Mindfulness is increasingly recognised as a skill that brings numerous benefits, like improved emotional control, decreased stress, enhanced ability to focus, and a general feeling of clarity and well-being. Scientific support abounds that clearly indicates how regular mindful practice significantly improves a number of brain functions, e.g. increasing cognitive flexibility, memory, concentration and problem solving, while reducing rumination, anxiety and defensive reactivity.
Mindful Leadership is a specific type of Mindfulness competence, where mindful training practices are selected to provide the specific type of skill that is necessary in order to lead, engage and influence; this is very much like someone who is skilled at playing the piano and chooses to specifically train in jazz, becoming a skilled jazz pianist, or an athlete who is especially skilled at running may specialise in long distance, becoming a skilled marathon runner.
Interest in Mindful Leadership is booming, especially because in the aftermath of the recession we feel the need to get closer to our humanity. The era of self-interest, growth at all costs and blind opportunism did lead us to severely damage our lives, health, and economy. Now most of us in the business world – not only the millennials – wish to rediscover how to lead authentically, with purpose, according to our values, and with the clarity to select our priorities. We are aware of the risks of confusion and multitasking generated by our super-connected fast world and we look for a compass that allows us to see through the complexity, to deal as humans with other humans.
Becoming competent in Mindful Leadership allows us to rediscover and further enhance some long forgotten human abilities, to achieve a personal success expressed in terms of happiness, fulfilment and peace of mind, and to aim at a professional success made of courageous, collaborative and sustainable achievements.
So what are the traits, the unique distinguishing qualities of a Mindful Leader?
- Mindful Leaders are extremely Effective: by practicing the specific techniques of “being clear”, “being focused”, and “being impeccable” (*) leaders are better able to clearly select key priorities, to address them in a highly focused way (without allowing distractions or multitasking affect their concentration) and to stay impeccably accountable. The ability to simplify our work and life, and to almost effortlessly achieve our goals, while in a state of flow, is probably the very first thing that is noticed by those who start to train in Mindful Leadership; even after a few days practice, many already give feedback about their increased ease of concentration and how this allows then to accomplish much more than usual in less time.
- Mindful Leaders are Fearless: by practicing the specific techniques of “being present”, “being aware” and “being clam”(*) leaders live in the moment, thus stopping the rumination that brings worries and anxiety (thoughts of “should/should not” and “should have/have not”), are able to notice feelings and emotions without being hijacked by them, and to stay calmly resilient in the face of difficulties, uncertainties and change. It often comes as a surprise to trainees how hard, but at the same time how rewarding it is to be able to rewire our brain and liberate ourselves from the fears that consume our daily energies; developing this fearless attitude is also extremely influential, as we become able to redirect our energies to reassure and inspire others.
- Mindful Leaders are Fun to be with; by consistently practicing the specific techniques of “being positive”, “being compassionate” and “being equanimous” (*), leaders are able to maintain a good mood, validate others to help them overcome their difficulties, and create fulfilling collaborations based on trust, all of which opens the door to a more enjoyable way of working and living. Trainees are often amazed at how contagious this trait is; as soon as they start to practice having non-judgmental, compassionate and constructive discussions, they notice an increased shared ease in dealing with disagreements, interpersonal conflicts and critical conversations; and the workplace becomes seriously a lot more fun.
(*These specific practices are from Maria Gonzalez book “Mindful Leadership: the 9 Ways”)
These are great benefits, but they cannot be achieved in one day: Mindfulness is not a technique to activate when we need it; it is a skill, an acquired capability. As such, it calls for regular and sustained practice, before it can become second nature.
We can draw a parallel with being fit. We do not get fit after one single day of fitness training. It takes more than that. Fitness requires that we first learn the exercises to train the different muscles, then implement a formal training routine, and finally complement it with healthy “in action” strategies (e.g. adopting ergonomic postures during daily tasks). One day is not enough, but it does not take many days before we start to notice a positive difference. With regular practice, staying fit becomes second nature.
Likewise with Mindfulness: once we learn and regularly practice the necessary techniques, and implement complementary ”in action” strategies, being mindful can become second nature and help us both being happier and more successful. We may not find a benefit after the first day of training, but we probably start to reap some noticeable benefits already after a few days of practice.
We can continue to use the parallel of physical fitness to distinguish between being “generally fit” (training for good condition, flexibility, strength, energy, and general well-being) and being “specifically fit” (training for a specific sport discipline); usually one needs to be “generally fit” in order to be able to also be “specifically fit”.
Similarly in our case: we can train in general Mindfulness, and we can specifically train in Mindful Leadership. This means that we select the specific mindful practices that best can be applied to situations of leadership, without forgetting the general and regular mindfulness practice.
There are many useful books about Mindful Leadership (I recommend Janice Marturano’s “Finding the Space to Lead” and the afore mentioned by Maria Gonzalez’ “Mindful Leadership: the 9 Ways”)
However, the best way to train is to follow a course, and complement it with daily practice and reading. I personally recommend to find opportunities to train and practice in nature. For example, at our Grooa Inspiria Center in the Netherland we offer the technique of Forest Bathing, contemplative slow guided walks in our private forest, complemented with workshops.
For those who prefer to learn at own pace and from own place, we also have an online simple and practical course. In 10 simple sessions, you will (1) learn the exercises needed to get “mindfully fit”, (2) identify opportunities to intentionally practice in leadership situations, and (3) design own plan with “in action” strategies to continue practicing. There are plenty of practical examples and application tips and you will be able to design your own follow-up program and make it a simple sustainable practice.
The Course starts on April 25. You can follow the sessions LIVE every Tuesday evening (from 19:30 to 20:30 CET) or simply download the recording and access it at your leisure. Sessions are recorded: recordings are available to all Registered Participants. Registration Fee: 150 € / Person
Early Bird Discount (pay before Easter): 95 € / Person
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