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Bringing mindfulness into leadership

Work.January 24, 2018
By Yizhao Zhang
(Z)entrepreneur, mindfulness pro, and retreat leader, bringing more meditation, yoga and restorative practices accessible to corporates, schools, recovery, and refugee camps.

When we hear the word leadership, we tend to see it as being in a top corporate management level. That thought is terribly misleading. Leadership is not only needed in corporate management. It is likewise needed in all aspects of life. If you think you don’t have leadership skills, think again. I believe that there is a leader in all of us. Why? Leading is not about position, it is about influence. Leadership is not as complicated as it sounds. As long as you are passionate and have the skills, leadership could be mastered in a very simple way. Personally, leadership alone is great but mixing it with mindfulness, could create a positively bigger influence.

Often times, mindfulness is correlated with Buddhism hence, mindfulness is defined as “being present”. Mindfulness helps us to get off autopilot and become more aware of what is happening in our mind, body, and environment. I often apply mindfulness tools in my work such as; mindful listening when I am in conversations, I take deep breaths when I feel anxious before giving public talks and I check in on my values and skills when I am working on projects or leading my team.

Here are a few strategies I share with others that could be helpful when integrating mindfulness into leading ourselves, organizations and others.

Mindful listening, pay real attention to the person in front you

The tasks we deal with on a daily basis, sometimes make us less available/present for others, even during important meetings. One trick to be mindful is to consider the person in front of you to be the most important person. Then picture how you would listen if it were the most important person. We practice giving our undivided attention for listening, without preparing for what we wanted to say or interrupting. We are open and curious to hear other’s concerns, intentions, opinions, and feelings. When it is our turn to say something, we say what would be of service to the individual we are communicating with.

STOP! Take a meaningful pause when we are emotionally triggered

When we come under pressure or feel emotionally triggered, an effective antidote is to simply stop and create a meaningful pause. We can take a few deep breaths, take a short walk, or look away for a moment. We stop reacting in a habitual way, running autopilot, instead we create a space where we can learn and grow from the situation. This stop is training to become more aware of situations rather than running on autopilot.

As Victor Frankl says “between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom.”

Journaling, write to yourself for yourself

We often write emails/send messages to others. We rarely take out a pen and paper just to write to ourselves for ourselves. Journaling is a mindfulness practice which helps us clarify our unconscious (Thoughts and Emotions). If you find yourself thinking something over and over again, journaling is a self-discovery tool to explore your thoughts, emotions, insight and possible solutions. We keep writing down all thoughts and emotions that are arising. No one needs to read what you wrote if this is for yourself only. Journaling could be done privately for planning, problem-solving, or it could be shared with members of a team to reflect on values and/or challenges the team is going through.

Being a mindful leader encourages us to be present instead of running on autopilot. We are aware of what is happening with ourselves; understanding people around us better and becoming more skillful, working with changes in the world.

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Want to learn more? Join Search Inside Yourself, a leadership program born at Google, coming to Bali in Mar 2018.

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