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Recently, I had a discussion with someone with whom I’m partnering on some consulting work. Our talk went well but afterwards, when he wrote up his thoughts on what we had discussed and sent them to me, I found myself reacting defensively because I felt my interests had not been adequately considered. Wait a minute, I thought.

And then I did: I paused and became present, available to what was occurring in that moment. The rational thought process and emotions that had been so primary in my reaction began to lose their strength, and as that happened, I intuitively realized and appreciated a broader set of considerations than just my own personal interests. The insight arising from seeing through my initial reaction gave me a different perspective, one that was open-minded, taking into account our mutual interests. I had tapped into a kind of wisdom based on something more than analytical thinking and factual knowledge.

Traditional wisdom in the business world emphasizes objective information, relevant professional experience, and good judgment—all of which any good leader will take into account. But conventional problem-solving alone is insufficient to address the challenges and competing priorities leaders face today.

CEOs and other senior executives are expected to produce growth and profits while simultaneously serving an ever-widening variety of stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, owners, partners, and communities). In addition, they are expected to be conscientious caretakers of the environment and to find ways to serve the greater social good, possibly even at the expense of profits—a daunting set of trade-offs for even the best executives.

And senior executives are not the only leaders challenged with difficult trade-offs. Managers at all levels are required to push hard to meet increasingly difficult objectives, but still demonstrate a caring approach toward their employees and foster high levels of emotional engagement. That task is even more difficult as more employees become disenchanted with organizational life. And, of course, they must do all that while marshalling the energy necessary to maintain commitments and relationships outside work.

Such trade-offs are based on countless subjective and circumstantial factors. Decisions made using only fact-based information won’t adequately take into account the subtle distinctions and needs of each situation. Past experience is insufficient given the unique nature of the decisions. Leaders must go beyond fact-based knowledge and previous experience to gain a deeper understanding of what’s needed in each circumstance.

Having an insight or answer come to us once we’ve given up trying to solve a particular problem is an experience familiar to all of us. Unprovoked clarity like that is evidence of wisdom based on something other than analytical thinking. Often what becomes clear has to do with the “self” in relation to circumstances, whether that self is an individual, a department, or a company; such clarity sees that the self needs to be cared for, but not at the expense of others. This brings wisdom that naturally inclines leaders toward values such as compassion, respect, and social good.

The basic requirement for accessing that deeper understanding is to see through our filters, the natural subjectivity of our thinking. This lessens our affiliation with ego, or self-centeredness, and creates a spaciousness that invites new perspectives and ideas. Viewing circumstances and decisions without the inclination to preserve personal stories, desires, and identities reveals insights based on a holistic sense of what’s true and most important.

If we create the right conditions for it, such wisdom is not only available, it is almost inevitable. The practices of mindful leadership cultivate those conditions. Daily meditation, reflection, and purposeful pauses give inner wisdom the space to surface. That spaciousness enables creativity and new understanding. These simple, yet powerful, mindful leadership practices have the power to shift our vantage point, allowing us to adopt an insightful and receptive relationship with situations, so we can see what is most needed.

At a time when trade-off decisions are broader and more consequential than ever, the practices of mindful leadership produce the type of awareness we need to be able to hear and acknowledge our natural knowing. This allows us to overcome defensiveness and other kinds of reactivity, and instead take an evolved approach to decision making, one that combines a deeper wisdom with the knowledge and experiences we ordinarily apply.