Mindfulness: Why Should Leaders Care?

Jul 30, 2021 | Culture/wellbeing

The last in our mindfulness blog series explores why business leaders should care about mindfulness in the workplace. 

Being a leader in the modern workplace can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it can also bring a lot of stress. And when the leader is stressed, the workplace as a whole suffers. Stressed leaders are edgy, grumpy, and sad. And even more so — 1 in 2 employees see their stressed leader as ineffective or even harmful. But, how do humans become this stressed in the first place? Well, for the sake of simplicity:

  1. An unpleasant external event — stressor — occurs.
  2. We perceive that stressor.
  3. We assess the stressor.
  4. We psychologically, physically and behaviourally respond to the stressor.

 Let’s see how would this play out in the real world:

 Your new colleague comments on your work.

  1. You perceive (become aware of) that comment.
  2. You assess the comment as negative.
  3. You become upset or tense and thank your colleague sarcastically.

These four steps are so intertwined that many of us perceive them as one or — at best — notice the stressor when it occurs (step 1) and recognize feelings/sensations/behaviours that follow (step 4). 

But a mindful leader does not allow their mind to be absent through the second or third step either. Rather, a mindful leader pays attention to how he or she assesses the stressor and how he or she reacts to it. In other words: Mindful leaders take back the power over their feelings, sensations, and behaviours. This happens because a composed mind appreciates the space between stimulus (stressor) and response (stress/behaviour). As a mindful leader you are more likely to assess the comment as ill-minded due to that colleague’s own struggle, or,  ill-minded but irrelevant to us.  And that is a game changer because you no longer become trapped in your mind’s automatic response.

In addition, research suggests that leaders who undergo mindfulness training are different in three self-leadership capacities: mindful task management, self-care and self-reflection and two leadership capacities: relating to others and adapting to change. By cultivating focus and clarity, a mindful leader is able to bring prime creativity and compassion to the workplace. So, how do you become a more mindful leader?

1. Cultivate self-awareness

Being aware of your overall work goals and intentions for any specific work day as this will help you align your responses with who you are or who you strive to become. In other words: When you know how you want to show up with others and within work situations, you will notice when your response isn’t helpful and needs an adjustment.

2.  Practice mindfulness

Meditation is not the only way to improve a tense life packed with back-to-back meetings. To better use the aforementioned space between stimulus and response, you can opt for any form of mindfulness. This can be as undemanding as checking in with yourself before you enter a meeting or scheduling in downtime to recharge.

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