Want to Be a Better Leader? Try Mindfulness.


In The Neuroscience of Leadership, authors David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz explain that success simply isn’t possible if the everyday behaviors of all people within an entire organization remain unchanged. “But changing behavior is hard, even for individuals, and even when new habits can mean the difference between life and death,” assert the authors.

Interestingly, studies have even indicated that only about one in nine individuals who have undergone coronary bypass surgery will go on to adopt healthier habits. For those who do not move toward healthier behaviors, they evidently do not see a value associated with a change in behavior.

Perceived Value – The Missing Link in the Change Equation?

Statistics like these clearly demonstrate how challenging it can be to change the ways of an entire organization. I recently read an article in the NeuroLeadership Journal called Lead Change with the Brain, where the authors stated that even in the best of circumstances, organizational transformations only have overall success rates of about 30%.

What is one of the greatest obstacles to achieving a successful transformation within an organization? If you guessed maintaining employee engagement and motivation, you’d be correct, according to the authors of the article. Just as patients who undergo major surgery must see a significant value connected to changing their life habits, employees must see a value in wide-scale organizational change.

Change Begins With You…

In an HBR article on mindfulness, author Bill George recalls the financial crisis of 2008, saying, “The crisis exposed the fallacies of measuring success in monetary terms and left many leaders with a deep feeling of unease that they were being pulled away from what I call their True North.”

So, the big question is: as a leader, how can you drive change – while staying connected to your “True North”? Mindfulness. As it turns out, the practice of mindfulness isn’t just good for your overall wellbeing – it can strengthen your abilities as a leader, too.

The techniques below may seem overly simple – but that’s just the point. Mindfulness need not be an elaborate or challenging practice.

  1. Listen attentively. How many times have you met someone, only to forget her name moments later? It’s happened to the best of us. The next ID-100365504time you’re engaged in conversation with someone, try listening mindfully without being distracted by everything else that might be going on around you – or even, by your own inner thoughts. If you do this consistently, you’ll notice a big improvement in your relationships.
  2. Speak mindfully. Have you ever stopped to think about how other people perceive what you’re saying? You may react to something someone has said without giving any real thought to it. Or, you might just start speaking the instant a thought pops into your head. Pause a few seconds before speaking to give yourself a chance to think about how you can respond in the best possible way.
  3. Try a writing meditation. You’ve probably heard that writing or journaling has many benefits. Here’s a unique approach: Pick out a favorite meditation or affirmation that has meaning to you. Then write it out by hand for 10-15 minutes each day. What’s the point? It’s thought that the words literally “imprint themselves on your subconscious”. In time, you’ll notice shifts in your behavior, in the way you perceive others, and in your general attitudes and feelings.

Charles Francis, director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute and author of Mindfulness Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace, explains the far-reaching impact these practices can have on you as a leader:

“Leaders who see the far-reaching consequences of their actions, and those of their organizations, become more than just leaders. They become visionaries.”

As a leader, what mindfulness practice has the most meaning for you? Share your comments below!

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Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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