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What is mindful leadership?

Sarah is a creative director at a tech start-up and she’s currently leading a brainstorming session. Her teammates are dropping some amazingly creative ideas, but she’s finding it hard to capitalize on them as a crucial deadline is coming up. All she’s hearing is white noise. How can she regain her focus on this meeting before it’s too late? This is exactly where mindful leadership comes in.

Alexandra Marinaki
Alexandra Marinaki

Alexandra is a psychologist with a MSc in Talent Development and Creativity.

Mindfulness is the human ability to stay intentionally in the present moment with full awareness and engagement, without yielding to distractions. As every other skill, you can nurture it with dedicated practice by following certain mindfulness techniques, such as meditation.

In turn, mindful leadership is a mindfulness-based management approach that enables someone to focus their full attention on each project at a given time. Plus, mindful leadership does not only benefit the manager, but their team and business as a whole.

What are the benefits of mindful leadership?

As already mentioned, team leaders like Sarah handle various tasks on a daily basis. At the same time they must cater to their teammates in the best possible way. However, distractions and uneasiness can interfere with their thinking process and make them lose sight of the task or goal at hand. That’s why mindfulness can be a huge asset and enable team leaders to quickly regain their focus.

Besides that, mindfulness has been linked with many other benefits related to leadership style and overall performance. Here are the major ones:

  1. Reduced stress: People usually get stressed not because of things that happen in the moment, but by overthinking past or upcoming events. By staying in the present, you surpass these stressors and overcome all challenges when and if they happen.
  2. Increased attention: When you practice mindfulness, you focus your full attention on the current task in the moment. This doesn’t mean that you’re blocking other stimuli around you. You continue to receive and evaluate it, but you’re less likely to be lured to it.
  3. Improved relationships: As a mindful leader, you can form more constructive relationships with co-workers. Your enhanced listening skills, combined with increased focus, helps you connect on a deeper level and empathize with your teammates.
  4. Boosted creativity: Mindfulness is also linked with higher creativity. It strengthens your cognitive functions that lead to creative output, such as brainstorming.

How can you become a mindful leader?

So if you’re in a similar position as Sarah, and you wish to practice mindful leadership at work, you can start with related training. First off, know the assets of mindfulness and its positive impact not only for your work and leadership style, but for your overall quality of life as well. Then, follow these common practices:

  • Perform mindfulness exercises: Search mindfulness exercises online and choose those that appeal to you the most. Whether that’s through a 20-minute mindful walk or a body scan meditation, train your brain to sync in the moment you’re in. Remember, mindfulness is a skill to be practiced consistently.
  • Disconnect regularly: How well do you manage your time? Do you take time-outs during your workday or in between tasks? If not, then it’s time to start. You can begin with the Pomodoro technique, which will help you narrow down your focus on a given task and disconnect systematically.
  • Relabel stress: With all the tasks you handle per day, it’s normal to feel stressed at times. To manage workplace stress, all you need to do is start looking at it as a sign that you should pull yourself back into the moment again.
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