Mindfulness helps leaders in two critical components of leadership success: intention and presence.
Mindfulness is the polar opposite of being in a mind full mode.
It is a choice on how you want to live, both professionally and personally.
For leaders, mindfulness is not just about improving the ability to have greater control over your thoughts. It is also important and beneficial for greatly reducing the control your unconscious and habitual thoughts have over your actions and emotions.
You are going to have thoughts anyway. It is just a matter of whether you or your thoughts are going to be in control.
To regain control over your thoughts it is necessary to disengage the autopilot mode within which so many leaders operate. Yes, working on autopilot does seem to be highly effective and productive. However, similar to the belief that multitasking is an efficient methodology for accomplishing a lot, both methods sacrifice quality for quantity and can have a negative impact on interpersonal relationships.
Mindfulness also brings into focus two critical components of leadership success: intention and presence.
As a leader, you are a leader of people. As Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper said, “You manage things. You lead people.” In order to be successful in leading people, you have to be well grounded in both your intentions and your presence.
For every interaction with people, great leaders pause and set their intentions. Intention is the approach and behavior you will bring into the interaction, be it support, perspective, authority, accountability, positivity, or even vulnerability. Your intention must be based on your values and your sense of what the people you lead need, at that moment, in order to be successful. By being mindful, you will not enter a meeting with only the objective of “reviewing action plans,” but rather also with the intention of providing whatever is needed for your team members to be successful and thrive.
Of course, to do this you also have to be fully present. That is where mindful presence comes in. Active participation in a discussion requires giving full attention to everyone present. It means actively listening to not only what is being said, but also to what is not being said. What unspoken agendas are in play? What are you not being told because of fear or unease? How deeply do your people believe in what they are telling you?
Being fully present means not thinking about other issues and topics that may be going on in your world. It means not taking surreptitious glances at your phone or computer to see what emails or text messages have arrived or who is trying to reach you. Fully present means giving your full attention and focus to what is being said during the interaction.
This is why mindfulness is an important leadership skill, albeit one that is not being taught in many leadership development programs. Fortunately, this is changing. For the evidence is becoming overwhelming: when practiced by leaders at all levels of an organization, mindfulness results in better decisions, better thinking, and better outcomes.
And, as you will learn in my recent book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, becoming more mindful throughout the workday can help prevent a whole slew of leadership derailment issues.
This article is excerpted from my recent book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership. It is available on Amazon in both paperback ($18.88) and Kindle ($7.88).