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My Top 2 Reasons Mindful Leadership is Critical to Today’s Leaders

It has been nearly 20 years since I began to explore the intersection between leadership excellence and contemplative practices — first in my own life as a Vice President at a Fortune 200 company, and then with incredible leaders from around the world when I founded, and began to teach with, the Institute for Mindful Leadership.

These leaders came from different cultures, different professions, and different life experiences. They were influencers in small and large organizations, teams, military, healthcare, academia and community groups. They often came from very different backgrounds. Yet, among the best leaders, there were strong common threads — they had bright minds, warm hearts and were drawn to leadership roles because they wanted to make a difference.

They were also often overbooked, overwhelmed, exhausted and spent much of their life on ‘autopilot’ just to get through the day. Can mindful leadership training cure all the challenges of leading in the 21st century? Of course not, but there are many ways it helps leaders meet the challenges and cultivate resilience.

Here are my top two:

“Why can’t I stay focused?” You know the feeling. You want to pay attention to the speaker in the room, but your mind keeps drifting, sometimes for many minutes at a time. When you lose focus, you miss important information so you are not able to contribute your best thinking, and you may even look foolish when you ask a question answered 5 minutes ago while your mind was somewhere else. At other times, this loss of focus shows up when you are reviewing a document. For example, you need to get through a research report, but you get distracted, not by someone else but by your own thoughts pulling you away from the report. And each time you must refocus, you need to take a few steps back and reread, losing productivity. And what about those times when you want to spend quality time connecting with family or friends but your mind keeps drifting to some problem at work, or you just can’t seem to keep your hands off your phone during dinner? What message do you send to those you love when you look at your phone, or don’t listen deeply because your mind is somewhere else?

When you are distracted and unfocused, your day goes by in a blur. Your body is in the room, but your mind is rarely fully attentive to anything you are doing. As you begin to train your mind, you notice more quickly when it becomes distracted and you learn to redirect your attention. Imagine how much more thoughtful your contributions might be if you brought your full attention to a meeting or a conversation or a project. Imagine how much more efficient and effective a meeting might be if everyone was paying attention. And, what message would you send to a friend if you put away the phone and gave them the rare gift of just listening to everything on their mind? How would you feel if someone gave you that gift?

Training your mind to be more focused and clear is critically important and it doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes training. You already know that training your body brings about specific results, the same is true with your mind, training makes a difference to your ability to focus. And staying focused is critically important to leadership excellence.

“Something is missing…the win-win-win” The project is over, the expectations were met, and you are moving on to the next assignment. You take a moment to think about the finished project. Everyone says you did a good job, but you feel as though something is missing…it wasn’t your best work. If you had a little more ‘space,’ you could have brought more of your expertise, creativity, or compassion to the project. Simply rushing through projects just to meet expectations doesn’t fuel inspiration or purpose so it often feels as if something is missing. You want to work in a way that makes you want to get up in the morning. But when your day is triple-booked, where can you find some ‘space’ needed to bring your whole, inspired self to a project or colleague? I have heard this complaint from virtually every person I have worked with…they often liked their position but were frustrated because they rarely felt they brought their best-self to work.

Cultivating this spaciousness in your day is another part of mindful leadership training. As you train and step out of ‘autopilot’ mode, you begin to see the things that are creating clutter. Sometimes those things are in your environment (e.g. culture of too many meetings, redundant assignments) and sometimes those things are within you (e.g. tendency to over-analyze, the inner critic). As you learn to lessen the clutter, you are opening the space needed to be more reflective, and you are more likely to find the ‘win-win-win’ solutions that are ‘good for the organization, good for the employees, and good for the society/community.’ You find the direction for the project that gets the job done but also benefits the employees and/or the community. Or, you take an approach to a challenge that comes from a place of compassion and creativity rather than ‘check the box’. In the process, you also often find what is ‘missing.’

There are many, many more advantages to mindful leadership training. They range from mindful communication and mindful meetings to leading with inspiration and purpose. And they apply to every aspect of your life-whether you are using them to lead your team, your organization or your own life, mindful leadership training allows you to lead, and live, with excellence.

Interested? Contact us to learn how we can bring a custom workshop to your organization. Or explore Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership, an international best-seller that includes guided practices and real-world examples from professionals from every aspect of society-business leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, military professionals and non-profit leaders.