Mindfulness: Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement.
While this definition is functional or descriptive, it is also an invitation to practice and come to our senses, again and again.
Mindfulness has been shown to benefit a multitude of ailments, whether of the body or the mind, directly or indirectly. Perhaps more importantly, it has its applications beyond stress reduction or pain management.
I have been reflecting a lot on leadership, mindfulness, and how much of a difference it makes in how I work and interact with my team. While a lot can be said on the subject, I’ve settled on four key aspects of mindful leadership. I hope this take on Mindful Leadership, in the context of a startup/business, resonates with you.
Without further ado, here are “the big four” of Mindful Leadership:
Mindful Leaders Lead Intentionally
You might be the founder, or someone designated to lead a team. The title gives you authority, and people look to you to fulfil this role. What intention do you bring to your role?
Your intention will be reflected in your words and actions. Your actions determine the context within which others perform their work, and your words can make or break someone’s day. So, clarify your intentions, and lead intentionally.
Tip: Start your day with asking yourself this: what is my intention for today? Create reminders for yourself to do this before every important conversation.
Mindful Leaders Invite Frequent Feedback
You don’t sit down for your mindfulness practice and say, “my doors are always open to awareness”, you deliberately pay attention and bring your mind back again and again when it wanders. Then why do so many of us leave our teams with, “My doors are always open for feedback”? It’s time to invite feedback deliberately and frequently.
The process of mindfulness is a process of observation, feedback, and integration. When you put the same in practice at work, you must deliberately invite frequent feedback.
Tip: Hold regular feedback sessions with your team. Remember that feedback isn’t always negative, use this occasion to count all the positive things too!
Mindful Leaders Communicate Openly
As leaders we have to deal with bigger uncertainties than anyone else, and are tasked with devising the right strategies that will decide whether our ventures survive or whither away. This kind of work takes a lot, and requires that we constantly share our visions and plans with our teams. Yet too many of us hold back with our communication. We try not to show vulnerabilities and fight our stress in isolation. We assume that we must come up with the best ideas and plans, and always be at our best. The reality is often different and many times we don’t have the answers. That’s where a steady stream of clear communication can be the life-blood of a thriving startup.
Open communication allows for other people to pitch in when needed, challenge us when appropriate, and support us in being better leaders.
Tip: Stop worrying about how you might sound or be perceived. Be open and honest with your team so they can be honest with you.
Mindful Leaders Let the Team Lead
As the leader you probably think about your business 24/7. And so, it is natural that you have a lot of ideas. And to be fair, it is your job to have good ideas and often be right. If you are not careful though, you might end up making the team so reliant on you that the moment you leave the room, things fall apart. So, take a break and let other people lead, on purpose. Invite people to take initiative.
Invite people to challenge you and find their own way of solving a business problem. Soon you will realise that your team is taking responsibility, and you are simply facilitating great performance. Let them lead, and don’t forget to give credit.
Tip: For every great idea you share or initiative you take, ask for advice from the team. Always start with the problem to be solved, and try ending all your proposals with “what do you think?”.
I started my leadership journey about four years ago, until recently founding my own product company — and I realise more and more that:
your intention and how you communicate with your team truly set you apart as a leader — and knowing that you’re only human and prone to “not always having the answers”, it is imperative to invite feedback and allow others to lead where they would do a better job than you.
That's why I consider these as the four cornerstones of mindful leadership — the first two help you lead well from within yourself and the second two make sure you continue to lead well and grow by creating an environment that encourages and challenges you to be a mindful leader.
To me, Mindful Leadership is about creating a culture of awareness and communication. A culture where we do the work we love, that helps us grow. Such a culture requires that we lead with care.
I wish you more mindfulness, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject!