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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp


“So many leaders are struggling with doing the hard things and doing them in a human way,” says Jacqueline Carter, author of Compassionate Leadership. Compassionate leadership, like mindful leadership, derives from a similar idea. 

An idea that involves changing the emphasis of leadership to focus on relationships. A leadership style where leaders practice active listening, understanding, empathizing, and supporting their employees, enabling them to feel valued, respected, and cared for.

But why do leaders want to make the change? It’s simple, it enables employees to reach their full potential and do their best work. Employees prefer – and are more motivated – by emotionally stable leaders, more so than leaders that create hostility and excessive tension in the workplace. And it’s not just your employees that will benefit, you will also profit from reduced stress and anxiety.

Many leaders, however, struggle to be more empathetic and emotionally supportive of their employees. They seem more naturally inclined to treat the employee/employer relationship as a formal one. 

“It takes an immense amount of courage to see vulnerability as a leadership strength and not as a weakness,” says Marcel Schwantes, founder, and chief human officer of Leadership from the Core.

What is mindful leadership?

Mindfulness is increasingly gaining momentum in the workplace, and its place within leadership ranks is equally prevalent. In leadership, a mindful leader is present, self-aware, and approaches their workday calmly. This leadership style has been found to inspire and motivate team members more than traditional leadership methods. 

A mindful leader brings out the best in their team. Their aim is not for personal benefit but rather to boost productivity and bolster professional presence and mindfulness among their coworkers. 

A mindful leader is a master of… well, self-mastery. Under the guidance of a mindful leader, the whole team experiences less stress, and you also know what kind of killer stress is. And, as mentioned, a boost in productivity.

How do leaders accomplish this? Simple; they focus.

How can you harness mindfulness?

Let’s be honest. Creating mindful leaders is a challenge and sustaining mindful leadership is even more so. There will be trials to face, testing your resolve to keep to the morals that mindfulness demands. 

Some trials from the outside and some from the inside. That said, did we say it was impossible? Not at all! If you’re committed, you can become a mindful leader and reap the benefits for yourself and your team. Here’s how you can get started.

Mindful leadership demands compassion

Simply put, be human and remember that your team comprises individuals. A mindful leader will understand that people will always be different from computers, that they are not just machines where you type a command and execute it.

A mindful leader understands that people are a complex mix of emotions. Even more, they know that each person is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses.

What to do about it? Help them. Connect with them. If a new recruit on the team or an intern wants to talk over lunch, then take them. A mindful leader would take them to lunch and learn more about them. Or, to be accurate, more about their personality.

This way, the mindful leader learns more about the team, thus making it easier to analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, they will know who is better suited for each job.

Mindful leadership is open

This tenet connects to the first one. A mindful leader knows their team’s limit, and rather than reacting harshly to it, they solve it with an open mind.

They know that people make mistakes, sometimes they fail to meet deadlines, and they are also aware that some days people may not be able to come to the office. Whatever the reason, traffic, no car, sick, or problems at home, they understand challenges might arise.

Therefore, a mindful leader knows when to stop, analyze the problem, and make decisions accordingly. 

In practice, one way to do this is to ask your employees for constant and honest feedback. All one needs to do is listen.

Mindful leadership is always calm

The last thing anyone needs – both in personal and professional life – is overwhelming stress. Once you become overstressed and its roots grow deep, your judgment gets clouded in a haze of panic. The result? Poor decision-making.

Stress is a leader’s natural enemy. But it can be inevitable because of the immense responsibility put on them. They worry not only about work but about their employees’ salaries and even their clients’ satisfaction.

They must worry and think over a lot of things. But what good is a leader that falls into panic every time a new situation arises?

The best way to avoid this is to take short breaks, plan ahead, and keep away from distractions.

When you feel overwhelmed or distracted, leave everything just like you do during a break, and take a deep breath. Take the time to relax your mind and find a better solution.

Mindful leadership requires intuition

Every situation is different, and there is no one magic formula to solve everything. Things don’t really work like that, especially for a leader. That’s why it is essential to plan ahead and foresee potential problems.

A mindful leader doesn’t approach anything without a plan. The best way to fully utilize intuition is to have a plan. Small stepping stones, if you will. With these little goals in mind, a leader will analyze and adapt to the situation accordingly.

In fact, it is easier to predict what comes next with a plan in mind.

Mindful leadership does not lie

Naturally, democracy has its place in the office. And a mindful leader is by the people and for the people. Well, mainly for the people. Mindful leaders indeed connect with their team, but what is the basis of that connection? Authenticity.

By being authentic, a mindful leader ensures that not only does their team interact well with them but also interacts well with each other. And how can a team work together if there is no trust?

That’s why it’s essential always to be sincere. Speak the truth, especially when it hurts, but always be kind. If an employee makes a mistake, there’s no need to sugarcoat things. Instead, confront them and provide them with a solution simultaneously.

Final thoughts

Mindful leadership focuses on relationships rather than outcomes. By honing the qualities of mindfulness, leaders and their employees can reach their full potential and do their best work. Subsequently, they also stand to benefit from reduced stress and anxiety.

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