It's way easier to be a boss than a leader, and there is an enormous difference. Leaders are looked to for guidance and knowledge, trusted with heavy responsibilities, and regarded with confidence and faith.
It's a big job.
Leadership takes unique qualities, and being a leader is a constant evolution of resourcefulness, intelligence, and agility. Mindfulness is a powerful tool gaining an increasingly important role in shaping powerful, effective leaders.
Mindfulness is defined as "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique."
If you think mindfulness has no place in the corporate world, think again. There are books and even an entire conference devoted to how mindfulness can make you a more successful leader. Companies like Google, Apple, General Mills, Facebook, Starbucks, and Intel have all embraced the concept of being a mindful leader. Here are five simple ways mindfulness can help you become a more effective leader:
#1: Lessens the effect of stress
One of the most critical non-hereditary threats to our health is stress. The impact of a demanding job is often stressful, which can culminate in everything from irritability, loss of sleep, to high blood pressure and headaches. Practicing mindfulness with activities such as meditation, or even a few minutes of breathing exercises, combats the effects of stress on your body and mind, and allows you to bring your A game to your leadership role.
#2: Helps sharpen focus
Today, it seems we are doing eighteen things at once, which can result in none of them being done well. Using mindfulness focusing exercises regularly gives us the tools to concentrate productively on a task. Given the full emphasis of our attention, initiatives gain traction, projects progress, and we enjoy greater success for our efforts.
#3: Creates greater balance
Leaders often struggle between their demanding job roles and their personal lives. An imbalance leads to dissatisfaction, personal issues, and loss of productivity. Committing to mindfulness and a regular routine of meditation forges a strong inner awareness that assists in balancing every part of your life. By being able to live in each moment, a core concept of the mindfulness practice, you are empowered to build a workable work/life integration that is fulfilling.
#4: Keeps you grounded
As leaders move forward in their careers, some become out of touch, set in their ways, and closed to new ideas and opportunities. The practice of mindfulness works against the problem of becoming "stale." Meditation and other mindful practices help individuals be more aware of their surroundings, curious about their world, and open-minded toward new possibilities. This influences your behavior in many ways, from being more empathic to those you lead, to realizing the nuances of potential workplace issues you may have never noticed, to offering solutions to obstacles or problems. Mindfulness keeps you grounded in the moment so you can lead from a better personal place.
#5: Increases clarity
Muddled thinking, focused on deadlines and problems, is ineffective and largely unproductive. Unfortunately, stress, lack of work/life balance, and failing to stay in the present moment leads to just that. Practicing mindfulness regularly breaks through the fog and arrives at clearer, sharper thinking. Clearing your mind with meditation, breathing exercises, and focusing exercises provides the "brain power" to tackles issues from a different viewpoint, and to see solutions that were not visible earlier. Leaders who are strong, clear thinkers and problem solvers are more successful and effective, and more dependable.
Leaders benefit from mindfulness in crucial ways that directly affect their effectiveness. Getting started is easy. There are a variety of guided meditation apps you can use directly from your smartphone, which include breathing exercises. Commit to a daily meditation routine, and build from there. Soon, you will see powerful results from your efforts, and begin morphing into a better leader than ever.
What are your tips for being a mindful leader?
Photo courtesy of Flickr CC and Dean Hochman