How mindful leadership drives organizational success
Episode #1 of the course How to be a more mindful leader by The Plato Project
Welcome to this course! We’re excited to have you on board. Over the next ten days, you’re going to learn how to be a more mindful leader.
We’re going to start by looking at how mindful leadership drives organizational success.
Let’s get started!
So what is mindful leadership?
Mindfulness has become a well-worn concept over the past few years, with “Mindfulness and…” books written about any number of subjects—books that are wise, valuable, and interesting, to be sure.
Indeed, there seems to be nothing to which mindfulness cannot be applied. And that’s true; mindfulness can be brought to any aspect of life. But this needs to be done…mindfully. With understanding. With a clear sense of what is at the core of mindfulness.
Bill George offers a simple definition of mindfulness: “The awareness of one’s mental processes and the understanding of how one’s mind works.” A simple and yet also highly demanding definition.
A less demanding definition is that mindfulness is a “simple yet effective form of meditation.” Meditation is not the only path to mindfulness; people also increase their mindfulness through yoga, prayer, introspective discussions, therapy, and reflective discussions.
This matters for leadership because of the key role leaders play in setting direction—in asking “why?” This comes best and most authentically from a place of self-awareness. This place is a place reached by mindfulness. Mindful leaders are good leaders.
Bill George writes the following of mindful leadership:
Mindful leadership is a secular idea that enables people to sustain effective leadership throughout their lifetimes. It enables them to be fully present, aware of themselves and their impact on other people, and focused on achieving the goals of their organizations. Mindful leadership aims to develop self-aware and compassionate leaders by combining Western understanding of authentic leadership with Eastern wisdom about the mind, developed from practices that have been used for thousands of years.
It is important that mindful leaders practice mindfulness. And there’s no one-size-fits-all way to do this. They can meditate, practice yoga, pray, or participate in other activities that create mindfulness. Mindful leaders do not simply adopt a set of characteristics, but rather the characteristics come from the practice. Mindfulness is more than just this regular practice, though. It is about learning to focus awareness in any given moment—becoming conscious of thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the body so as to be completely engaged in the present. A combination of a committed practice to enhance mindfulness and focusing attention on daily tasks is important as a leader so that we are consistently composed and calm—even in the face of difficult situations.
Key characteristics of mindful leaders
The literature on mindful leadership suggests some key characteristics of mindful leaders:
• Have leadership presence
• Are fully present in the moment
• Cultivate focus, clarity, and creativity
• Are self-aware, with a strong understanding of themselves
• Are willing to be open-hearted and compassionate
• Are aware of their impact on other people
• Focus on achieving the goals of their organization
When applying a mindful leadership approach, the results for an organization are demonstrable. A program developed around mindfulness principles, called the Personal Excellence Program (PEP), conducted an independent impact study to measure the results of the program after three years of operation. It found significant and measureable benefits for productivity, employee and customer satisfaction, and a high return on investment.
This connection isn’t a surprise. Mindful leaders engage individuals effectively to achieve high performance outcomes, connect with the individual’s sense of identity, understand their rationale for committed action, and model behaviors that drive elite performance. In acting in the present moment, mindful leaders foster a culture that enhances consistent performance and attains organizational outcomes.
Mindful leaders enhance performance of their personnel through a variety of mechanisms that underpin any organization’s capacity to achieve success. Rather than being outcome-focused, these leaders are focused on the present moment, effectively engaging in appropriate decision-making for the good of individuals and the organization to achieve success.
Productivity, satisfaction, innovation, focus. Culture. Compassion. These are the attributes that mindful leadership fosters in a workplace—all attributes that are essential to workplaces across all sectors. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the critical capabilities of mindful leaders.
“Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.” — Socrates
“Driven to Lead” by Paul Lawrence
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