Mindfulness is receiving a lot of attention in the media and for good reason. Regularly practicing mindfulness meditation can physically change the brain,[i][ii] with studies showing improvements in regions of the brain associated with attention and emotion regulation. Mindfulness may be particularly beneficial for people who not only have to manage themselves in stressful situations, but manage others as well. That’s why mindfulness can also be a powerful tool for enhancing leader character.

Leader character is particularly important for leaders who make high-stakes decisions in high-pressure situations. Character enables leaders to make those decisions with integrity, courage, and humanity. Character also enables leaders to act with temperance and transcendence, and to hold themselves accountable to their actions. To learn more about why character is important, read SIGMA’s blog, Why Character is Important for Leadership. In the meantime, we’re going to share a simple mindfulness practice that can help you develop leader character.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness involves paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment with an attitude of openness, kindness, and curiosity. It’s a way of interacting with the present moment, which means it can be practiced anywhere and anytime. While some people seem to be more mindful than others, it’s a skill that gets stronger with practice.

Did you know? People who practice mindfulness meditation have been shown to experience reduced stress, increased well-being, are more likely to be compassionate towards themselves and others,[iii] and may even have more adaptive immune system responses.[iv]

2 Steps to Becoming a More Mindful Leader

The best way to strengthen your ability to be more mindful is to set aside time each day to practice, starting with short, simple exercises. In a recent Psychology Today article, Dr. Ryan Niemiec introduces a brief mindfulness exercise he calls “The Mindful Pause.” The exercise has two steps:[v]

1) Begin by pausing and feeling your in-breath and out-breath for 10-15 seconds.

2) Conclude with a question: Which of my character strengths will I bring forward right now to support myself (and others) in this situation?

Find Your Leader Character Strengths

To discover your leader character strengths, take advantage of a limited-time free trial of SIGMA’s Leadership Character Insight Assessment (LCIA). The LCIA free trial will give you a chance to take our full leader character assessment and receive a personalized report with your leader character results. With the report, you can identify your leader character strengths, start introducing some mindful pauses throughout your day, and see if this practice helps you remember and leverage your character strengths when needed.

If you have questions about your scores or would like to learn more about leader character, contact SIGMA leadership consultant Ruby Nadler. Ruby has extensive experience in mindfulness and positive psychology and uses her knowledge to support leaders to hone critical competencies, including judgment and decision-making skills, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, and stress reduction. She would be happy to discuss your results and tell you a more about the LCIA.

Talk to Ruby


Ruby Nadler, Ph.D., Leadership Consultant

Ruby has a Ph.D in Cognition and Perception, as well as specific training in mindfulness and positive psychology. She brings this expertise to SIGMA’s executive coaching programs. In 2015 she was awarded a two-year Ontario Centers of Excellence TalentEdge Fellowship, and her research has been featured on CBC, BBC Radio, Happify, and NPR. Call or email Ruby – she would be happy to answer questions about the LCIA, leader character, coaching, etc.

Phone: 1-800-401-4480 ext. 223

[i] Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564-570.

[ii] Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191, 36-43.

[iii] Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15, 593-600.

[iv] Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564-570.

[v] Niemeic, R.M. (April 28, 2016). The Mindful Pause: How to Help Others. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/what-matters-most/201604/the-mindful-pause-how-help-others.