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Mindful Leadership is at the Gate

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Mindful Well-Being has Arrived

The fact that mindfulness is an effective health and wellness intervention is generally known and accepted at this point. Early-adopting companies, including Google, Aetna, General Mills, Intel, and SAP, have been offering mindfulness training for nearly a decade now, as a method for reducing chronic stress — which in turn reduces chronic illness — which in turn reduces absenteeism and health care costs. Obviously, this is a win-win, for the individual and the enterprise.

Mindful Leadership is at the Gate

But the new wave of organizational mindfulness is steadily building as well. Thanks to Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, the London School of Economics, INSEAD, and other top U.S. and global business schools — and to pioneering thought leaders like Harvard’s Bill George and Dan Goleman, M.I.T’s Peter Senge, and David Gelles at the New York Times — mindfulness is increasingly considered a core competency for effective leadership.

There is a growing realization that the outcomes of mindfulness align almost exactly with the emotional and interpersonal competencies required to lead smart creatives in the knowledge economy.

Training the Untrainable

Science confirms that mindfulness strengthens character traits once considered inheritable, but “untrainable”. This is an important finding, as the Stanford Graduate School of Business has named “self-awareness” the most important business capability for leaders today.

Helping a leader expand their self-awareness, though, has never been part of the B-school curriculum, or in-house leadership development programs. Why not? Because our institutions still associate character traits as "fixed" by genetics, or the province of family, social, or religious values. But self-awareness can be developed through neural training, regardless of heredity or metaphysical belief, and this effective mental skill should be taught in our schools and trained in our organizations.

Transforming Leaders

Self-awareness is only one of an important array of traits that improve individual human functioning and relationships. It joins emotional control, empathy, and social awareness as the foundational traits that comprise emotional intelligence, for example. Now, we know that these, and many other previously "untrainable" capabilities, can be strengthened through mindfulness.

In a workplace increasingly characterized by overload and overwhelm due to stress, anxiety, distraction, and conflict — and populated by creatives and knowledge workers — mindfulness is a transformational paradigm for leadership development.

Enjoy this article? Want to stay updated with the latest research on mindful leadership? Join the Institute for Organizational Mindfulness (IOM) as a community member. Membership is free - Sign up here.


Institute for Organizational Mindfulness (IOM) is a membership association of researchers, educators and executives, with a shared mission to bring science-based neural training into the mainstream of business, healthcare, education and government. We're working to create a global community of shared experience, conduct research, define standards and practices, develop educational programs, and determine the measures, metrics and analytics for organizational mindfulness.

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