What is Mindful Leadership?


Scarcely a day goes past without seeing an article in the newspaper or on the internet exploring mindfulness and its applications. It’s everywhere, from stress relief and pain reduction to counselling and psychotherapy, and to education in schools and universities. Famous leaders such as Bill George and the late Steve Jobs have come forward talking about how they’ve been practicing mindfulness to improve their leadership. Mindfulness also is being taught and practiced in a growing number of organisations worldwide, such as General Mills, Target, Google and First Direct (Source Financial Times) in an effort to improve personal and professional effectiveness and overall productivity. Buddhists must be bemused by this sudden interest in something they have been practising for over 2500 years.

This upsurge in mindfulness has led to debates in what mindfulness actually is and contradictory definitions competing for space to be heard. One such debate prompted Daniel Goleman, leadership guru noted of his work on Emotional Intelligence, to recently put pen to paper and publish an article on LinkedIn defining what Mindfulness Is – And Isn’t’.

At Wise Leader Group we couldn’t resist joining in with this debate any longer. Our view is that we have four ‘mindful muscles’. Each muscle is used on a different way depending on whether it’s internally or externally orientated or whether its awareness is wide or narrow. As typical with leadership consultants we have developed a 2x2 matrix to communicate our view.

Sensory awareness is simply the ability to tune into what is going on around you in the present moment. Focused Concentration is the ability to maintain your attention on what is coming through one of your senses.  Meta-awareness is having the ability to witness your thoughts, emotions and actions.  Focused Intention is simply having the ability to regulate your own thoughts, emotions and actions.  Each one of these muscles can be developed and strengthened over time gradually increasing a person's ability to be mindful. 

With our mindful muscles perspective we see a definition of mindful leadership being twofold. Firstly, mindful leadership 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. Secondly, this non-attached observation enables us to manage and develop our thoughts, feeling and leadership behaviour so that we can use them in a way that is appropriate for the situation. In essence mindful leadership enables us to use our leadership skills wisely.

We have developed a mobile App that provides leaders with practices to develop each one of their mindful muscles and guidance on how these muscles can be applied to leadership skills such as delegating, decision making, teamwork, meetings, creativity, coaching, etc. Find out more ….

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