Updated: Apr 19, 2021
Marturano describes that: “a mindful leader embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion in the service to others” (2014). This blog post will focus on the various layers of impact that mindfulness training can have in the context of the following three levels of leadership as described by Hougaard and Carter: self-leadership / self-awareness, people leadership / people awareness, and organizational leadership / organizational awareness (2018).
Self-leadership begins with self-awareness. Great confidence is needed to be able to hire people with independent critical thinking skills that will be able to challenge our current approach (Hougaard and Carter, 2018). Since in business the only real success can be accomplished as a team, the best leaders exhibit a sense of humility and gratitude for the contributions of their direct reports. Mindfulness practices can also enable leaders to make values-driven decisions that positively affect the long-term success of the organization.
Unfortunately, often times short term improvements in business performance can come at the high cost of employee morale. 360-degree assessments and employee engagement surveys often reveal underlining issues with traditional management styles that will eventually negatively affect the bottom line and manifest themselves in form of high turnover and increased disability rates. For example, managing through fear can lead to employees going on stress leaves (thus further eroding morale), when they could instead be contributing to the company’s competitive advantage.
Mindfulness is an excellent path towards increased self-awareness and self-leadership. Although, we spend most of our days running on autopilot, the good news is that “neurologists have found that by training our mind, we can change our brain” (Hougaard and Carter, 2018).
Finkelman conducted a study to test the relationship between leadership styles and employee wellness. The results “demonstrated a link between positive leadership behaviors and positive employee outcomes such as positive emotions, work engagement, [mindfulness] and self-efficacy” (2016).
As discussed in previous sections, mindfulness helps us gain the ability to experience events with a fresh mind, instead of relying on habitual perceptions. Hougaard and Carter mention how “unconscious bias prevents us from seeing people as they are and from hearing what people are truly saying” (2018).
The most successful leaders in the world take the time to learn about and understand their people. This knowledge is not gained by sitting isolated in an ivory tower, but by walking the floor and leading by example. Connecting with our people on that deeper personal level allows us to understand their perceptions and provide better support as needed. Since mindfulness and compassion can also help us manage our own emotions, if there is an issue or a disagreement, we are better able to keep in mind the bigger picture instead of merely reacting.
Since in today’s business environment technological and other disruptions are rampant, attention is becoming a scarce resource. Some of the more progressive organizations are recognizing this trend and are truly trying to get ahead of it. Hougaard and Carter further describe the culture of Accenture: “in a mindful culture, work is organized in a way that is conducive to being present with one another, being focused on the task at hand, and having awareness of self and others” (2018).
High functioning organizations operate with a high degree of trust and a low degree of politics and bureaucracy. As Peter Drucker famously said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (1959). In the era of knowledge economy, organizational talent is more frequently viewed as the only undeniable source of sustainable competitive advantage in business. Many employers strive to provide an exciting workplace culture of teamwork, innovation, growth and flexibility; just to attract the most qualified applicants. However, the tone of the organization is often set from the top. Leaders begin this process by establishing a set of core values and ideals that are meant to inspire people to succeed as a collective organizational group. Even the Dalai Lama mentions the importance of values in corporate leadership in his interview with Hougaard earlier this year (2019).
However, what about the obligations to company shareholders? Many public companies are under tremendous pressure to improve their bottom line and increase the stock prices. Short term sacrifices are made to improve organizational profitability, but those sacrifices do not always automatically equate to long term results. As Hougaard and Carter suggest: “there’s a slow but growing movement among executives toward focusing on the long-term health of organizations and creating people centered cultures” (2018).
Are you ready to take your leadership skills to the next level? Contact us about our Mindfulness Training Program today.