How Mindfulness Helps Leaders LeadSep 01, 2022
Leaders have the responsibility of being the architects of an organization’s culture and performance. They face unique challenges in the workplace, from managing time for administrative work and required strategic planning, to supporting team interactions, all the while managing their inner and interpersonal dimensions.
With the unique challenges they face, leaders require a wide range of abilities to help lead themselves and their organizations optimally.
An analysis of top peer-reviewed studies on 6000 leaders from around the world found that leadership mindfulness has the potential to develop critical abilities needed most by leaders.
What is leadership mindfulness?
Leadership mindfulness is the application of mindfulness in the act of leading an organization.
Mindfulness, according to researchers, can be understood as the process of actively noticing new things and the awareness that arises when we pay attention in the moment, on purpose and non-judgmentally.
In the workplace, leaders can apply mindfulness in day-to-day activities such as listening, prioritization, task management, reflection and taking regular pauses. For example, these mindful moments can enable a leader to actively notice when they’re caught in rigid thought patterns about a project or person. This can then allow them to explore different approaches that may bring about a more optimal outcome.
A leader can strengthen and sustain their ability to be mindful throughout their day by engaging in mindfulness practices, like seated mindful awareness of breath and movement-based meditation practices.
Which abilities does leadership mindfulness enhance?
Personally, leaders improve internal (intra-personal) and interpersonal skills. Internal skills include cognitive abilities enabling leaders to gain perspective and be aware, to manage their emotions and mental health, and to maintain resilience. Interpersonally, these skills include listening, perspective-taking, empathy and pro-social skills helpful for building and maintaining constructive relationships.
Professionally, leadership mindfulness enhances role-specific skills, and skills needed to lead a team and an organization. Role-specific skills include a leader's ability to adapt, be supportive and engaged, manage tasks efficiently, and influence change. Team leadership skills include creating a positive team climate, and fostering positive communication and effectiveness in executing tasks. Organizational skills include the leader’s ability to lead systems change and organizational transformation, as well as to foster a positive work culture, employee wellbeing and better performance from employees.
For this article, 15 studies were selected (out of a pool of 554 peer-reviewed studies) to review the impact of leadership mindfulness on 6000 leaders (n = 5929) from a diverse range of industries and occupations across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, US, Canada, China, Singapore and New Zealand.
Michael Apollo MHSc RP is the founder of the Mindful Society Global Institute. Prior to founding MSGI in 2014, he was the Program Director of Mindfulness at the University of Toronto. He is an educator, licensed mental health clinician and certified facilitator in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.
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