What is mindful leadership, and how to practice it?

13
September 2022

Workplace stress generates $300 billion in losses annually. And guess what? Some of it is due to poor leadership; 80% of employees say that a change in direct management or leadership has impacted their stress levels. 

So why aren't we doing anything to change this? Busy leaders sometimes get so caught up putting out fires and managing their businesses that they start acting on auto-pilot and forget to see the bigger picture. You're busy, but that doesn't mean you can't be mindful. 

Mindful leadership will help you make conscious choices and nurture positive long-term results. Please keep reading to understand the most common traits of mindful leadership and learn how to incorporate them in and out of the workplace. Trust us, once you start applying them, your team will thank you, and the results you'll achieve will exceed your expectations. 

What is mindful leadership? 

According to Mindful.org, mindfulness is "the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's happening around us."

In simple terms, we're talking about being aware and at peace with the present moment. When we practice mindfulness, we focus our energy on observation – without feeling that we need to make fast decisions or constantly worry about the next step. Mindfulness doesn’t mean you do nothing or stop planning for the future.

So, how can we apply this ability to lead the workplace? Mindful leadership teaches us to avoid replicating default reactive patterns or putting ourselves on "auto-pilot" to get through the day. So, how can you get started? Keep reading! We'll give you some practical ideas to train your mind to focus on the present to make smarter decisions for the future. 

The four qualities of the mindful leader

Your ability to guide and inspire others to work towards more meaningful goals sets you apart as an influential leader. There's no need to intimidate or instill fear to get the job done. Instead, be mindful and in tune with your team. Here are the four most remarkable mindful leader characteristics and how you can work to strengthen them within the workplace. 

1. Compassion 

A mindful leader is compassionate with others but also with themselves. Leadership is a non-linear work in progress. You'll need to get up again countless times. To gracefully manage your failures and successes, practice self-acceptance on your way to meeting external and internal expectations. Once you adopt this attitude within yourself, it will be easier to understand and work towards helping your team members solve their current challenges. 

Here's how to practice compassion:

  • Set aside safe spaces for you and your team members to discuss challenges freely.

  • Be kind towards yourself and others. Avoid negative talk with yourself or others. 

  • Be practical and non-judgmental when identifying areas of improvement. Prioritize finding the solution. 

  • Choose your words wisely. Focus on honest and beneficial communications. 

  • Reward yourself and others when challenges are overcome.

  • Provide the support that employees need when they're going through difficult times.  

2. Ability to connect 

When as a leader, you strengthen your connection with yourself, others, and your surroundings, you're creating an environment of inclusion and understanding. Openly display your values and ethics and inspire others to show their true colors and be themselves. In the long term, you will generate an environment of trust and understanding. There will be no need to intimidate or control others to achieve the desired results. 

Here's how to create meaningful connections:

  • Whenever a new member joins the team, set aside some one-on-one time to welcome and get to know them. 

  • Give employees your undivided attention in meetings. Avoid multitasking or answering messages on other devices. 

  • Always say hello and goodbye whenever you walk in and out of a room with employees. 

  • Openly recognize achievements and accomplishments. 

  • Meet with underperforming employees to sincerely talk about the issues. 

  • Invite employees to share their interests and passions outside of work. 

3. Awareness 

One of the main pillars of mindful leadership is being aware of yourself, others, and your environment. When we fine-tune what we are thinking, feeling, and sensing now, we are strengthening our metacognition. This often means slowing down when things are moving at what seems to be light speed. Getting caught up thinking about the past or the next step restrains us from being objective and conscious of the current moment. It's time to escape auto-pilot mode and be here, now.  

Here's how to heighten your sense of awareness: 

  • Set aside at least five minutes of quiet time before and after work to meditate and concentrate on your breathing.

  • Actively listen in meetings, don't just think about what to say next. 

  • Become aware of your emotions before responding to an email or communicating in person. 

  • Whenever strong emotions or impulses arise, practice deep breathing, or if you can, step aside and set yourself some space.

  • Avoid distractions like devices in meetings or presentations.

  • Don't multitask. Split up tasks by segments and do one thing at a time. 

  • Take interest and be curious. You'll need the motivation to be and stay in the present moment. 

  • Avoid packing your days with back-to-back meetings. Give yourself some one-on-one time to digest all the intake.

4. Accountability 

As a leader, you must be accountable for guiding your team in the right direction. Blaming others for mistakes or lack of results will create high-stress levels and resentment and decrease your validity. Instead, understand the full effect of your actions on yourself, others, and your business. This will also help you endure hardships and prevent constant conflicts. 

Accountability often comes up naturally when you start nurturing your sense of self-acceptance and awareness. But we'll give you some more practical steps to enable this trait. 

Here's how to live up to your senses of accountability

  • Own up and be transparent about your mistakes. Use them to set an example and as a learning opportunity. 

  • Be part of the team's failures and successes. Use "we" or "us" to address losses. Not "you" vs. "me."

  • Avoid using judgmental words when your team fails or makes a mistake. 

  • Be humble. Re-enforce your strengths through actions, not words. 

  • Be open to receiving honest feedback from your team members.  

Expecting to switch to a mindful leadership style from one day to another is just wishful thinking. Set aside time to implement these ideas into progressive actions inside and out of the workplace. Trust us; your team will thank you.

Take baby steps and be kind to yourself. Of course, you won't be able to be mindful at all times- we're only human!  But the more you practice, the better you get – and soon, mindfulness will become second nature.

Disclaimer: The content of this post has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult with your tax, legal, and accounting advisor before engaging in any transaction.