We thought it might be helpful to bring together some of the questions that commonly come up as people begin to learn the practice of mindfulness. The breadth and diversity of human experience that has been evident throughout the years of offering the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s retreats and workshops is truly amazing, and yet, we’ve identified some recurring themes that might echo some of your own questions.
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One of the most wonderful teachings of contemplative practice is the directive to simply ‘begin again’. When we notice that we are stuck, we can begin again. When external distractions interrupt our intention to practice, we can begin again. When our reactivity once again overtakes our desire to be more responsive, it is again our choice to start over.
Some time ago, I was reading an interview with James Hackett, the CEO of Steelcase. When he was asked about his most memorable leadership lessons, he spoke of the importance of becoming a leader that was not ‘prepackaged’. In the course of his work, he met many CEOs and he noticed that the ones who were truly impactful, truly leaders in every sense of the word, were those who were not ‘prepackaged’. The great leaders were those who exhibited a ‘sense of peace, this self-awareness, that says, ‘I understand who I am’.
After the juicy pleasure of my angry outburst subsided a bit, the more evolved part of my brain came back online and noticed I’d just done it again. Fallen into the trap of complaining about “them” in front of my leadership team. And in the very process of presumably exercising the privilege of “the boss” to be angry and demanding, paradoxically diminished my own standing as a leader with a group of people it’s essential I actually, you know, lead.
Control is one of humankind’s greatest illusions. Let’s face it—even with all the information available and expansive educational preparation—unexpected events often interfere with our plans and our best efforts to control an outcome or an event (and even ourselves!). And what happens to us, to those around us, and to the teams and organizations we lead when things get disrupted?