How to Practice Mindfulness in Leadership


How does the practice of mindfulness in leadership help create a successful leader? Find out.

Looking to become a great leader? The answer might not be to do more but rather to simply be, more often.

And the way to accomplish that is through mindfulness in leadership.

An ancient practice with roots in many religious and spiritual traditions, mindfulness is commonly defined as being present on purpose. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines it as, “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.”

This ability to stay rooted in the present moment, and not get carried away by mindless mental chatter, gives you a deeper awareness of yourself and the daily situations you find yourself in.

Mindfulness in leadership

“When a person becomes more mindful, they become more familiar with how they move and speak in the world,” says Cara Bradley, a mental strength coach and author of On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine. “When we’re mindful we can recognize habits and patterns that aren’t serving us or others.”

This awareness gives leaders the ability to understand themselves and others in a deep and powerful way.

Being a mindful leader means you’re not projecting your own internal fears and judgments onto a situation. Therefore, giving you the power to see clearly and make empowered decisions for yourself and your team. If you’re not mindful it can be easy to allow your own fears and stresses to cloud your ability to make solid decisions and inspire the best in others.

We are all born with the power to lead. But many of us never step up because our own fears and insecurities keep us playing small. By becoming mindful leaders we’re able to get out of our own way and live up to our true potential while inspiring others to reach theirs.

“Mindfulness in leadership is not about leadership from the top down. It’s about leadership from the inside out,” says Michael Carroll, author of Awake at Work: 35 Practical Buddhist Principles For Discovering Clarity and Balance In the Midst of Work’s Chaos. “The essential role of a leader is to inspire the best in others, and we are all designed to do that.”

So how does one become a mindful leader exactly?

By simply starting to notice.

“If you’ve never exercised your body in your entire life you wouldn’t get into a swimming pool with Michael Phelps…you would start with something like walking,” says Kevin Renner, vice-president of eMindful, a website with mindfulness programs for businesses and individuals. “When it comes to brain fitness, start small, with the recognition of where you are,” thereby anchoring your presence.

Cara Bradley says simply taking a moment to pause and be present before starting a conversation or sending an email can strengthen your mindfulness muscle. Also, making an effort to notice the moments when you’re already present can help you make mindfulness a habit.

“Noticing the sunrise, the sunset, the clouds, the smell of fire cooking, meeting someone’s gaze and pausing to really connect…These moments happen for all of us, but we’re usually speeding right by them,” she says. “If we can recognize these glimpses, the words become familiar with what it means to be present.”

Meditation is another powerful way to be more mindful. If practiced over a long period of time, meditation helps unleash the natural capacity of the mind and gain the mental strength you need to stop believing in your fear-based thoughts.

Mindful meditation means taking your attention off of your internal mind and escorting your attention to an actual experience, like breathing.

Why a coach can help

Working with a coach can also help you become a mindful leader. The process of coaching involves understanding your own mind, fears and limitations so that you can conquer them and achieve your desired result.
A great coach will empower you to show up fully, with presence in your daily life. As a result, you are bringing your highest self to every situation, interaction and problem.

“In my experience, when we are present in the moment in whatever it is that we’re doing, we do it better. We do everything better…with quality, efficiency and effectiveness, simply by being right here, right now,” Bradley says.

“It’s nothing you have to try to do, you are already present. It’s a matter of setting aside all of the other stuff, getting out of your own way and being fully available for whatever it is you have to do. Cultivating the capacity to show up, on purpose, in the moment should be at the top of every leader’s list.”


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