The practice of mindful leadership

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THE practice of mindful leadership may be one of the most important competencies in business, and life today.

The seven practices of a mindful leader address the art and practice of shifting from being stressed by change to embracing change. It is cultivating appreciation to reduce divisions and support collaboration. Mindful leadership cultivates greater awareness and even greater love, leading to more inclusive, thriving cultures. Mindful leadership transforms self-doubt into confidence and healthy vulnerability.

Your greatest potential

Michael Bunting, author of the book The Mindful Leader, says “To lead from their greatest potential, leaders need a process that supports them to become consistently self-aware, self-regulating, values-based, innovative, open-hearted and balanced within.”

Mindfulness, an ancient practice that is now being proven by science, provides this process. Bunting further asserts that, in its simplest form, mindfulness means to maintain a non-judgemental awareness of our attitudes, thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and environment in the present moment.

Mindfulness in the corporate world is often reduced to little more than a skill for stress reduction, increased focus, and greater productivity. While this has value, it misses the full impact that mindfulness can have on leaders, society and whole systems.

Drawing from over two decades of disciplined mindfulness training, Bunting shows how leaders can leverage the power of mindfulness to lead from their greatest potential. He integrates proven mindfulness practices with well-researched leadership disciplines to create a refreshing model of conscious, authentic and compassionate leadership. The ultimate purpose of mindful leadership is not just to increase productivity and profits, but rather to create great workplaces with more meaning, integrity, compassion and joy.

Mindfulness engagement

Leadership is one of the most challenging endeavours we can undertake. While it can often elicit the best in us, it can also expose our avoidances, reactivity, insecurities and values indiscretions. There is a path that allows us to access our whole, authentic selves to lead with awareness, courage, compassion and integrity. That path is mindfulness, which is the practical application of self-awareness. It is the “how” of self-awareness. Developing as a leader is about cultivating our inner strength to stay aware and balanced under fire, to inspire others with an inspirational purpose, to appreciate others’ gifts, and to courageously hold ourselves and others accountable when we want to slip into avoidance and justification.

A critical factor in creating and sustaining job satisfaction, productivity and a healthy bottom line is workplace engagement.

Leadership behaviour has a substantially Perhaps above all, it is to stay aware and authentic. Without mindfulness, we cannot cultivate these qualities to their fullest extent. Mindfulness provides the base of self-awareness and self-regulation that is essential to consistently accessing our prefrontal cortex and our best selves in the cauldron of leadership.

Leadership has bigger impact on engagement than any other factor. In fact, as much as 37% of employee engagement can be attributed to leadership behaviour.

The key to transforming leadership behaviour is the cultivation of mindfulness integrated with evidence-based leadership practices. This creates a truly self-aware and self-managing leadership style. The formula is simple: Highly engaged organisations are more profitable and effective. The key to improving your organisation’s engagement is your leadership behaviour. And mindfulness—the practical application of self-awareness—is the most effective method to ensure your leadership behaviour is exemplary.

Restructuring your thinking

Mindfulness has been shown to literally change the structure and function of the brain and provide the following benefits:
Improved cognitive skills, including improved executive functioning, sustained attention, visuo spatial processing, working memory and increasing our information processing speed.

Enhanced creativity. Mindfulness practice can reduce “cognitive rigidity”, thus enabling us to respond with greater flexibility.

Stronger relationships, including reducing social anxiety, improving our ability to empathise, and decreasing emotional reactivity.

Health benefits, including depression prevention, increased immune functioning, pain control, improved sleep patterns, greater ability to curb and overcome addictions and binge eating, and improved heart health.

Improved genetic health and longevity. This is based on Nobel prize-winning research which has led to awarding of the Nobel Prize for exemplary leadership—Nelson Mandela and many others have won this accolade.

All of these benefits clearly have a profound impact on leadership. When leaders are focussed in the present they are calm, clear, open, relaxed, engaged, productive and “in flow”—precisely how they need to be to function at their best. In most of our coaching in this aspect of mindful leadership we often take participants through the seven practices for inculcating mindfulness in their leadership.

Conclusion

The world is desperate for great leadership—more precisely, for mindful leadership. Disconnection and disengagement abounds in our personal and professional lives.

The greatest opportunity of leadership is to make a truly positive and meaningful impact. Mindfulness equips us with the tools and capability for transforming ourselves into extraordinary leaders.

It helps us overcome our inner resistance to the flow of life and develop a flexibility, intelligence and wisdom that can come in no other way

Robert Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.

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