It is not technology, politics, or climate change itself that has the greatest impact in our world. It is leadership – or the lack of it. Leadership that has created the world we are living in today – good and bad.
Leadership is the way we conduct ourselves, the messages we send through what we say and do. It reflects how we see the world and how we understand things to be. There is one behaviour that sabotages effective leadership – even if we do everything else perfectly.
Leaders don’t have to be perfect and don’t have to have all the answers. In business, who the leader is, how they show up, sets the organisational culture. A leader’s clarity provides ongoing inspiration and focus on an organisation’s vision. Great leadership is more than making money, winning, having self-confidence, and being efficient and effective.
How leaders show up influences culture either in a healthy way or in an unhealthy way. We impact those around us to varying degrees. A good starting position for assessing leadership is to ask this question. Is your influence depleting or enhancing those around you?
One of the ways it might be depleting is if you don’t treat others with dignity and respect. Failing to do this undermines everything else you do.
I deliver mindful leadership modules in the University of Newcastle’s Executive MBA, conduct leadership coaching, and offer mindfulness at work programs to a range of businesses and leaders.
One of the key points I cover first is that mindful leadership is more than a bunch of tools for delivering a more effective and efficient workplace. Mindfulness is the practice that supports awareness and self-management so that we are less likely to behave poorly and justify poor behaviour.
Mindfulness has many more positive benefits to workplaces including strengthening relationships, sustainability and humanity. Mindful leadership integrates task, relationship and a long-term view. From this place, we can honour those around us.
Self-awareness and self-management help leaders to step out of the reactive version of themselves. They help us work on our anxiety, pride, greed, bad habits, or pain not being at the forefront. Instead, leaders are open to listening and learning from others. This is good modelling of workplace behaviour.
Mindfulness practice doesn’t require huge leaps of faith. It starts with kind curiosity about what takes us away from being in the present and the intention to want to be present and be of service while leaving a minimal footprint.
More businesses large and small are investing in mindfulness training, especially for leaders. That’s because focused, self-aware, present leaders are better able to deal with continuing change and manage relationships that are vital to success.
This Native American story illustrates how mindfulness can help in the battle for better leadership. An old Cherokee talks about the fight between two wolves that goes on inside us all.
One wolf is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
When asked which wolf will win, the Cherokee replies: ‘The one you feed’.
The feeding of the healthy within and the starving of the unhealthy requires ongoing awareness and self-management – the very thing mindfulness offers.
IMAGE | Charlotte Thaarup says more businesses are turning to mindful leadership to help leaders to be more self-aware.
Charlotte Thaarup is the Director of the Hunter-based The Mindfulness Clinic.