We seem to be in the midst of a leadership crisis. Executives at Fortune 500 companies, media moguls and politicians have all made headlines recently for everything from inappropriate relationships to financial double-dealing to quid-pro-quo arrangements and outright fraud.
Dubious leadership along with the increasing complexity of the modern work-a-day world has many of us yearning for someone with forthright clarity, integral values and an inspiring vision to step forward and lead in their chosen field.
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What Is Good Leadership?
Good leadership goes beyond “feel good” optics. According to Gallup, a manager’s effectiveness accounts for as much as 70% of employee engagement.
Having such influence undoubtedly heightens the stress many managers already feel. Managers report feeling more stressed than those they oversee, according to Gallup.
All of it poses some essential questions: What makes an effective leader? And how can you acquire the skills to become one?
Leadership, by the way, just doesn’t happen in the C-suite. The above questions are just as relevant to parents, schoolteachers, coaches, volunteers and anyone who’s in a position to influence others.
We often think of an effective leader as being hard-nosed, decisive and authoritative. But more often than not effective leadership requires soft skills as well. Chief among them is mindfulness.
“A mindful leader is someone who embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others,” says Janice Marturano, founder and director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.
Mindful Leadership Skills
In terms of leadership skills, mindfulness is the hub of a wheel with many spokes. Each spoke contains skills that mindfulness – the awareness that arises when you pay attention to the present moment without judgment – fosters. Skills such as focus, presence, poise, emotional intelligence, deep listening, open-mindedness, mental flexibility, compassion…the list goes on…all emerge from mindfulness. One of the more compelling facets of mindfulness is the ability to have insight into yourself and to clearly see your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
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There are many simple, yet profound, ways to bring mindfulness into the realm in which you lead, whether that’s the family kitchen, a neighborhood soccer field or the 11th floor of a towering office building. Here are three ways to incorporate mindfulness into your leadership role:
- Begin Meetings Mindfully: People come to meetings – whether they’re within an office building or around the dinner table – with all sorts of preoccupations, agendas and even a few resentments. Taking a few purposeful breaths before a meeting or beginning with a formal five-minute meditation creates a subtle sense of intentionality, openness and common ground among participants. With practice and repetition, this simple gesture can become part of the corporate or familial culture. You might even find people look forward to coming to meetings.
- STOP: Much of the day we’re on autopilot, reacting to situations as they arise. Taking intentional pauses throughout the day is a portable and effective way to be mindful. Practice STOP (Stop, Take a Breath, Observe and Proceed) whenever you feel agitated, distracted or overwhelmed. You can also use STOP practice to renew yourself and take in the good moments you experience throughout the day.
- Mindful Reflection: I once had a dinner party conversation with an executive who shared this wonderful habit with me. Every day, before he left his office he wrote down all the things that went well throughout his day. Ending on a high note, left him with a sense of accomplishment, gratitude and purpose. It also had a snowball effect. The more he looked for good the more good he experienced and the better leader he became.