Mindful Leadership is at the Gate

Updated: Feb 3

Mindful Well-Being has Arrived

The fact that mindfulness is a successful 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 next wave of organizational mindfulness has been 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

Studies further show that mindfulness strengthens character traits once considered inheritable, but “untrainable”. As an example, Stanford Graduate School of Business ( number one in the world, according to the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings for 2018 ) recently announced survey results that named “self-awareness” as the most important business capability for leaders today.

Yet helping a leader expand their self-awareness has never been part of the B-school curriculum, or in-house leadership development programs. Why not? Because it falls into a category of character traits that are traditionally associated with genetics, or family environment, or socio-economics, or intellectual capacity, or spiritual beliefs - and so, considered "untrainable"by secular educational and business organizations.

But we know now that greater self-awareness is a keystone outcome of mindfulness practice. And that science has determined mindfulness meditation to be a neural training process that can strengthen this fundamental human capability... with zero requirement for any metaphysical belief. Which means we can (and now should) be teaching our leaders to develop it.

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.

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