3 Ways Mindfulness Develops Leaders


Mindfulness is about maintaining awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It is about witnessing all of these without getting lost in any one of them.

This non-attached observation enables leaders to manage and develop their thoughts, feelings and behaviour so that they can use them in a way that is appropriate for the situation. Mindfulness can aid the development of leaders in 3 ways: -

Developing their State of Being

On different days and at different times of the day we have a different state of being. For example, sometimes we feel might feel angry and see every person or issue as a problem. At other times we feel good and see opportunities and people willing to help us. Very often the situation is the same and it’s our state of being which has changed leading us to perceive and react to the world in a different way. Mindfulness enables leaders to develop their ability recognise their different states and how these affect their thinking, feeling and acting in the present moment. This awareness enables leaders to increasingly self-regulate their state of being so that they respond more appropriately to the situation rather than merely reacting.

Developing their Stage of Being

Many researchers have shown that human development unfolds in discrete stages. Whilst the exact definitions for each stage differ there is consensus that development consists of periods of growth and plateaus throughout our lives. We have taken the consensus from this research and created ‘Seven Stages of Leader Development’. As well as in stages, human growth also progresses through several lines of development including cognition (thinking), emotion (feeling), and personality (acting). The table below indicates how the stages and lines of development interact.

Development occurs through the 7 stages as a leader faces challenges that are more complex than their current stage can cope with. After a period of being in over their heads new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting can start to emerge. Mindfulness can facilitate this development through the leader being aware of how their thinking, feeling and acting are becoming misaligned with the increasing complexity in their work environment. The leader can then start to prepare for the transition and seek the necessary support. Also further and sustained mindfulness practice can prepare a leader for the higher stages of development as it can enable the leader to become more aware of their ego and then start to let it go. This non attachment enables the leader to be more able to connect with their intuition (necessary for dealing with complexity), have compassion for those impacted by their decisions (necessary for moral reasoning), and transcend the constraints of their personality (necessary for behaving with agility).

Accelerating their Development

As part of the ‘Kolb Learning Cycle’ developing leaders are often encouraged to periodically reflect on their behaviour in different situations. Mindfulness can be used by leaders to accelerate their development as it enables a leader to learn from their behaviour in the present moment rather than through reflection after the event. Below is a representation of a ‘Mindful Learning Cycle’.

We have created an App which provides leaders with a range of practices to develop their mindfulness and guidance on how to apply mindfulness to a variety of leadership skills. Find out more ….

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