In June, the Director of the National Centre for Strategic Leadership, Nigel Girling, will be running a free webinar raising awareness about and talking through some approaches to mindful leadership. The following post was provided by the organizers of the webinar.
We live in a world of unprecedented pressure to be productive, complete tasks and stay in constant contact. For leaders, this can lead to a working environment that is fragmented by thousands of distractions and disparate demands. Attention spans are, unsurprisingly, becoming shorter as leaders struggle to find their way through this minefield.
It might all sound a bit hippy and New Age, but mindfulness might be just what leaders need at this point.
Many cultures have embraced this kind of thinking for centuries, but applying it to leadership and business, especially in the West, is rather more recent. There are five major aspects of effective leadership than can be developed through mindfulness.
In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, it’s essential that leaders remain aware of how they are perceived by others. Being conscious of your own emotional and mental state, and of your behavior, is key to ensuring that you are the leader you want and need to be at all times.
The ability to see and experience yourself as others will is crucial in understanding the impact you have. It begins by being alert, listening to yourself, and observing the way you think, feel, speak and behave.
Presence in the moment
The modern leader needs to be able to experience situations clearly and without prejudice or emotional baggage. With so much complexity in every context, the ability to remain focused on the reality of a situation and the core purpose of any action is of significant benefit.
This is part of the wider topic of ‘critical thinking’. It could be as simple as paying attention to what is actually happening. People who multi-task often spend much of their time thinking about the thing they need to do next, or worrying about problems… mindfulness asks that you think about what is happening right now.
Leaders are starting to recognize that their ability to withstand major trauma, bounce back from setbacks, and cope with pressure, all without becoming stressed, is a key factor influencing their capacity for providing engaging and confident leadership.
Stress is often the natural enemy of rational and considered behavior, and mindfulness can help a leader to treat setbacks and failures as learning experiences that can be analyzed to guide future action.
Some traditional management thinking would have you believe that it is necessary to be tough and hard, demanding results and driving performance. In the 21st century, talented staff want a leader who is human and who understands that work-life balance is not just some wishy-washy fad, but a source of renewed commitment, engagement and enthusiasm.
The effective modern leader knows that their job is to enable their people to bring the best version of themselves to work, not just to squeeze them dry and discard them when they fall apart.
Gordon Gekko was a fictional character, just like Sir Alan Sugar or the Dragons. Leaders who really behaved that way would almost certainly find their best people jumping ship, and those that stayed being stressed, unwell and underperforming.
Calmness and rational thinking
In recent years, some excellent work has been done on developing our understanding of neuroscience, and the role of emotion in thinking patterns. Organizations like HeartMath have demonstrated the way emotional responses affect the ability to remain rational, and have shown just how important calmness is in sending out the right messages through deliberate, conscious behavior and unbiased decision-making.
In summary, mindfulness isn’t about finger-cymbals and chanting (not that there’s anything wrong with either of these), nor do you have to sit cross-legged in front of your guru… it’s just a hefty dollop of common-sense, applied to an area that is often rather short of it.
To find out how to harness the power of mindfulness to achieve these essential features of effective leadership, join the webinar.