This week, I spoke at a Mindful Leadership Breakfast on this very subject. It’s pretty challenging being a leader in business at the moment. You’re supposed to be visionary, yet down to earth, impressive but not egotistical, participatory and yet not mowed down by others. This is an artform if ever I saw one, a continuous balancing act. One of learning and growing step by step.
The main challenge that leaders face is how to bring others along with them. You’re not a leader without a following. And whether you have a team or not, you want people to listen but more importantly, you want people to ‘speak up’ so that you can get closer to them and their needs.
In order for them to listen, they need to be inspired by you and the bigger cause that you stand for. They need to believe in you and your philosophy. In order to speak up, they need to feel that it’s safe enough to do so, that you have their best interests at heart.
So how does Mindfulness help with all this?
Well, Mindfulness as a practice is usually a lot deeper than people think. Often people will say to me, ‘I’ve had a go at this app or that app, it helps me sometimes but I’m not doing it regularly’.
Also, people will also often ask me ‘what’s the shortest time I can meditate for?’
If this is you, listen to yourself.
You’re going. Too. Fast.
Mindfulness is about taking your foot off the accelerator pedal
Here, we learn to slow down, we can begin to re-connect with ourselves. This process isn’t always easy – it can be challenging! A lot of people expect that Mindfulness is about achieving a state of calm. It isn’t. It’s about learning to be with life’s highs and lows and relate to them differently. To not be sucked in by one’s own emotions but to learn to step back and watch them for what they are. This takes time. The neuroscientific studies that have looked into the changes in the brain that happen during Mindfulness training show major neurological changes, which I explain in this video, often don’t happen until week 5 and beyond of an 8 week course. This is why I don’t run programmes for less than 5 weeks.
So, in the meantime, people need to practice and see what unfolds. In doing so, they learn patience, they learn to watch their habits and patterns with a new kind of curiosity and kindness.
Kindness has a ripple effect.
Not only are leaders kinder to themselves following Mindfulness training but they’re also kinder to others. It’s almost impossible not to be kinder to others while being a practitioner of this discipline. Research cited in the 2016 Journal of Management shows how Mindfulness improves relationships and people’s ability to show ‘greater empathy & compassion — suggesting mindfulness training could enhance workplace processes that rely on effective leadership & teamwork’.
Keeping it practical
I always believe that Mindfulness needs to be rooted in the practical. Creating a practice like this takes time and dedication. That time is valuable. I implore you to find a course with an evidence base behind it. We put research into all our workplace courses and I following my Diploma in Mindfulness Teaching I continue my CPD & supervision at Oxford University to give you an idea of how important I think this is. There is a lot of Mindfulness ‘stuff’ out there so just ensure you’re being trained by a properly qualified teacher.
Mindfulness is an ongoing practice. This takes discipline but not in a negative way, rather in a way that creates internal freedom for the mind. Freedom to make better choices, freedom to lead in a more open-hearted and aligned way. Freedom to be more of ourselves.
If that isn’t worth working for every day, I don’t know what is.