Mindful Leadership: How Mindful Leaders Act Differently

Rachel Sharpe

Mindful leadership is growing in popularity. As companies seek to grow larger teams (and many of them shifting to remote work) it’s becoming increasingly imperative for leaders to bring a level of mindfulness into their roles. A mindful leader needs to be compassionate, praiser, curious, diplomatic, optimistic, and an active listener in order to bring top performance out of their teams. In this article, you’ll learn what is mindful leadership and how to be a mindful leader. 

What Is Mindful Leadership?

Mindful leadership is being aware of your actions, words, and responsibilities in your role as a leader. It’s about responding to difficult situations instead of reacting to them. And it also involves playing an active role in the wellbeing of your team. 

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How to Be a Mindful Leader

1. Be Compassionate With Others

Girl holding up umbrella for little sister

Compassion is an important part of mindful leadership. As a company becomes more corporate, it faces a higher level of detachment from employees. Instead of looking at employees as people, it looks at people as numbers. Do these being hit their numbers? Are they worth their cost? This can be a cold way to look at your employees. As a mindful leader, you’ll want to remember that your team has a life outside of work. Some may be experiencing divorces. Others may experience breakups, deaths, or other forms of loss. And many will have families that they need to care for. When someone on your team isn’t measuring up, use this time to be compassionate. Try to get to the root of what may be causing them frustration or a lack of focus. 

2. Praise Publicly

Many leaders fail to praise employees. And employees crave it desperately. Recognition plays a big role in mindful leadership. You need to recognize that while you may want to look at your team as equals, you can’t. Being in a leadership role automatically creates a hierarchical relationship. Your team depends on you for guidance. Most of the team leaders focus on what’s been done wrong instead of what’s been done right. This creates an imbalance in the workplace. If criticized too much, employee morale decreases. With regular praise, team members rise to the challenge. However, remember to spread praise to all team members instead of only star performers. Studies have shown that those we shower our praise on grow the most. Aim for a well-rounded team and praise all publicly and regularly. 

3. Avoid Getting Involved in Gossip

Mindful leaders don’t listen to or engage in gossip. Bad leaders do. If an employee is gossiping or speaking poorly of another team member, you need to nip that in the bud. Use that time to try to educate the individual on the assets the employee has. Remind them that there are other ways to look at people. It’s important to let people know that just as they wouldn’t want people to go to you to gossip about them, they shouldn’t do it to you. If their needs with the employee in question are getting in the way, you can recommend them books on communication to help guide them in communicating better with people who have different personality types or communication styles. Gossip breaks teams up instead of bringing them together.

4. Celebrate Your Employees

Woman celebrating with confetti

There are so many milestones in a person’s life that mean so much to people. For example, if an employee is getting married, having a baby, becoming a grandparent, or retiring, you should celebrate that milestone with them. People want to feel like they matter. They want to know that they’re valued and appreciated. So when it comes to birthdays or other special moments in your employee’s life be sure to publicly call it out and celebrate with them. Maybe you send a virtual card if you’re a remote company. Or you decorate their desk with balloons if you work with them in an office. It’s about making that person feel special for their big life moment. Mindful leadership is about noticing the little details in someone’s life and experiencing genuine happiness for their life successes. 

5. Study Positive Leaders

A mindful leader always focuses on self improvement. If you want to know how to become a good leader, you’ll need to learn from the best. Who are the positive leaders you’ve watched in your life? Maybe it was a teacher who handled a difficult student with ease. Or a former boss who encouraged you to learn and grow. Maybe it was a parent or elder you looked up to for guidance. It could’ve been a mentor or a role model you’ve never met but listened to on podcasts, videos, or blogs. To master mindful leadership, you’ll want to learn from the positive aspects that a good leader had and minimize the bad characteristics of a bad leader. 

6. Become Curious By Others

The trait of curiosity often leads to great growth in a person’s life. Mindful leaders who possess curiosity when interacting with others end up learning from every person they interact with: on their team, in the grocery store, in their families, and through all paths in life. When you notice a trait in another that seems polar opposite to how you behave, take an opportunity to learn more about that trait. Read books about it. Ask the individual questions about how they developed that aspect of themselves. Become passionate about learning different aspects that you see in other people. Emulate the positive traits and become aware of what causes the negative ones. There’s so much to learn in both the good and bad elements you see in other people. Dig in by asking questions to learn more.

7. Practice Diplomacy

On shows like Star Trek, the main character Jean-Luc Picard practices diplomacy in every episode. In many episodes, he’s interacting with different races and cultures who have a different way of handling situations. For survival, he needs to be cautious and tactful in his approach with them. He often looks for the middle ground in heated moments to ensure both parties end up with a resolution that is fair and serves them both well. Rarely, he’ll try to inject his personal beliefs or wants into another situation. Mindful leadership is about ensuring that everyone benefits from decisions made. It’s also about making sure that difficult situations are handled with tact and the sensitivity they may sometimes need. 

8. Strive to Be Optimistic

Group of bright yellow balloons with smiley faces

Pessimism has helped so many of our ancestors survive dangerous threats. And in most cases, those threats cease to exist in today’s world. Since so many of us are alive today because of the pessimistic nature of our ancestor’s, this natural tendency seems to be in a lot of people. The benefit to pessimism is that it helps us view the world realistically. However, other than that optimism wins out more often than not. Optimistic leaders tend to experience greater success. They build the most successful teams. They make a greater impact in their roles. Leaders who wish to be more mindful should consider training their brains to view the world more optimistically. Look for the silver lining in difficult situations. Help pessimistic thinkers on your team look at difficult situations more positively. Encourage more positivity in your teams to boost morale and productivity. 

9. Listen Attentively

Listening attentively is a crucial part of mindful leadership. Yet, so few people in leadership roles listen to what employees try to tell them. Some people will speak to you directly, which may make you feel uncomfortable. Yet, this type of honesty will help you navigate the situation better. The challenge will be when people speak indirectly to you. In these cases, you’ll need to listen for the undertones of the situation. It’s also a good idea to ask direct questions to help understand how other team members feel and what their needs are. By listening for sub-speak, you’ll be able to handle difficult people with ease instead of taking part in the conflict they create to have their needs met. 

10. Reflect on Personality Types

Many companies ask employees to take personality type tests to help better understand who they are. While personality tests aren’t perfectly accurate as we’re all unique in our own ways, you’d be surprised at how well you can understand your team members just by reading their personality type. For instance, if you notice that one employee is an ENTJ and they regularly ask for advancement in their career, you’ll likely realize that it’s part of their personality type. Rather than fighting with them about their growth, you’ll recognize that self-growth is part of their personality and will seek to give them opportunities to develop those aspects in themselves. If you notice someone is an introvert who regularly asks to be out of the spotlight, you’ll likely listen to them instead of projecting your own wants and goals onto this person since you’ll have a clearer understanding of that aspect of their personality. 

11. Lead Positive Change

Mindful leadership involves creating and most importantly leading positive change. It’s important to remember that as the leader you set the tone of the team. If your team is excited, passionate, and motivated, you played a role in that. However, if your team is disgruntled, demoralized, or causing problems, you might’ve played a role in that too. A mindful leader will often bring a level of positivity to the team which will magnify throughout the team. The positivity should bounce off of all members of your team to create a positive atmosphere. 

12. Inspire Good Behavior

Pink clouds in the sky with birds flying past

A mindful leader will inspire good behavior. Provided that you always see the best in your team, you’ll likely be able to pull out the good qualities in them regularly. For instance, if you have an employee who is difficult, focus on praising and acknowledging their work. You’d be surprised at how often bad behavior is the result from a lack of recognition. Look for the good in every member of your team, even the most difficult, and you will start seeing positive behavior come out of every single person. 

13. Solve Problems

When in leadership roles, you’ll often have people coming to you with their problems. In some cases, you can ask people how they think a problem should be solved. This will give autonomy to your direct reports. However, in other situations, problems can’t be solved by those in roles reporting below you or above you. Focus on solving the problems that are within your control such as managing priorities and resources. You might also be required to solve interpersonal relationships. In interpersonal conflicts, focus on giving team members the tools, book recommendations, or strategies for them to solve the conflict on their own. Otherwise, they’ll never learn how to solve their challenges with communication and teamwork without you. And those aren’t the conflicts that are within your control. 

14. Practice Humility

Mindful leadership requires leaders to practice humility. There will be many difficult and trying moments throughout your career as a leader. When you achieve success, it’s important to remember that it can all be taken away at any time. Leaders are often the first people fired during periods of financial hardship in a company. Remember this every time you experience success to keep your ego in check. 

15. Manage Your Emotions

Many people in middle management leadership roles often feel the most pressure. They have executives who are constantly putting pressure on them to perform at higher levels. This causes them to work overtime to work to meet difficult demands. There’s also a pressure from employees below them who may want to advance, struggle to meet company demands, or feel burnt out from the high expectations set. It puts a lot of emotional pressure on a leader. Learning how to manage your emotions is an essential part of being a mindful leader. Inside you may feel like screaming on tough days, but that won’t help make your job easier. Aim to spend at least ten minutes during your work day to spend some time breathing especially during crisis situations. In the evening, unwind with a book to help take your mind off of the day’s stresses. 

16. Practice Meditation

Mindful leadership requires a regular practice of meditation to help you develop into a mindful leader. Meditation is simply a practice to help you develop your ability to become more mindful. The more you meditate, the more mindful you become. Leaders might try meditation for focus, concentration, stress, clarity, or gratitude. Regardless of what meditation you practice, you’ll learn how to focus on the present moment instead of swaying from the past to the future. This will ultimately help you make better decisions based on reason instead of emotion. 

Conclusion

Mindful leadership involves a mix of meditation, solving problems that are within your control, active listening, compassion, and recognition of all team members. Don’t worry if you aren’t a mindful leader today, using the examples mentioned in this article, you can learn what areas might need some more work. If you recognize a weakness in humility, you can read books about losing your ego. If you struggle with being optimistic, there’s books you can read to learn to develop that trait too. Mindfulness isn’t something you learn overnight but something you develop over time. And if you’re looking to practice living more presently, you can check out the Declutter The Mind app in your Google Play or App Store.

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