Can You Be A Mindful Leader? #MindfulnessForLife
Questions, Questions, Questions
Is it possible to be a Mindful Leader? How can Mindfulness enhance the practice of Leadership? How can being a Mindful Leader enable you to be the best Leader you can be? Why isn’t there a book on Mindful Leadership?
All good questions and considering there have been over 78,000 books written on Leadership since John Adair’s’ seminal book in the field, ‘Training for Leadership’ in 1968, the last one really does beg the question.
In fact, there is at least one book at the moment out there that looks at Mindfulness and Leadership and that’s my own, ‘Uncovering Mindfulness’, but that of course doesn’t just restrict itself to Leadership.
The Leadership Paradox
At the heart of Leadership there is a quintessential question that presents us with a paradox, “If leadership is about doing the right thing at the right time, how do you know on either score?”
I would contend that Mindfulness can help us to know both the right time and the right thing, but how so?
Confusion, Friction & Under Performance
Only three things happen naturally in an organisation or business, confusion, friction and under performance, the rest requires Leadership!
But the whole business of Leadership has become, well a business.
Did you know that if you Google ‘Leadership’ you can get upwards of 800 million hits and some 130,000+ theories and models. For instance, the Trait, Style or Contingency theories of Leadership. Or models of Leadership such as Authentic, Distributed, Embodied, Narrative, Primal, Resonant and Servant, and I have written about many of these and more in other foray and media over the past few years.
And as a business, Leadership is worth a staggering £45 Billion per annum globally. That’s coming from your own pocket, or your Company’s bottom line, wherever you are in the world. Spent in the pursuit of what? Competitive advantage? Promotion? Magic Bullets? The Holy Grail?
Better Leaders today?
And do we have any better leaders today than we had before John Adair’s’ book in the late 1960's?
You might say yes. I would say it depends. For Leadership is also at its heart both situational and context dependent. If it’s out of synch or time with either, then very rarely will it be the right Leadership and very probably not great, or even good Leadership.
A Leader today needs to be Present and in the moment, whilst being aware of the bigger picture and all the nuances at play.
A Leader today needs to engage and inspire, have great self-awareness and be curious.
A Leader today needs to be a great listener, authentic and trust worthy.
Nothing new under the Sun
Of course, Leadership isn’t a uniquely 20th, or indeed 21st century phenomenon, although the degree of scrutiny, hair-trigger accountability and court of public opinion that a Leader today has to face, is more modern than not.
The focus has also shifted towards the practice of Leadership being both an art and a science.
Yet the concept of Leadership and what it is to be a Leader, can be traced back over two millennia to Plato and the Greeks; Herodotus, Marcus Aurelius and the Romans; & Lao Tzu in 5th century BC China.
In fact, it can be traced back almost as far as Mindfulness itself.
A VUCA World
In today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world though we need first and foremost, certainty! And the traditional notions of Leadership have been challenged in favour of identifying Leaders and emerging Leaders who are Authentic, Ethical, Trust Worthy, able to lead in both the good and bad times, and provide that certainty.
For me the essence of Leadership is to have a following, with the legitimacy or permission, if you will, coming from influence, passion and purpose, rather from any title or hierarchy.
They give credit where credits due, creating loyalty. They ask how they can be better, by seeking feedback and engendering respect and trust.
They also understand the nature of ‘Luck’ and prepare for it accordingly.
They know their strengths and are also aware of their weaknesses. They surround themselves with the best people and they listen.
They are also curious and natural storytellers, able to create a compelling and resonant narrative that connects emotionally, &, they are authentic, ethical and trusted as well.
So, what is Mindful Leadership?
It’s engaging, inspiring, being authentic, curious and self-aware.
It’s paying Attention and being Present, which is about much more than simply showing up, or just being in the room. Although some don’t, most Leaders show up of course, but they’re not always in the moment. They find themselves distracted by whatever crisis, or issue or meeting is taking precedence and this really undermines their ability to gather the necessary information and effectively judge and weigh situations in order to make the best decisions.
It’s surrounding yourself with great people and inspiring them by being genuinely interested in making an emotional connection.
It’s being more deliberate, considered, grounded and far less likely to loose your cool.
It’s having a finger on the pulse and being aware of the questions to ask and the places to go for the answers.
Its’ actively listening and tuning in to the “song beneath the words”, noticing the little things — the nuances of the language.
Key characteristics of a Mindful Leader
So, what might these key characteristics be? Here are some:
- Being resilient, emotionally intelligent and comfortable in your own skin
- Having great humility but also an intense professional will that enables you to balance gentleness with strength and a steely resolve
- Being prepared to embrace failure, knowing this is where both learning and future success may come from
- Having great compassion and empathy
- Being thoughtful, considered and deliberate in making and taking decisions
- Being self aware, knowing how you come across to others and being readily able to adapt for different audiences and situations
- Dealing with all situations with greater calm and being less judgemental
- Seeking to understand then be understood
- Having greater clarity and precision of thought, as well as greater creativity, energy, both insight and outsight, and a clearer sense of purpose; & finally
- A Mindful Leader will know that their vision will be bigger and last longer than they will, if they invest in a culture that provides a clear purpose, is compassionate and supportive, inspires and rewards creativity, and is transparent: Their legacy will also be a more Mindful Business.
There are podcasts on iTunes and YouTube now available that talk about Mindfulness and Leadership in greater detail. Just search for, ‘From Mindfulness With Love’.
Also coming soon will be an extended presence on new social media sites including Periscope and Blab, where we’ll be launching a live streamed Talk Show on both Mindfulness and Leadership to help you to continue to sharpen your Saw.
Meanwhile, you can follow the continuing journey Uncovering Mindfulness on Twitter @TheMindfulBook and in the next newsletter we’ll be looking at Mindful Business.
So, keep well and until then, Be Mindful.