Leadership Series – Managing Self

 As a leader, where do you spend most of your time? In the past, in the present, or the future? If you are not sure how to respond to this question, it could be because you are not fully aware. 

“Become fully present to this moment. Get your mind out of the future and out of the past.” Mary Morrissey

Mindfulness Leadership is the ability of a leader to stay more present while guiding others toward a shared vision. 

According to Boyatzis & Mckee, great leaders are awake, aware, and attuned to themselves, to others, and the world around them.

In the organizational context, leaders who practice mindfulness, have more self-awareness, being able to identify their triggers and emotions when they’re happening. Because they are paying more attention, they are less reactive and can take the time to evaluate their experiences before responding. Mindfulness correlates to high levels of emotional intelligence. 

 Research shows that people tend to operate on autopilot by spending almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing.

According to Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, mindful work is about becoming more intentional about increasing the level of focus and awareness to each activity and interaction at work, managing the internal and external distractions as they arise, including multitasking.  

“A mindful leader cultivates a sharp and clear mind”.

Janice Marturano, the founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, asserts that Mindful leaders have four attributes: clarity, focus, creativity, and compassion.

A mindful leader is intentionally present. For instance, giving undivided attention to a direct report, even if it is for a 5 minutes conversation, can make a huge difference. This ‘presence’ can have a positive impact on the lives of others because we all have a need to being heard and feel that we matter.

 “Wherever you are, be there totally”. Eckhart Tolle.

 Self-aware leaders tend to practice Mindful Leadership, or a sense of ‘presence’ that allows for a more open perception of others that is more authentic and less influenced by pre-conceived notions. This unbiased appreciation is more important than ever because the leader can be more effective at assessing situations, people, and resources to make the right decisions.

 “A mindful leader can positively influence individuals in their team, organization, family, and community.” Janice Marturano.

 Leadership coaching can help a leader to discover their own beliefs and preconceptions that might get in the way of understanding the people they lead or work with. Marshal Goldsmith, in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, describe 20 bad habits that challenge interpersonal behavior in the workplace. One of them is associated with staying too much in the past. Keeping a record of past grievances might lead to a leader to treat others unfairly.  

 “The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor: he took my measure anew every time he saw me, whilst all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me.” ― George Bernard Shaw.

 I am sharing some ideas on how to become a more mindful leader:

  1. Be willing to harness the power of mindfulness in directing your staff. Become a role model by leading with compassion and authenticity.
  2. Identify the most stressful situations at work and analyze how do you tend to respond. Do you overreact? Do you avoid facing situations? What can you do better next time?
  3. Now that you had recognized your triggers at work, push an imaginary pause button to allow you time to see situations and people with ‘fresh eyes’ instead of using too much of past judgment to make decisions.
  4. Become more intentional about staying in the present moment when you interact with your direct reports.
  5. Implement mindful practices with your team, such as checking the ‘internal weather’ before meetings.
  6. Create moments of intentional focus and attention by concentrating on the task or the person at hand. Time blocking can help you to commit periods to uninterrupted attention to people and tasks. 
  7. Use breathing to self-regulate when experiencing moments of anxiety or strong emotions at work. Breathing has a calming effect on the nervous system and helps you stay attuned to your feelings.
  8. Notice when you are spending too much of your thinking time in the past or the future. Use situational leadership to figure out when it is most appropriate to refer to past events or when to think ahead.

 Clarity, focus, creativity, and compassion are four relevant attributes of Mindful leaders. You can display those more often just by staying more intentionally present throughout your day. Others will notice them because they will feel better around you.

 As a leader, where do you spend most of your time? In the past, in the present, or the future? I suggest that you stay more present every day to become a more mindful leader. 

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