researchers and teachers, speak at Google. Austin Hill Shaw is a researcher, speaker, and author:
- Jon Kabat-Zinn on the science of mindfulness
- Chade-Meng Tan on the joy of mindfulness: "Search Inside Yourself"
- Austin Shaw on mindfulness and creativity in the workplace