The Link Between Mindfulness, Positive Leadership, and Success

Submitted by Krista H. –  freelance writer

“Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and in motivating them towards shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.” — William George, Harvard Business School Professor and former Medtronic Chairman and CEO

The buzz surrounding mindfulness may seem like a trend — one that has swept the nation, especially among health enthusiasts. However, mindfulness has a rich history, one that dates back to ancient meditation practices.

Having roots in Buddhism, psychology and philosophy, mindfulness and meditation not only impact your health, but also your ability to function at an optimal level — especially in regard to a hectic business environment.

If you are in a leadership role, here’s what mindfulness can do for you, your team, and your overall success.

How Mindfulness Relates to Leadership

There are certain qualities that make someone a great leader. They need to be able to communicate, delegate, express empathy, influence, show resilience, be accountable, and share their vision — all of which can me strengthened through the art of mindfulness.

It is well understood that mindfulness combats stress, often by increasing self-awareness and self-regulation. It also has the ability to enhance cognitive, emotion, and social functioning. As stated by Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, in more than 30 years of research, it’s been found that mindfulness increases productivity and charisma, decreases burnout, and increases memory, attention, creativity, health, and positive affect.

In a business setting, especially as a leader, the more mindful you are, the more aware you’ll become and the more willing you’ll be to take advantage of opportunities, preventing the dangers and risks that do not yet exist.

By being more transparent, making it known that you don’t have all the answers and that there is always some level of uncertainty, you can promote mindfulness in others. When you work together in harmony, instead of creating an illusion that you know all — when that’s simply not the case, everyone wins. You, your team, and the company.

When You Manage Your Stress, It Is Felt Across Your Team, Improving the Company’s Bottom Line

PR Newswire reported that when leaders feel stressed, it is often felt across the entire organization. Among the 1,000 college-educated U.S. employees surveyed, only 7 percent of employees believed that their stressed out leaders were able to effectively manage and lead their team. What’s worse is that only 11 percent of employees who work with stressed leaders are highly engaged at work.

If you are leading a team and are viewed as someone who cannot effectively manage your stress, employees will often lose their personal motivation and drive.

This is why mindfulness is so beneficial among leaders, as it feeds the “psychological capital” of a company, a term that was newly presented in 2013 by Dr. Jamie Gruman, who is now a professor of Leadership & Organizational Management at Guelph University. More specifically, this drives:

  • Hope among your team, as you give off more positive goal-directed energy
  • Greater optimism, as you show your team that you can react to problems with skill, ability, and confidence
  • Self-efficacy, which will radiate across your team
  • Resilience, an imperative component that will allow you to bounce back when faced with adversity

As you become more mindful, you will be able to effectively separate yourself from the stressful events that occur, maintaining a neutral position — one in which supports the company’s growth and success.

Your Team Are People, Not Instruments

As stated in an LSE Business Review article,written by Michael Pirson, an Associate Professor of Management, Global Sustainability, and Social Entrepreneurship at Fordham University, in today’s corporate world, employees are often viewed as resources — and it is up to company leaders to get the most out of these individuals.

Unfortunately, this is leading to mindless leaders who preach cultural narratives, implementing a generic approach in order to achieve corporate goals.

Of course, this approach will lead to certain achievements. However, it will also often cause employees to disengage, something in which costs American companies up to $550 billion a year. In order for employees to be fully engaged, they need to be a part of something greater — a compelling mission that they believe in.

Related: Creating a culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging with Dan Tyre from HubSpot

There needs to be trust between employees and management, as well as a healthy company culture. As a leader, you need to be able to listen, and becoming more mindful will allow you to truly listen without judgement, as you adopt numerous perspectives — which can help drive company success.

3 Steps to Become More Mindful

The process to becoming more mindful must start with you. Although attending yoga mindfulness retreats certainly won’t hurt, and may even be of great interest you, you do not need to necessarily participate in such activities and events in order to become more mindful.

Transitioning into a mindful leader simply means that you are becoming more highly aware of what is going on around you — all while being able to better control your own thoughts and emotions.

To do so:

  • Step one: Give yourself time to think and reflect — Being more mindful will require you to be present. This is why it’s imperative that you have a quiet, creative space that allows you to think. Fill this space with triggers or reminders. After all, the moment you realize you’re not present, naturally brings you to the present. For some, they are able to increase awareness when they’re stretching, others prefer to observe nature or read inspiration quotes. Implement these small moments into your everyday routine. They will help you become more grounded and calm.
  • Step two: Avoid multitasking — As a leader, multitasking may seem like second nature. However, as stated by the American Psychological Association, multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%. As you become more mindful, you will learn to stay present, as you disconnect from your phone, and become a more self-aware individual — all of which will help you improve your ability to focus. Mindful leaders understand the key to a more productive day. It begins with one’s ability to focus on one task at a time, prioritizing tasks based on their importance and level of urgency. If there is a lot to do, this is where the art of delegation comes into play.
  • Step three: Make wellness a priority — Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. If you want to truly lead your team, you’ll need to nourish your body, rid your life of toxic emotions, and get enough quality sleep.

Mindful leader development is critical for company success. In order to be the most effective leader possible, you will be required to alter your thinking and perspective, behave in a more constructive manner, and make humanistic management your top priority when aiming to achieve results.

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About the Author

Krista graduated from the University of Guelph where she studied psychology and neuroscience. Still active in her research, she now focuses on all aspects of health — both mental and physical. Based on her strong research skills, she is confident in a wide range of topics. Her specialties are health, nutrition, neuroscience, and business. She also owns a small business, which is most certainly her creative outlet!

Krista H is a freelance writer who writes about lifestyle and travel.