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How to become a Mindful Leader

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

Before you can effectively help others becoming Mindful Leaders you need to have a minimum level of present awareness and also have accumulated sufficient knowledge & experience in mindful leadership topics.

I summarised this foundation of awareness and knowledge and referred to it as the “7 Pillars of Mindful Leadership”.

The question I want to explore further today is whether it is possible to learn mindful leadership in a structured way.

At present there are several books out there on mindful leadership, blog articles, videos, and seminars / workshop / course offerings that you can sign up for from experienced teachers or coaches.

However, there is yet no university curriculum available as far as I know, where you can sign up for a 4-year program to becoming a Mindful Leader, that also means no standard curriculum exists.

First, lets review different methods of learning:

  • Learning through acquiring Knowledge: You download knowledge into your brain through your senses (e.g., reading or listening to a book, watching a tutorial video, participation in a seminar, …).

  • Learning through Experience: You are doing something actively based on your already acquired knowledge or previous experience. Feedback is provided through some sort of channel (e.g., other people, an incident, …). It is usually the mistakes you make from which you learn and grow the most.

  • Learning through a combination of Knowledge and Experience: Both are iteratively applied in a sequence. For example, you read a chapter in a book, try out some exercises, share your results with your teacher or coach for feedback, learn from the corrected mistakes, continue reading, … As we know from research the combination of knowledge and experience yields the highest retention rate of your learning, and therefore best results.

  • Learning through Teaching: As your proficiency level increases research has shown that if you teach a subject, your proficiency level increases even faster and further when you teach a subject. Being a teacher also helps to harden your retained knowledge and skills further.

Experience is always superior to knowledge.

For example, you can read about how to ride a bike, but unless you actually ride the bike without the experience the learned content just takes away memory in your brain, and becomes stale over time.

For completeness, besides learning there is also the dimension of knowing through your intuition.

You simply know things, and don’t know why, but you know from a deeper level.

Have you experienced that before? Interestingly in my own experience as your present awareness increases, your level of intuition is also increasing. We’ll explore this in a separate article.

If you study the high level descriptions of the 7 Pillars to becoming a Mindful Leader, you will notice that there are the following prerequisites or skills needed:

Present Awareness: Being present in the moment, and becoming conscious of all your thoughts, words, and actions, is a common theme throughout all of the pillars. It is not about doing, but being. Some level of knowledge absorption can be helpful for the mind. For example, studying different meditation and mindfulness techniques, learning about their historic context etc. - however, being present is not something you actively do. It can be described as a state of mind comprising a certain level of alertness, awakeness, or attentiveness.

Emotional Intelligence (EI): Each of the pillars will benefit through traits like the ability to self-reflect, compassion for others, and being empathic, which all falls under the umbrella of emotional intelligence (EI). Per Wikipedia definition EI is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one's goal(s). A key factor of EI is empathy. In my experience as your level of present awareness increases, your levels of self reflection, empathy, and compassion are increasing as well.

Leadership Knowledge & Experience: There is certainly a lot of helpful knowledge that you can acquire when becoming or growing as a leader. Applying the knowledge to your daily changing situations (context), obtaining feedback through self-reflection or from others, and then making adjustments to improve your leadership skills is an ongoing process. I refer to this also as the “doing”. Besides traditional leadership topics the mindful leadership pillars require knowledge & experience in a variety of areas, predominantly topics on how to mind works, how to train your mind, differences between consciousness and your mind, techniques for identifying and reprogramming your false beliefs and automated reactive patterns, methods on purpose definition, new workplace and new leadership methodologies, and so on. In a follow-up article I will categorize this knowledge, to make it easier for obtaining an overview, which eventually could form the basis for a curriculum.

The underlying foundation of a Mindful Leader is the aspect of “being”, not the doing.

It is your mindset and your underlying level of present awareness, which as a side effect will build up your muscle for growing your emotional intelligence as a leader. This will guide your doing to foster stronger collaboration in your teams, make quality decisions, and improve overall happiness in your organization.

Each of the 7 Pillars for becoming a Mindful Leader requires a different mix of being vs. doing.

For example:

Pillars like Mindset shift and Consciousness Growth are more concerned on your state of being, whereas New Leadership and New Workplace paradigms are more concerned with the doing.

To summarize:

  • The state of being requires continuous effort of training your mind. The learning task here comprises building up a suite of tools to practise mindfulness on a daily basis through formal meditation, and smaller mindfulness exercises sprinkled into your daily life.

  • As your level of present awareness increases, so grows your emotional intelligence.

  • There is a vast amount of helpful knowledge and resources on leadership development and also mindful leadership available. The acquired knowledge is useful to build up a theoretical foundation, but needs to be applied and integrated in the daily work to be relevant.

  • Your current situation at work, the daily interaction with your team, and the leaders is your “playground” and teacher. The more challenging your work environment, the more potential for you to grow!

To conclude, I think it is doable to come up with a curriculum for becoming a Mindful Leader, which needs to personalized based on your current state of mind and leadership experience, and also find the right balance between “being” and “doing”.

My plan is to come up with such a basic curriculum in the next few weeks, and discuss the topic more within the Fellowship of Mindful Leaders to integrate feedback.

As always, looking forward to your comments and suggestions!

Take Action:

  • Signup for TheMindfulLeader newsletter below to receive periodic updates (1-2 per month) and pointers to helpful resources

  • Joining the Fellowship of Mindful Leaders is a strong commitment to elevating your level of consciousness (LOC) and investing into your own personal growth. It is also a commitment to teaching and mentoring others becoming Mindful Leaders - consider applying!

  • Check out the seminars & workshops I’m offering whether they are helpful for your personal and leadership growth.

  • Send me an email in case you are interested in individual coaching for the “7 Pillars of becoming a Mindful Leader”.

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