Mindful Leadership Training in Demand
4 November 2015
I have now been included in the teaching faculty of the Trinity College Dublin year-long MBA executive programs. The use of mindful practices like meditation and introspection are taking hold at such successful enterprises as Google, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Apple, Medtronic, and Aetna, and contributing to the success of these remarkable organizations. Here are a few examples:
- With support from CEO Larry Page, Google’s Chade-Meng Tan, known as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow, runs hundreds of classes on meditation.
- General Mills, under the guidance of CEO Ken Powell, has made meditation a regular practice.
- Goldman Sachs, which moved up 48 places in Fortune Magazine’s ‘”est places to Work List”, was recently featured for its mindfulness classes and practices.
- At Apple, founder Steve Jobs — who was a regular meditator — used mindfulness to calm his negative energies, to focus on creating unique products, and to challenge his teams to achieve excellence.
- Thanks to the vision of founder Earl Bakken, Medtronic has a meditation room that dates back to 1974 which became a symbol of the company’s commitment to creativity.
- Under the leadership of CEO Mark Bertolini, Aetna has done rigorous studies of both meditation and yoga and their positive impact on employee healthcare costs.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is often defined as ‘non-judgmental, moment to moment awareness’. As leaders, it can also be thought of as the cultivation of leadership presence. Being present is quite a complex assignment in a world and global economy that measures time in internet seconds, conceives of the past as the most reliable tool for analyzing and assessing how to proceed into the future, is increasingly interdependent and relational, and dedicates little or no time toward the development of presence in its leaders. But presence can be cultivated and is necessary for a leader to bring all of his/her mind’s capabilities to leadership.
What is a Mindful Leader?
Leadership presence is a tangible quality. It requires full and complete nonjudgmental attention in the present moment. Those around a mindful leader see and feel that presence. A mindful leader embodies leadership presence by cultivating the central quality of centredness. Centredness is a quality of being where one is intimately aware and aligned in one’s inner senses, values and actions in the world. Five qualities support this alignement:
- Calm: a serene mind helps assign the appropriate value to events, people and objectives.
- Clarity: inner spaciousness and clear comprehension helps with decision-making processes.
- Creativity: Gaining perspective in one’s mind and environment, one can think outside the box.
- Courage: leadership requires taking a stance, being bold and making a first step which often makes one vulnerable. Mindful leadership makes one accepting and appreciative of one’s sensitivities.
- Compassion: social intelligence, one of the foremost leadership qualities, is developed through empathic understanding, creating a following of employees inspired by loyalty and commitment.
Meditation is not the only way to be a mindful leader. Bill George (Harvard Business School Professor) reports that his students biggest derailer of their leadership is not lack of IQ or intensity, but the challenges they face in staying focused and healthy. To be equipped for the rapid-fire intensity of executive life, they cultivate daily practices that allow them to regularly renew their minds, bodies, and spirits. Among these are prayer, journaling, jogging and/or physical workouts, long walks, and in-depth discussions with their spouses and mentors.
The important thing is to have a regular introspective practice that takes one away from one’s daily routines and enables one to reflect on their work and their life — to really focus on what is truly important to them. The cultivation of passion and stillness through Mindfulness Meditation helps achieve just that.
A World Ethic
Our world needs mindful leaders, people who embody leadership presence. We need leaders who not only understand themselves but who are not afraid to be open-hearted and who have the strength of character to make ethical choices. The problems we see all around us are not insurmountable, but they do require a new kind of leadership.
As you continue to practice, and find more and more ways to actually be here for your life, you are also likely to encounter more and different ways to influence the lives of others, in your team, in your organization, in your families and in your community. One small step changes the dance, and one small change has the potential to create a better world.