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Why Leaders Need the Science Behind the Mindfulness

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Editor's Note: This article was authored by Dr. Lemuel Watson, Ed.D., MA, for the Institute for Organizational Science and Mindfulness (IOSM). Thanks Lem!

Mindfulness has become a buzzword in recent years, and for a good reason. Though it's often associated with personal practices like yoga or meditation, mindfulness offers a totally new and unique toolset for leaders. When you're mindful, you're able to be more present and aware of your thoughts and actions, which can help you make better decisions and connect with your team. Plus, there's a science to back up the benefits of mindfulness for leaders. This blog post will explore ways that mindfulness can help leaders be more effective and why it matters.

Mindfulness Insights and Outcomes

Mindfulness research has exploded and has shown great potential in improving individuals' overall health and well-being. Studies have found that mindfulness can reduce stress, boost immunity, improve sleep, increase self-awareness, and even decrease pain tolerance.

Through this research, scientists are uncovering how mindfulness can impact physiological processes to help manage negative emotions. Mindful practices also appear to alter participants’ brain matter density, which suggests multiple cognitive benefits. It seems that mindfulness offers real benefits to managing daily stress while enabling the ability to handle difficult situations more effectively. It is this same combination of mind and body benefits that makes the practices effective for managing one’s emotions and responses to environmental challenges.

Recent neuroscience research has given us more insight into the workings of the human brain and its effect on awareness. Consciousness, likely the result of a complex interaction of different cortical processes, relies not only on what type of information the brain takes in but also on how neurons function within the neural pathways between various areas of the brain.

For example, one study found that an event only becomes conscious when it triggers a particular type of network activation that guides information from one cortical area to another in specific ways. As neuroscience further advances, more research can be conducted to better understand how our minds, brains, body, and emotions.

Organizational Neuroscience and Mindfulness

With the increasing understanding of the human brain, neuroscience is becoming increasingly relevant to today's organizations. The implications of neuroscience are already influencing how employers structure their organizations, manage employees, and hire talent. By utilizing insights gained through neuroscience research, employers can now better understand employee engagement and motivation - as well as potential workplace conflicts.

Neuroscience has given rise to a new field known as "Organizational Neuroscience," which combines data from multiple sources, including organizational surveys, physiological recordings, and behavioral health metrics. By gaining a deeper understanding of their employees' brain states, companies can develop higher-performing teams with greater efficiency, ultimately leading to increased profitability.

As this field advances in complexity and accuracy, managers will be able to monitor employee well-being in real-time and more effectively tailor rewards for desired behaviors and optimize workplace productivity at expanding levels.

Mindfulness and Personal Productivity

If you're not productive, it doesn't matter how big your ideas are—you won't be able to make them a reality. And while there are a lot of things that can get in the way of productivity, one of the biggest is stress. When stressed, it's harder to focus, and you're more likely to make mistakes.

The neuroscience of mindfulness provides a comprehensive understanding for leaders of organizations about their neurological systems and the neurological functioning of those they lead. It highlights how behavior and development are deeply rooted in neural processes and how to leverage them to optimize performance.

Mindfulness in a Diverse and Global Society

Mindful leaders can better identify potential sources of stress, create supportive environments, effectively process changes and transitions, understand their emotions, navigate difficult conversations, establish trust with followers, and develop resilience while becoming more conscious contributors to the organization's shared culture. This helps them bring out the best individual and collective performance from everyone on their team.

Learning the science of mindfulness while building a mindfulness practice help individuals to be influential leaders in a global and diverse society; both are necessary to cultivate an understanding of and appreciation for all people's unique qualities and identities.

Integrating Mindfulness as a Life Practice

Developing awareness of different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and abilities can help leaders foster dialogues to resolve conflicts better. Such dialogues build bridges across clearly defined differences that work to create positive change since leaders with awareness are equipped to make informed decisions based on both cultural sensitivity and balanced perspectives.

Awareness also supports leaders in creating inclusive work environments where all individuals feel appreciated for their backgrounds and contributions. Creating awareness beyond one’s narrow viewpoint is essential for global leaders who must shape a world enriched by diversity.

Consider the top benefits of integrating mindfulness as a practice into your life as an individual or leader.

You'll Be Less Stressed

While being productive is important, it's not the only thing that matters. If you're so stressed out that you can't enjoy your life, then what's the point? Mindfulness can help you to reduce stress and anxiety and to find a sense of calm and peace.

You'll Be More Creative

If you want to be a successful leader, you need to be creative. After all, it's the leaders with big ideas that change the world. And while some people are naturally more creative than others, mindfulness can help everyone to tap into their creativity.

You'll Be Better at Problem-Solving

As a leader, part of your job is to help solve problems. But if you're stressed or anxious, it's going to be harder to find solutions. Mindfulness can help you to clear your mind and to see problems from a different perspective, making it easier to find creative solutions.

You'll Be More Decisive

Indecision is one of the biggest productivity killers there. If you can make decisions quickly, you'll save time debating what to do next. Mindfulness can help you to become more decisive by teaching you how to listen to your intuition and trust your gut instinct.

You’ll Be More Curious to Explore and Learn

Continuous learning - and the tools to keep learning - are essential for any leader. The Institute for Organizational Science and Mindfulness has a host of options to help, and Community Membership is free.


Lemuel W. Watson Professor, consultant, and mindfulness and awareness teacher. In addition, he is Professor of Leadership and Change at Antioch Graduate School of Leadership and Change and the CEO of Watson Consulting Services, LLC, - As a certified mindfulness teacher by Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute and as a certified mindfulness organizational strategist by the Institute for Organizational Science and Mindfulness, he currently focuses on mindful leadership and talent management to enhance work and learning environments.

Institute for Organizational Science and Mindfulness (IOSM) is a membership association of human capital and operating leaders, 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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