Mindfulness makes for better business leaders
Businesses all over North America recognize the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. Fortune 500 firms such as Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, Target, Nike, General Mills, Google, Apple and Intel offer mindfulness-based supports to their employees, such as training and meditation rooms, because of the benefits that mindfulness generates. Employees say practicing mindfulness has personal and professional benefits, and employers report lower costs from absenteeism, employee turnover, and lost productivity.
Business leaders and company executives find they can be better leaders when they practice mindfulness. Not only does mindfulness help improve their own productivity and decision-making skills and decrease their stress, it enhances their emotional intelligence and ability to listen to and understand colleagues and employees, contributing to a more positive and productive work environment overall.
Are you looking for opportunities to enhance your workplace leadership skills? Explore the many benefits mindfulness has to offer.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of focusing our attention in the present moment, letting go of negative thoughts, judgments and other unhelpful distractions. It teaches us to deliberately focus on the present moment with an open, nonjudgmental attitude, so we can fully engage in what is happening in the here and now, instead of operating from our habits.
How does it work? During mindfulness meditation, we practice directing our minds to a point of focus (usually our breath) and keeping our attention on this point. Inevitably, our minds will wander, and when we notice that our mind has wandered we redirect our focus back to our breath. The act of noticing where your attention has drifted and returning to our point of focus strengthens our ability to regulate our attention, and may even create physical changes in the areas of the brain responsible for attention and emotional regulation.[i] Over time, mindfulness meditation practices enable us to better control our attention during our everyday lives.
How can mindfulness help me be a better leader?
The pace of our modern world constantly requires us to shift our focus from one thing to another—from reading an email to answering a phone call to talking with a colleague to sitting in a meeting. This commonly leads to multitasking — answering the email while trying to talk to the colleague, for example—which reduces the quality of our attention, increases our stress levels, and creates a perpetual state of distraction.
Ask anyone in a leadership position and they’ll likely tell you they feel pulled in a million directions at once, and that there is never enough time in a day for everything. Would you say the same yourself?
“There are few people I know on the planet who couldn’t benefit from a greater dose of awareness.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness can help remedy feelings of being time-starved and having our attention scattered or divided, because these issues exist in the mind. Simply put, mindfulness lets us take control of our own attention, which is an incredibly powerful thing. It gives us a way to fully focus on one thing at a time, improving our concentration, clarity, and composure in the face of all the demands on our attention.
Think about a leader you admire greatly; perhaps someone you have worked with whose style you respect. What makes them a good leader? Often it is grace under pressure, and the ability to remain calm and kind in the face of stressful situations: this is what mindful leadership is all about.
Mindful leaders clearly see themselves, others, and the big picture
Strong leaders are able to see themselves clearly and to connect with others, whether peers, employees or supervisors, and to see the big picture in the world around them.[ii] Mindfulness lets us see ourselves clearly. This helps us regulate our emotions and behavior, and connect better with employees, colleagues, peers, and partners. This enhanced level of emotional intelligence makes us stronger leaders. In fact, research shows that mindful leaders have more engaged employees with higher performance and well-being, and who are less likely to quit.[iii]
Mindfulness also enables us to see situations clearly so we can respond effectively. One of the ways mindfulness achieves this is by helping us reduce feelings of stress. Stress narrows the aperture of the information we see in the moment, undermining our ability to make good decisions, and to tolerate some ambiguity or risk. Mindfulness helps us remain calm and collected, and gives us the ability to see the big picture. As leaders, this kind of clear thinking is essential to improving the quality of our decision-making, and avoiding biased reasoning.
Simply stated, mindful leaders are able to show up at their best, make well-reasoned decisions in a stressful environment, and manage others effectively, contributing to the overall success of their organizations.
SIGMA Mindfulness Coaching
Established in 1967, SIGMA has spent over 50 years developing and delivering science-based assessment products and leadership coaching services. We bring simple, intuitive platforms and real-world applicability to our leadership suite of assessments, coaching, and mindfulness. Learn about our mindfulness workshops, retreats, and one-on-one executive mindfulness coaching, and ask us what mindfulness can do for you, your organization and leaders.
[i] Goldin, P.R. & Gross, J.J. (2010) Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion Washington D.C.) 10.1, 83-91.
[ii] Goleman, D. The Focused Leader. Harvard Business Review, December 2013.
[iii] Reb, J., Narayanan, J. & Chaturvedi, S. (2014) Leading Mindfully: Two Studies of the Influence of Supervisor Trait Mindfulness on Employee Well-Being and Performance. Mindfulness. 5, (1), 36-45. Research Collection Lee Kong Chian School of Business.