Sometimes a great blessing comes so well disguised that we have to work to uncover its value. I learned this after collapsing in an airport.
Before that, I had approached work as executives so often do; shoulder fully to the wheel, meticulous in following through on every detail, driven toward perfectionism with my eye on the bottom line. I pushed myself so hard that one day my body simply rebelled and I found myself being taken from the airport by ambulance.
The experience started me thinking about things I had long ignored, things like the need to make choices about work and life that take into consideration the values we hold. As someone who wanted to exemplify leadership excellence, I realized that I couldn’t model a trait without exploring it; the episode at the airport suggested I start by investigating the role of self-compassion in leadership.
Self-compassion was not something that had been on my work agenda. I realized I needed to cultivate my own well-being in a way that I could bring into work. Searching for how to do that led me in many valuable directions; when I found the Institute for Mindful Leadership and saw what Janice was doing, I knew I had found what I’d been seeking.
In the Institute’s trainings, we use reflection as a tool to promote leadership excellence. It allows us to go deep, to connect with our inner wisdom and explore our values. What do we want in life? What are we inspired to pursue? How can we gain a broader perspective so that we can see the bigger picture? Being willing to take the time to consider such questions is an essential way of caring for ourselves.
As leaders, we look for ways that we can support all the stakeholders in our organizations. Of course we need a good sense of what is important to the organization’s goals and objectives. We need to be aware of the impact those will have on the individuals within the organization as well as on the greater community. And we also need to recognize that we cannot bypass our own needs and values and be effective as a leader.
Mindful leadership training cultivates inner capacities that allow us to open and expand our connection, first with ourselves and then with others. As I made that journey, I became convinced that it’s possible to enhance corporate value through the values we promote.
I have always been moved by the notion that organizations and corporations are ultimately people, human beings who deserve to be treated as individuals rather than as “resources” or commodities. Having the opportunity to fulfill inner values – to work, to earn a living, to be productive, expressing our best selves and being respected for that – is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. When a leader demonstrates caring for self and others, it has a ripple effect, creating a culture of engagement, a workplace where participatory employees feel valued and are inspired, in turn, to produce value.
The core of my leadership role at work now is to look for enterprises or projects that will lead to the ultimate goal: sustainable jobs that allow individuals to contribute to the organization and organizations to contribute to the community. Creating opportunities for employment that foster dignity and reinforce the sense of belonging to a larger human community brings what the Institute’s training calls the win-win-win reward.
Mindful leaders can generate greater corporate value by promoting values that not only help us as individuals, but also lead to a more compassionate work environment and culture and point toward new possibilities for humanity.