In business, leadership is very important. It is the leader who takes the wheel and brings the people to their destination. A leader has to be mentally strong and emotionally intelligent. He has to create an environment where his people are creative, successful and happy.
Self-awareness is an essential leadership trait. An effective leader knows his strengths and weaknesses, and how he can use both in supporting and guiding his people. Recently, the practice of mindfulness in improving leadership skills has caught the attention of many business leaders. Meditation, yoga and other similar activities were seen as important in the development of leaders.
Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, means paying attention purposefully, in the present moment and devoid of any judgment. Paying attention properly is being curious and open to whatever one may see or realise. This can result to better focus, clarity and empathy – skills necessary in leadership but hard to achieve for some. It is quite common to get distracted and be self-absorbed. It is also easy to let mistakes and apprehensions control our daily life. When a leader lets these negative vibes get to him, his team may get affected. Leaders must learn to manage their emotions well so they can be effective in their job.
The following are the core skills of mindful leaders. From these, one can learn how to be purposeful and focused in leadership.
Mistakes cannot be avoided in doing business. A mindful leader does not place blame on his team or external circumstances when mistakes happen. Instead, he identifies what went wrong in the process and how to avoid them in the future. Leaders know that they are agents of change and they take full responsibility for his team’s failures and successes. He does not aspire to be indispensable because he knows that no one really is. He does not cover up his fear and instead communicate his insecurities to others. By doing so, he encourages his team to share their insecurities. Together, they can face their fears and work towards the attainment of their goals. The end result is an honest relationship with each other.
When working towards a goal, there are times when one has to stop, realign his focus and go another way. It may be daunting because there may be a need to start from the beginning and fear one will fall behind the schedule. A mindful leader is not afraid to start again when he knows he has to. He has clear knowledge of what the goal is and what needs to happen to achieve them. He is not afraid to change horses when he knows he can no longer beat a dead one.
A mindful leader is not reactive but is instead proactive. When faced with problems, they don’t rely on straightforward solutions that have been tried and tested. Straightforward solutions may be the easy way to deal with problems but most often than not, they don’t lead to the best resolution. A mindful leader considers habitual thoughts, preconceived notions and decision-making processes. By doing so, they don’t resort to the tried and tested. Instead, they identify other stressors that cause the problem. Stressors may be physical or emotional that causes a person to make poor decisions.
According to Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, the most important qualities in a great leader are humility and ambition. Leaders who are ambitious for the greater good have no need to feed their ego. They feel and understand their people and they are motivated by their need to help them. Mindful leaders whose ambition is to help his people are selfless and humble. They are not demanding, impulsive, insensitive and intimidating.
What has been tried and tested is comforting, be it in personal life and business. Change threatens people because it’s new and unproven. A mindful leader embraces change. He is open to new experiences and new way of doing things. He frees himself from attachment and knows that holding on to what he’s used to also holds his company back. Good leaders are agents of change. They are open to new knowledge and to failure as well. They know that failure is necessary in gaining knowledge and in bringing about change.
Focus and attention to the present are important to mindfulness. They are also necessary when it comes to making decisions. A mindful leader knows that a frantic pace and stress are detrimental towards the attainment of his company’s goal. He knows that having too much on his plate can lead to emotional stress, bodily aches and pains and eventually, burnout. Being aware of this signs makes a good leader see if they’re present in his people. While he encourages them to work hard, he also knows when they need a break. This will result to happier employees. A mindful leader can identify which priorities cannot be put off and which ones may be delayed in order to reduce workload and lessen work-related stress.