Mindful Managers Make Great Leaders

March 26, 2018

Mindful Managers Make Great Leaders

Mindfulness seems to be a constant buzzword in the corporate world over recent years. It is tempting to dismiss it as the latest time-limited craze; but a number of high profile corporations such as Apple and Google are embracing mindfulness as part of their corporate culture, and with good reason, too. Read on to learn why these companies are embracing mindfulness as part of their corporate culture.

Mindfulness was initially seen as an exercise to promote employee's well-being and to better manage stress. However, studies have shown the positive effects of mindfulness, and it goes a lot further than one might think. Many large corporations are beginning to recognize how mindfulness training translates into a powerful management and leadership tool.

Three phenomenal advocates who are leaders who actively practice mindfulness are:

  • Mark Bertolini, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aetna
  • Soledad O'Brien, Broadcast Journalist, and Producer, CEO of Starfish Media
  • Holly Richardson and Matt Jarman, Professors at Virginia Military Institute

What Is Mindfulness?

Experts have defined mindfulness as a technique of living in the present moment and recognizing your reaction to a situation. Gretchen Steidle, in her interview with Knowledge@Wharton, described mindfulness as "simply paying attention on purpose, in the present moment." She explains the three important concepts of mindfulness:

  • Cultivating the Present
    When faced with a stressful situation, the leader must learn to train themselves to recognize their reaction. The focus is to be in the moment, and in the ‘now.’ Examining the situation objectively creates a distance for the leader without being mired or distracted with ‘what ifs’ or negative feelings such as frustration and anger.
  • Concept of Curiosity
    The concept of curiosity means the leader examines the situation unfolding without judgment. There is no blame, and the leader keeps an open mind. It helps them to see beyond their own agenda, fears and to listen to other people’s opinions and ideas.
  • Respond, not React
    The mindful leader can separate themselves and learn to approach a stressful situation objectively. The problem they are facing is not personal. There is no blame or judgment. Standing in a neutral position, able to process what choices are available, without resorting to a knee-jerk reaction.

How Can Mindfulness Make A Manager A Better Leader?

An article titles Contemplating Mindfulness at Work explores how mindfulness can positively enhance working relationships and make a manager a better, more successful leader. Here are the main and most prolific reasons of all.

  • Practicing mindfulness translates to reduced stress and anxiety, which in turn will ripple outwards towards the team. An employee tends to feel less stressed if the leader is calm and collected.
  • Cultivating a culture of solutions instead of playing ‘the blame game’ also has a positive effect. Conflict is handled in a less explosive manner. Thus employees will feel less afraid. This creates trust.
  • Knowing that their leader will be non-judgemental means the employees will be comfortable voicing their opinion. Employees will feel more valued if they know their ideas and concerns are being listened to and if they feel like they can make a genuine difference to the business.
  • Mindfulness will lead to better listening skills, increased empathy, greater understanding and better communication.

All these positive outcomes will strengthen relationships between employees and their leader. A supportive working relationship can only lead to less stress and a more enjoyable work climate, and a leader can better lead a team that is more cohesive and resilient.

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