How Mindful Leaders Create Happier Teams

Mindful leaders create healthier team relationships because of one crucial factor: communication style

Dawn Teh
Dawn Teh
Aug 29, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo Credit: CoWomen/Unsplash

Look through any management book or course, and communication will probably top the list as one of the most important skills any leader should have. But what exactly does effective communication look like? There are many schools of thought, including authoritative, consultative or cooperative styles.

A recent study conducted by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and Technical University of Munich, has added to this list by demonstrating that mindful communication helps leaders create more satisfied relationships in teams.

When we think of mindfulness, we often associate it with the benefits it brings to the individual person. You’ve probably heard it can relieve stress, improve sleep quality and even boost physical health. But the benefits of mindfulness doesn’t just stop there. It can even help with our relationships by the way it influences the way we communicate with others.

The study looked specifically at leader-follower relationships in the workplace by conducting surveys with teams from different organizations. Their results indicated that leaders with a general mindset of mindfulness had more mindful communication styles. And this ultimately created more positive relational environments within their teams.

What is mindful communication?

First off, they defined mindfulness (in a general sense) as having two key components — being attentive to the present moment and non-judgmentally accepting the experience of that moment.

The researchers found that when leaders had this general mindset of mindfulness, they were more likely to bring that same perspective to the way they communicate.

They termed this distinct communication style as mindful communication, and gave a breakdown of its specific qualities.

Mindful communicators:

  1. Pay attention well: They are mentally present with the other person. They don’t let their thoughts wander to past or future events and listen attentively.
  2. Are open-minded and non-judgmental: They keep an open mind about alternative opinions instead of immediately forming reactionary judgments
  3. Are calm and non-impulsive: They observe their emotions as transient states and do not let it be the driving force of their decision making.

Mindful communication and team satisfaction

So how exactly does mindful communication impact the leader-follower dynamic? The researchers went to further to explain the following benefits on follower satisfaction:

  • Less information gets lost between the communicators because the leader is mentally present and paying attention.
  • Followers feel heard by the leader, which increases sense of control and autonomy over environment
  • Followers feel their opinions are valued and respected because the leader carefully consider input before making judgments
  • Followers feel a sense of relational safety and belonging to the group as they have repeated positive interactions with their mindful leaders

They concluded that mindful communication creates cooperative, two-way exchanges between leader and follower. This encourages an environment where followers feel heard and valued, which ultimately translates to increased productivity and other benefits to the organization.

“I’m a leader. Should I start practicing mindfulness? “

It may seem like mindfulness is often touted as an antidote for every physical, mental or relational issue known to mankind. And the researchers of this study stressed that it isn’t the miracle solution to all our team management woes.

So while you need not sign up for a 30 day mindfulness course immediately, a good place to start is to be mindful in the way you communicate. Honestly examine the way you speak with followers and try being more open and non-judgmental in your mindset, choice of words and tone of voice.

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Dawn Teh

Written by

Dawn Teh

Health content writer | Former psychologist writing about how we think, feel, connect and thrive. Let's talk:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +564K people. Follow to join our community.

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