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The Powerful Importance of Being a Mindful Leader

15 March 2016

In the last decade, a new style of leadership based on positive psychology has begun to emerge in businesses around the world; mindfulness. We talk a lot about the skill gaps that present challenges to businesses, but it seems logical that if there are gaps in the operation of a business, then there are gaps in its leadership as well?

In this blog I’ll explore how to be more mindful in your work-life and how positive psychology can be used to make you a better leader, by proactively enabling your workforce to be less stressed and more productive.

Mindfulness (Not Mind Control)

Mindfulness is an old ideology that is best described by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, who states that "Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.”

In other words, it’s the principle of taking the time to remove yourself, whether it be physically or mentally, from high-stress situations to reflect on the bigger picture. This allows you to see the situation from other perspectives, which in turn results in more carefully thought-out decisions.

There is plenty of scientific evidence explaining the benefits of mindfulness, and over the years studies have shown that regular mindful practices can make work far more enjoyable, increasing focus and happiness. It can also improve decision making and enhance listening skills. All of these are vital traits for being a great leader. However, before you can look after others, you must first learn to look after yourself. This ensures that you’re able to prevent yourself from slipping into practices that separate you from your values due to unnecessarily high levels of stress.

Enabling Your Employees to Tackle the Pressure

It’s important that you are aware of your presence and the ways you impact your peers and staff alike.

Positive Psychological leadership enables staff to be mindful in the workplace by promoting mindful practices. Four interesting, yet relatively quick ways to introduce mindfulness into your work place include:

1) Encourage your employees to relax before the day begins. Have them take a few minutes whilst their computers are turning on to reflect before getting wrapped up in emails.

2) Encourage employees to complete tasks where they’re not fully competent or comfortable. Suggest that the employee focuses on the task, accepts any feelings of discomfort and reflects later on what they learned from challenging themselves.

3) Before a meeting begins, allow attendees two minutes to think about what has happened in their day so far, so they can come to terms with it, and then put it aside so the meeting has their full attention.

4) Promote concentration on tasks. It's natural for employees to try and multi-task, and in some cases this can even be beneficial. However, doing so is counter-productive more often than not.

Positive psychology has become increasingly accepted as a management tool, with some of the biggest enterprises and their leaders now implementing different ideas. The late Steve Jobs was well known for training his own brain, Intel created a program designed to meet the emotional intelligence needs of their 100,000 employees around the world, and General Mills’ leaders encourage employees to pursue mindfulness.

In 2011, Google invited hundreds of their employees to join the world’s most renowned Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh for lunch; a mindful lunch. The event was so well received that it later became monthly and before we knew it, we had an entire programme from Google dedicated to optimising your attention, self-knowledge and mental habits (Search inside Yourself). According to a spokesperson from the tech giant, the class is effective because it combines modern neuroscience with two and a half thousand years of first-hand research from meditators.

Shaping Mindful Leaders

What this mindfulness revolution has proven is that investing the time to practice mindfulness can increase your productivity and well-being, whilst also reducing your stress levels, no matter what your role. With that in mind, leaders and executives who embrace Positive Psychology in their leadership not only benefit themselves, but also positively impact those they manage and collaborate with.

The important thing to remember is that it’s not any one specific practice that will make you mindful. It’s more a matter of setting aside the time each day to remove yourself from high stress situations and pressures, and reflect on what is happening.

Anybody can do this, by taking the time for daily journaling, walking, hiking, jogging or even finding someone to share the day’s events with. If you have more questions on how to enable your employees through positive psychology, then feel free to get in touch.


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