Over this holiday break, I picked up the book "Mindful Leadership." I bought it based purely on the title, with little expectations - it had no ratings or reviews when I placed the order. I believe that everybody can benefit from understanding the nine ways the Maria Gonzales identifies. The author makes the case that we're all a leader since a leader is anybody with the opportunity to influence another being - regardless of our seniority, age or social status. Buy the book. Here is a quick recap to wet your appetite:
1. BE PRESENT
Being present is the biggest gift you can give and is the starting point of being a mindful leader. The key to being present is pairing intention with attention. Be in the moment regardless of circumstance. Never waste energy and time regretting the past or fretting the future.
Observe how others take in what you're saying and see if you have buy-in or doubters. Scan and study the non-verbal conversation. Beyond just words, listen with the "third ear" to the intonation and conviction with which people speak. Truly listen to what someone says, rather than what you wish they had said or what you fear they have said. Slow down, wait in order to hear, hear in order to listen, and listen in order to speak.
2. BE AWARE
Being aware starts with being receptive. Be mindful of arising thoughts and feelings at any given moment - don't be blindsided or hijacked by your emotions. However, don't suppress what you are experiencing. Don't interfere, just notice.
Being aware also means noticing how you affect others. Constantly observe how your words, your actions, your demeanor and energy impact those around you. Be receptive and listen for possibilities, without judgment. Stay in a constant feedback loop in the world and the interconnectedness of all things.
3. BE CALM
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to have a conversation with someone who is relaxed? While some people appear to have a greater tendency toward calmness, the good news is that calmness and relaxation are readily learnable.
A leader that remains calm under any circumstance is invaluable. If you're less impulsive, you can respond appropriately instead of being reactive. Keeping control in any situation assures others that a difficult task is manageable. Employees following a calm leader can face challenges with smart problem solving rather than emotional panic.
4. BE FOCUSED
Concentrate on whatever is a priority in any given moment. Give your attention to only one task at a time. Keep distractions in the background while focusing on the task at hand. Focus allows you to be fully present in meetings from beginning to end without your mind wandering.
Studies show that people spend up to 50% of their time not thinking about the task at hand. Add to that the fact that the average worker gets interrupted every 11 minutes and it takes about 25 minutes to get back to the original task. Focus is extremely important for productivity.
Multitasking is the greatest barrier of our ability to focus and the most overrated skill, acting as a bad excuse for our inability to concentrate. In fact, multitasking (aka being distracted) is so ingrained in our culture that we admire it instead of demonizing it for killing efficiency & effectiveness.
5. BE CLEAR
Being clear comes back to understanding what drives you and what's important in the grand scheme of things - knowing why you do what you do. Lead from your core and use your internal compass for guidance, inspiration and comfort.
Be clear about your company's vision and mission, your own life purpose, commitment, motives, choices and intentions, your thoughts and emotions and your expectations for yourself and others. Speaking mindfully means you say only what is necessary - no more, no less.
You say what you mean and you mean what you say. In fact, making clarity a priority signals to everyone in your organization that this is your expected standard. This will prompt others to be more rigorous and disciplined in communicating as well.
6. BE EQUANIMOUS
With equanimity - which means being of an even, composed frame of mind - you become aware of what can and what cannot be changed. Equanimity is the ability to make better decisions, see opportunities previously unseen, and to accept "what is" non-judgmentally, without resistance or anger.
To practice this skill, one need to accept that not everything needs to be ideal in order to be content. This does not mean hiding disappointment, but rather address the problem with a composed demeanor and avoid getting personal.
7. BE POSITIVE
Intention and a can-do attitude are very powerful forces in solving problems and seizing opportunities. Set your mind on positive outcomes and they will manifest. For instance, before a meeting, spend a few minutes thinking about what your objectives are for the meeting. Train yourself to expect the best by imagining the best outcomes.
Catch yourself in negative self-talk and don't tolerate any mental abuse in your head. Don't tolerate pessimism in others either. Be a positive force for yourself and your colleagues. You probably noticed that when you're grumpy, things don't go your way. Be grateful, for it increases the chance that something good happens to you.
8. BE COMPASSIONATE
Don't fear being soft or sensitive. Compassion takes guts. True compassion is about caring without attachment to the outcome. Don't let your ego get in the way. Develop your compassion with deliberate acts of kindness.
Enroll people on projects as co-conspirators, not subjects, with a clear sense of contribution and significance. I call it "people over projects." People want to feel seen, heard and understood by the leader, not just act as tools for completing work.
9. BE IMPECCABLE
Mindful leaders are impeccable in their words and deeds - which should not be mixed up with being perfect. You can't be perfect all the time, but you can try your best every time. Try to leave a situation always better than you found it.
Be results-oriented. Foster a climate of accountability, responsibility, creativity and change. Operate with a wise mind: no blame, no attack, no judgment, don't control. Admit if you felt short of your own expectations - showing humanity will build trust with your team.
The author provides also a final thought: we are here to serve.
As leaders, we are responsible for creating an environment full of positive energy nurturing everyone you have the privilege to influence. Mindfulness training makes you realize that you are a spiritual being in a human existence, realizing that you are here to serve the world for the benefit of all beings.
In my opinion, mindful leadership can be your key to organizational health. It unifies people and harmonizes your culture. I think it's fair to argue that every meeting and project would be better off with more mindfulness practiced by all.