There is no doubt the practice of mindfulness is one of the key skills you, as a leader, must master if you are going to be credible moving forward. Being able to be open-minded, dispense with fixed, or limiting beliefs and use emotionally intelligent practices is becoming apparent as key leadership skills.
Many moons ago, as a young manager, I realized I had to learn quickly if I was going to earn and grow the respect and credibility of my team. I made many mistakes, and it took many years to learn what worked and what didn't. Becoming mindful was a major factor in improving my leadership ability. This HBR research, concludes mindfulness isn't always a success factor if the leader has a strong enough vision and strategies to make things happen, but it also concedes leadership is much more effective if the leader practices mindfulness.
What follows are some mind shifts I found accelerated my leadership abilities. They are some of the most common adjustments my clients successfully navigate to lead in a better way.
I was highly annoyed with a team member for seeming to put me into an embarrassing situation. He was subtle and knew I was struggling. One day he overstepped the mark when he swore at me, right in front of my team. I don't know what quite happened, but instead of getting mad, or scared, I got clear. I quietly asked to see him and went on to have a frank and honest talk with him about what was happening and more importantly what the effects were going to be. I asked him about his aspirations and asked him if he thought he would reach his goals if he continued with his bad attitude. It was a long conversation, but he sensed something had shifted in me, and from that day the problem stopped. Some time after this episode I became aware I was using the practice of discernment. This powerful practice is the ability to put aside your attitude and feelings, be non-judgmental, and deal with the facts in a win-win way.
I was on a panel judging a competition for presentations which were part of the aspiring manager program I was connected with. After an hour or so, I realized my back was hurting because I was so tense. Every time one of the managers came in to present, I physically tensed up as I absorbed their nervousness. It's so easy to get intensely involved in the story of your life, both at work and at home. It's like being immersed in a movie, you get completely blinded to a what else is going on around you, or so engrossed, your emotions run amok. Healthy detachment is when you can sit back and look at what is happening from the bigger picture bringing relief from emotions and clarity and flexibility in thought. Of course, too much detachment and you might be displaying signs of a being a psychopath.
Owning your feelings
The road to healthy mindfulness is owning your own feelings, yet someone's actions can still elicit a response from me about how "they made me feel like .......". After years of practice, I know for sure no-one can make you feel anything. I know this can be controversial, but if you actually do own your feelings and put this mind shift into practice, you will understand your feelings always come from inside you, no matter what. This is a powerful mind-shift because once you truly own your feelings, you have no option but to take responsibility for them. While someone's actions might trigger negative emotions inside of you, what you then do with those emotions is your responsibility.
When leaders and managers encounter problems with their employees, one of the biggest barriers is when the leader and manager does not take responsibility for the feelings those difficult employees evoke in them.
So, for example, a CEO I worked with was dealing with a negative employee who was threatening to take their case to court. So incensed was the CEO at the obviously malicious stance of the employee, he found it difficult to think clearly. He told me the employee had made him feel like he didn't want to go on. He was stressed and wanted to find a way to fire the employee to alleviate his strong feelings. After some time, the CEO saw he was contributing to the problem by blaming the employee for how he felt. Once he was able to own his feelings, he realized he didn't have to wait until the difficult employee was fired before he was able to feel better. As a result, he was able to deal with the employee in a stronger more effective way.