For More Impactful Leadership, Slow Down & Breathe

We think too much. We work too much. We’re stressed out too much.

And we know it.

Yet, few of us make a conscious effort to give ourselves a break. It seems we’re in constant overdrive and don’t know how to slow down our hectic pace.

The Path to Impactful Leadership Starts with the Breath

According to Deepak Chopra, author and alternative medicine guru, on average, 41 thoughts are pouring through our minds each minute. All the over-thinking and over-doing causes the body to be continually in a fight-or-flight mode, resulting in a myriad of health concerns.

“In today’s rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just being.”

-Eckhart Tolle

How can we stop thinking so much? There is a simple way…

By consciously focusing on our breathing. By taking deep breaths and practicing controlled breathing, our bodies respond in a variety of beneficial ways.

And just as importantly, conscious breathing assists us in practicing mindfulness, when we make the most of the present moment. This, in turn, allows us to become more effective leaders, too.

We Don’t Know How to Breathe Effectively

In a director article aptly called Breathe Your Way to Better Leadership, Nilfer Atik writes that in our business lives, breathing takes a back seat to monitoring profits and losses.

But we can change that, according to Atik. How? By focusing on our breathing, we can:

-Improve concentration

-Increase productivity

-Spark creativity

-Manage demands more effectively

Richard Russell, consultant respiratory physician at Lymington New Forest Hospital, says we don’t breathe “naturally.”

“As babies, we naturally take deep breaths from our abdomens. As we get older, periods of stress cause our central nervous systems to operate in the sympathetic mode. This means that our natural ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in, which causes us to take shorter, sharper breaths.”

As a result, we over-breathe and take in too little oxygen to nourish our bodies, resulting in fatigue, depression, and even panic attacks, according to Russell.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

-Amit Ray

CEO of TLEX Institute Johann Berlin assists companies in training restorative techniques to employees. His experience shows that leaders who take time out from their busy days to replenish and restore themselves are more successful and effective.

One technique Berlin cites as making that meaningful difference: conscious breathing.

“Even one deep, conscious breath can serve as the mini-meditation that we need to slow down and reduce tension,” Berlin explains. Taking that pause to enjoy several deep breaths lays the foundation for us to move into our tasks with a fresh energy and even a newfound enthusiasm.

Many experts offer their own breathing exercises. Alan Dolan, known as a ‘breath guru,” teaches his own technique of conscious breathing. Berlin’s can be found here; choose what works, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Whichever technique we choose to integrate into our lives, taking the time for conscious breathing will help us to reduce stress and become more mindful – a win-win situation for our bodies – and our careers. 

Mindfulness: Connecting & Accepting the Present Moment

We can’t hide stress from our bodies – or our employees. Our bodies let us know by high blood pressure, weight gain, panic attacks and a host of other maladies that stress has taken over.

Marissa Levin, founder and CEO of Successful Culture, notes that when leaders are stressed, good employees will flee for the sake of their own health and well-being.

It seems their employees know it – and feel it, according to Harvard research. And when leaders are unable to manage their stress constructively, more than half of their workforce views their leadership as ineffective – and even harmful.

Harvard research also showed that leaders can manage stress by practicing mindfulness, by being focused on the present moment and by being aware. Three areas that can help leaders to be more present are:

  1. Metacognition – observe from a distance what is taking place around us. This helps to become more aware of our reactions to situations.
  2. Allowing – observe what is happening without judging or criticizing anyone – or ourselves.
  3. Curiosity – strong leaders possess deep curiosity, a willingness to learn about all situations.

A mindful leader has self-awareness, transmuting instant reactions into thoughtful responses.

When a triggering incident occurs in the workplace, a mindful leader does not react. He or she takes a few moments to observe and assess the situation, and then responds appropriately. Those few moments of quiet awareness diffuse highly charged situations and help set the tone for more meaningful dialogue.

“Breathing deeply and releasing fear will help get you where you want to be.”

-Iyanla Vanzant

An effective response starts with something as simple as one deep breath. During this time of world-wide upheaval, now more than ever it’s time to take the opportunity to demonstrate courage, vision, and strength in leadership so that we can rise above – and inspire others to do the same.

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Conscious leadership

Transform into a more conscious leader with these 5 strategies.

Conscious leadership is so much more than tossing around buzzwords of the moment, adding another inspirational image to your Instagram, or tweeting a motivational quote.

The journey of conscious leadership can be thought of as a deep, continual process that ultimately brings the best of your inner self out into the world of form so that you can create the greatest impact as you inspire those around you.

Conscious leaders know that as we expand our understanding of who we are and what our unique purpose is, we’re better able to deepen our impact as our powerful authenticity unfolds, radiating from within out into our sphere of influence.


Here are 5 practical strategies to help you become a more conscious leader:

Conscious leadership
1. Write your purpose statement.

Knowing your personal “why” is key to your own development. You might be surprised at how many people go through the motions of each day (focusing on the “what”) without truly having an understanding of the “why” behind what they’re doing.

One of the most effective ways to get clear on your own “why” is to craft a personal purpose statement. This is just for you – there are no rules to follow, no specific guidelines you must meet – let your creativity flow and use this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the visions you have for your future.

2. Cultivate a self-care practice.

Far from being selfish, self care allows you to reenergize you so you can bring your full presence into all that you do. After all, none of us can give from an empty cup.

When it comes to self-care, you don’t really have to “do” anything – there is no special practice to follow, no app to download, no seminar, workshop, or training to attend. Your self-care routine can involve anything that nurtures and soothes you – listen to your heart here and allow yourself to spoil the inner you.

This is the beginning of a virtuous circle around you:  the kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you will likely be to others. The more they receive kindness, the more they can give it to themselves and others. And so on. Think about it: it all starts with you.

Conscious leadershipThink BOLDLY: Today, I encourage you to expand your concept of self-care by taking a few moments out to reflect on all that you’ve accomplished on your journey. And, contrary to what some of you may be thinking, this is not blah-blah. Even HBR has researched and written about how acknowledging our achievements is a form of self-care (“Acknowledging Your Achievements Is a Form of Self-Care”).

3. Focus on the “we” – not the “me.”

The most impactful organizations aren’t solely focused on employee perks. In an article on, Glint CEO Jim Barnett takes the concept of conscious leadership a step further by reminding us how conscious leadership can create conscious organizations.

He explains, “The vision behind my conscious leadership style stems from wanting to bring awareness, authenticity and caring to my leadership role. This means I bring my whole, authentic self to work and try to lead from a place of trust, responsibility, curiosity, integrity and ease. I work hard to create an environment with no drama, a focus on “we” not “me,” and where we believe in creating “wins for all” vs. win-lose scenarios.

So, you see: self-care does indeed fit into the greater concept of a whole conscious organization. When we’re willing to take good care of ourselves first, we lay the foundation to bring our best, most authentic presence into all that we do. Thus, we lay the foundation necessary to inspire others to do the same, resulting in a cumulative positive effect.

4. Encourage feedback.

Many leaders find they’re more focused on giving feedback rather than receiving it. Truth be told, many leadership articles focus on how to effectively give employee feedback. And rightly so – constructive feedback fuels the growth of an organization by bringing attention to what needs to change while highlighting what’s already working. This same concept can deepen your capacity to lead with far greater ease.

Inviting others to share their honest feedback with you is a win-win situation – you gain valuable insight and perhaps the chance to better recognize your blind spots that could use attention. Plus, you enjoy the opportunity to cultivate trust and deepen your relationships.

One caveat here, though: remember to balance developmental feedback with feedback about what makes us great. All of us exhibit greatness. And, as humans, all of us – at all levels of the organization – need to be reminded of it and know others see it as well.

5. Be inspired every single day.

If you’re not fully grounded, it can sometimes be challenging to navigate the often turbulent waters of life. A quick visit to Facebook, Twitter, or any conventional news outlet often yields a whole lot of drama.

Conscious leadersLet this motivate you to find inspiration in everything. When you find that a situation seems discouraging or downright disturbing, ask:

  • What can be learned from this?
  • Is there a way I can positively contribute or serve others?
  • What might be happening beneath the waterline, that is, just below the surface of human perception?

It’s so important to know that conscious leadership is an ever-evolving process of growth and deeper understanding – not a once-and-you’re-done task.

Gain more practical tips and easy-to-implement strategies to help you transform into a more conscious leader…sign up for my free Weekly Bold Moves right here, delivered fresh to your inbox each week!