Why Mindful Leaders Make Better Leaders According to Research, and How You Can Become One Too

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Mindfulness meditation is gaining traction globally.  It is believed that globally between 200 and 500 million people meditate. [1]  The global wellness industry, including meditation, is believed to be worth $4.2 trillion. [2]

The trend is catching on especially in the leadership realm as mindful leaders are known to be better at their jobs and cultivating happier employees. Leaders who are known to meditate regularly include:

  • Arianna Huffington, Founder of Huffington Post
  • Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn
  • Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund
  • Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions, Inc
  • And many others
Why Mindful Leaders Make Better Leaders According to Research, and How You Can Become One Too | Mindfulness meditation is gaining traction globally, especially in the leadership realm where mindful leaders are known to be more effective at their jobs and in creating happier employees or followers. We also share some easy tips and resources to help you become a mindful leader.

Benefits of Mindful Leadership

If you think that meditation is a purely spiritual practice, you should reconsider your stance.  Meditation (including mindfulness meditation) is known to have massive benefits to overall mind-body wellness and productivity.

In this day and age, we can no longer afford to lead our families, work, or the world with distracted minds.

Without the ability to master our minds, we risk going on autopilot in our lives and creating negative spillover effects on our families and organizations.

Especially for people in leadership roles, whether as formal leaders or even as parents, the importance of being more present, less anxious and more productive are clear.

  • A recent study shows that >50% of employees believe that their leader is harmful or irrelevant when they do not manage stress effectively [3]
  • By virtue of a leader’s position, any leadership anxiety has a negative ripple-down effect on the organization

Another research [4] has shown that leaders who had completed a 10-week Workplace Mindfulness Training had seen significant improvements in

  1. Self-leadership: Enhanced levels of self-awareness, attention and emotion regulation were applied as mechanisms of change to improve leadership effectiveness and performance.
  2. Leadership: Leaders who applied the mindfulness training experienced mental and behavioural shifts in the way they perceived people and experiences, and how they reacted to them. These ‘mindful leaders’ were shown to be better at relating to others and adapting to change.
  3. Team and organizational relationships: Mindful leadership enabled better leader-follower relationships and positively affected broader positive changes in the team and organizational processes.

Characteristics of Mindful Leaders

One of the best ways to manage anxiety and enhance leadership productivity is through mindfulness meditation.

When leaders actively engage in mindfulness practices, they increase positive psychological capital – defined as the positive and developmental state of an individual. Positive psychological capital is characterized by high self-efficacy, optimism, hope and resiliency. [5]

Mindful leaders tend to think differently, as identified by a Harvard Business Review research. [6]

  1. They have increased Metacognition – the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes. This allows mindful leaders to step out of stressful or complex situations and be able to think objectively from an outsider’s perspective.
  2. They can better “let things be”. Mindful leaders meet experiences with openness and kindness to themselves and others, rather than let an over-judgemental viewpoint cloud their ability to think clearly.
  3. They are curious. The best leaders are also one of the most curious people. Not only are they open to learning and development, but they are also highly interested in understanding their inner worlds.”Without curiosity, we have no impetus for bringing our awareness into the present moment and staying with it.”

Become a mindful leader

The development of a mindful leader depends very much on the level of practice that the leader does. Attending workshops or courses might help their understanding of the tools and techniques of mindfulness, but only consistent practice and application allow leaders to progress significantly in leadership development.

Add mindfulness meditation to your daily routine

If you are a beginner, allocate some time in your day, preferably in the morning, for mindfulness practice. You can start off with 5 minutes of breathing exercises and work your way up to a longer duration when you’re more experienced.

There are many meditation resources available today in the form of books, CDs or mobile apps to help you in your mindfulness practice.

Go Mobile

As someone who is frequently on the road, I personally prefer mobile apps that I can access anytime and anywhere. As mentioned, some of the best meditation apps are available for free.

My preferred guided meditation resource is Insight Timer, which has both a free and premium subscription. With the free subscription, you can access a large library of guided meditations..

That said, to get the most out of your practice, it would help to get on a structured course. Some of the relevant meditation courses found on Insight Timer’s Premium subscription include:

  • Start a Habit: The 10 Foundations of Meditation by Melli O-Brien (10-day course)
  • Beginner’s Guide to a Mindful Life by Andy Hobson (30-day course)
  • Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc Lesser (10-day course)
  • Mindfulness for Busy People by Tom Evans (30-day course)
  • Create Space: Dealing with Workplace Stress by The StillPoint (10-day course)

If you would like to try out Insight Timer’s premium subscription, you can do so for free with their free 7-day trial. The premium subscription covers all 10- and 30-day courses as well as allow you to download meditation for offline listening.

Download the Insight Timer app for FREE here.

In addition to a mobile meditation app, another useful place to access free guided meditations include podcasts and YouTube.

Because these are free and are open-source, you will need to do some homework to structure a learning program especially for those who are just starting out.

In Summary

Mindfulness meditation can make you a more effective leader. It is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and help you make better decisions for your daily life and work.

Practice makes progress; Be intentional about building a regular mindfulness practice and see how it helps you in your personal and work life.

If you would like more tips on mindfulness or mindful leadership, drop me a note below in the comments box or email me directly! Remember to join our community and be the first to get tips and inspirations on meditation, yoga, self-care and personal growth.

Why Mindful Leaders Make Better Leaders According to Research, and How You Can Become One Too | Mindfulness meditation is gaining traction globally, especially in the leadership realm where mindful leaders are known to be more effective at their jobs and in creating happier employees or followers. We also share some easy tips and resources to help you become a mindful leader.

References

[1] Mindworks. (2019) How Many People Meditate?. [Accessed 30 June 2019]

[2] Global Wellness Institute. (2018) Wellness Industry Statistics & Facts. [Accessed 30 June 2019].

[3]  CISION PR Newswire. (2017) Life Meets Work Survey Finds Stressed Out Leaders Harm Employees’ Job Performance. [Accessed 29 June 2019]

[4] Frontiers in Psychology. (2019) Mindful Leader Development: How Leaders Experience the Effects of Mindfulness Training on Leader Capabilities. [Accessed 29 June 2019]

[5] Positive Psychology Program (2019) Psychological Capital: Training the 4 Positive Capacities. [Accessed 30 June 2019].

[6] Harvard Business Review (2016) How to Bring Mindfulness to Your Company’s Leadership. [Accessed 30 June 2019]

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