Updated: Mar 4, 2020
While working in leadership positions at major technology companies I observed many leaders in the past years who were working on improving themselves based on a company prescribed development plan. While it can be helpful to have such a development plan in place, oftentimes the development goals are focusing on acquiring or improving certain skills (i.e., learning a new project management software, taking a public speaking class). For leaders in larger organizations there usually exist management classes that are offered through their learning department, or which they outsource to an external training provider. Those classes may teach management and hiring basics, as well as explaining internal processes (i.e., yearly budgeting), and providing practical tips for the new manager (i.e., how to handle more difficult conversations). However, all of these self improvement efforts focus on your personality/perceivement or surface level (“outer shell”). These little adjustments mostly have little to no effect on ones character and capability as a leader.
What is Transformation?
Transformation itself means to change someone or something completely. There is a deeper level of you that in many of us is hidden and concealed by our personality or „ego“. This deeper level or “inner core” is who you really are. If your inner core is fully aligned with your surface level or outer shell, then you live purposely in fulfillment and peace, The reason is that there is no tension between your inner core and outer shell, which causes otherwise friction and effort to compensate. If your inner core is not aligned with your outer shell, self improvements on the surface level are not going to help you bring your inner core and surface level in harmony. A more radical personal transformation process therefore is needed, which initiates change from within your deepest level, leading to gradual adjustments and growth on your outer shell.
Is such a Transformation Process worthwhile?
The proposed transformation process initiated with the “Mindful Leader Mindset” can be a lifelong journey, and requires your full commitment. It is a process that is challenging and requires consistency, and therefore, to succeed, your persistence is of essence.
So why go through such a transformation process as a leader? Is it really worthwhile? Wouldn’t it be sufficient to stay with the usual self-improvement topics used by thousands of companies? Unfortunately, if you want to really grow as a leader, you need to get out of your comfort zone, and address problems directly at your deeper level where they arise. Most of these problems are related to your mindset, and can be quite limiting when trying to achieve your fullest potential. The biggest upside for you therefore is that when you address limiting thoughts that prevent you from growing, the positive growth effects may bring you exponential gains.
What’s in it for you?
Some advantages when building up “The Mindful Leader Mindset”:
You become more balanced and less stressed at work. This will lead to a healthier life/work balance. You will live healthier, and be less sick, as high stress levels have a negative impact on your body and immune system.
You will be less worried about the future or dealing with uncertainty.
You will have more focus and attention to apply to solving problems and making more effective progress towards your goals. Your overall productivity will therefore increase.
Your emotional intelligence (EQ) will greatly improve. This will make you more successful in collaborating and interacting with others. As a result your working relationship with your directs and teams will improve significantly, and your personal relationships will benefit as well.
Your leadership effectiveness will grow significantly. You will be able to do more with less effort.
You will more easily build up trust in your organization. Trust is the foundation for innovation and a productive work environment.
People will like to work for you. The work environment you produce is purposeful and healthy. Therefore people will look forward to work every morning.
The Multiplier Effect
Another benefit is the aptly-named multiplier effect. As your change of attitude and level of consciousness grows, you are also likely to trigger consciousness changes in the people you interact with. They may notice that something has changed in you, and may be interested to also learn more about your transformation. But even by simply interacting with you people’s life will get better, and therefore you also have a positive impact on your environment and people you work or live with.
Reprogramming your “Bio Computer”
Most importantly you will gradually get rid of limiting thought patterns which hold your growth back. You can choose whether or not you believe these thoughts, and this decision alone can decide whether they are true, as shown by this example.
Assume you believe that you are “not good at communicating”. Maybe in your early years a teacher in school told you that you are bad in discussions, and that you should better shut up and listen to others. This thought now is deeply rooted in your subconscious mind, and is preventing you from taking on more active participation in discussions. By believing this thought you may think it is better to let others talk, as you believe that you cannot contribute anything useful to the discussion. People at work may tell you that you are not “strong in communication”, reinforcing that thought. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a countermeasure you are adding a communication class to your development plan, and think by taking it you are getting better at it. Reality is that the underlying limiting thought “I’m not good at communication” is still around, and will continue to prevent major breakthroughs. However, by recognizing this underlying faulty thought, and systematically addressing it by “reprogramming your bio computer” (brain) with a new thought “I’m really good at talking with people and enjoy adding my perspective to a discussion”, you can achieve a real major step change in your communication.
You can now see that there are potentially many of these similar negative thoughts that are limiting you in your growth as a leader. Therefore a personal transformation process, which tackles the problems at your deeper level is an option to achieve major and sustainable growth.
How do I get started?
If you have decided that you need some personal change in order to transform your leadership mindset, which is likely as you are reading this article, the bigger questions are:
How do you prioritize your learnings given the almost infinite possibilities on content and know what is helpful for your growth in your current situation?
What are the areas to focus on for your growth, in what order, and how to put together a personalized growth plan that works for you?
You basically need a “transformation plan”. Such a plan should be easy and intuitive that everyone understands, whether you’re a kid, teenager, or a business professional. Therefore a simple approach and plan is needed that continuously builds up new beneficial habits in you that keep increasing your growth and success over time.
Developing “The Mindful Leader Mindset”
There are a plethora of good ideas and classes available on growth and transformation topics, and no shortage on books, advise, or opportunities to learn and grow. For example, companies like Mindvalley offer a variety of inspiring online master classes, and companies like LinkedIn provide you with an unlimited supply of training starting from leadership, software development, data science, or how to use Photoshop.
I’ll present the outline of a personal transformation process to you, to which I refer to as the “Mindful Leader Mindset”. It comprises 5 goals that provide guidance and direction. Those goals are focusing on evolving your consciousness and training your mind.
I’m not claiming that this transformation process is unique or special, nor are any of the ideas presented in there. What makes this process helpful is that it brings together many concepts from evolving your consciousness and personal growth in a systematic transformation process that holistically targets to change you. More concretely, it aligns your inner core with your surface level step by step, so that ultimately your outer shell is a mirror of your inner core.
If that has happened, you live a purposeful life and are in harmony with yourself. Stress because of fear and anxiety is dissolving, and you make decisions that are aligned with your purpose in life. As a “byproduct,” your effectiveness as a leader will improve substantially, more than you could accomplish by sticking to standard self-improvement classes. Not only will you benefit from this change, but also your teams and others you work with on a daily basis will feel a positive impact (your friends and family as well).
The Difference between Consciousness and your Mind
First you need to learn the difference between consciousness and your mind. These are two separate concepts, and many people think they are the same.
Consciousness is the foundation of everything, as this is who you really are - a conscious being. That means you are the quiet observer of everything happening around you, the observer of your thoughts and feelings. But you are not your thoughts nor your feelings (your mind). You as consciousness are simply observing them as they arise.
However, when you are actually believing that you are your thoughts and identify with them, then you are caught up in your personality or ego. This state is dominated by conditioned thinking, therefore also referred to as an unconscious state of mind. Unfortunately this is the default state of most people on this planet and around you.
Here is an example that might be helpful to understand the importance of separating mind and consciousness. Consider a thought “This person came in late for a meeting last week. Most likely that person will be late tomorrow again.” In a conscious state of mind you can observe that thought when it appears in your mind. You then have a choice to decide whether this thought is true and if you want to believe it or not. In the other scenario if you’re unconscious you do not recognize the thought, but simply identify with the thought and automatically believe it. You can see that this potentially may lead to a bias towards that person.
Also the mind has a „life on its own“. It sometimes can be compared with a little monkey that jumps up and down, and does things out of your control. It’s hard to control that little monkey and so is controlling your mind if it is not trained. Try an experiment where you sit still for 2 minutes with the intention of not thinking. Then have a paper and pen and count the thoughts as they arise. How many were you able to count? An untrained mind may produce up to 10+ random thoughts per minute.
What is present awareness?
When you are conscious, you are alert and aware of what’s happening in the present moment. I refer to this also as “present awareness” or simply “presence”. A good introduction to this topic can be found in Eckhart‘s Tolle’s „The Power of Now“, which I highly recommend to listen to the audio book. It explains the concepts discussed here very intuitively and is easy to follow.
Evolving your Consciousness and Training your Mind
In the Mindful Leader Mindset process Mindset you first evolve your consciousness and train your mind to set a good foundation. As part of your consciousness growth the focus will be for you to identify old patterns that are no longer serving you well, and “reprogram” your bio-computer” with new ideas that help you grow and get rid of old conditioned patterns that are holding you back. The good news is that reprogramming or “rewiring” your brain is always possible and scientific studies show that you are able to learn until very old age. Therefore the training of the mind will be a particular hard but rewarding topic once you start to see progress.
Your consciousness and your mind are the foundation that will then help you with achieving and maintaining a healthy body. Unfortunately expanding your consciousness and training your mind can be a very tedious process (as I mentioned above already). Sometimes you experience a steep change in improvement, and then a few days later you may fall back into old conditioned patterns. Therefore it requires persistence on your side. Growth is not always happening linearly, but is more like an s-slope that steeply inclines, drops a bit, grows slowly again, drops again more, and so on. Don’t get discouraged if you feel you’re not making fast enough progress. Patience is of essence. It is all about your journey, the process, not a goal you reach in the future.
To evolve your consciousness therefore takes serious efforts and a long-term commitment from you. But without it, all the other steps will not be effective, as they are dominated by your unconscious thought patterns and your ego. In this state of living people run their daily activities mostly blindly on “auto-pilot”, caught in their own drama, not realizing that they are trapped in their own mind. As part of this transformation process you will become aware of these unconscious thought patterns, and then have a conscious choice to break free of them.
Milestones on your Consciousness Growth Journey
Here are some of the goals you have to tackle as part of your consciousness growth. I will discuss these milestones in detail in upcoming blog posts:
Goal 1: At the beginning recognize you are consciousness. Understand the differences between your mind, body, and consciousness. This leads to a new reality and deeper understanding of life.
Goal 2: Achieve clarity what is most important to you and define your top 6-8 personal values. These serve you as guidance for important decisions and increase your awareness of who you really are. To help you do this I‘m proposing a simple process and describe it in more detail here “What are your personal values?”
Goal 3: Gradually discover and dissolve your old conditioned thought patterns, false beliefs, and false rules one by one. These false beliefs may also be limiting to living your personal values. I call this process also as reprogramming your “bio computer” to open up your mind for growth. We can then create new rules and beliefs to be in connection with our real nature, and from that perspective create better outcomes for our lives.
Goal 4: Recognize and become aware of your “painbody” or the painbody in others when it arises, and find ways to transcend it. A pain body is the negative energy consisting of old emotions and associated with unhealthy thought patterns that feeds on more negative energy generated by your own thoughts or the negative energy from others (see also “Living in Presence with Your Emotional Pain Body” for more details).
Goal 5: Be aware of the present moment, and increase your present awareness. Train your mind to become more focused into the present moment, with simple mindful exercises spread over the day to be more aware of your inner body, emotions and surroundings, A formal mediation practise may be supportive and helpful as well.
As a Leader - Goal 6: Learn and adopt the “Mindfulness Leadership Principles”. Those are designed then to increase your overall effectiveness as a leader. However, they require that you already made some progress on goals 1-5, as these are the precondition for living those principles and values.
In follow-up articles I will describe more details in terms of content and resources that help you to come up with a plan to make progress towards each goal. For now the important thing to remember is that
The proposed personal transformation process “Mindful Leader Mindset” can help you to increase your leadership effectiveness to the next level.
It is based on evolving your consciousness and training your mind, summarized in goals 1-6.
If you made some progress towards these goals 1-6, it will allow you to apply the Mindfulness Leadership principles more easily.
Once you apply the mindfulness leadership principles in your daily workplace, you will notice major improvements in your interactions with others, productivity, and other success factors. Stress and fear will dissolve, and with the achieved clarity you will be able grow in a purposeful way as a leader and as a person.
Now is a good time to start ...
If you‘re reading this article there is a high chance that there is a good timing now for you to explore consciousness growth, and start your journey to become a mindful leader.
Besides training your mind, you will also need to keep your body healthy, and put an equal importance on maintaining and building up strong relationships, both at work and at home. This will be covered in follow-up posts. So stay tuned …
Q & A
Q: Is this process useful for me?
A: It depends on your state of consciousness. If you read through this superficially and the content is not resonating with you, that usually means you’re not ready for a transformative change. However, if the content resonates with you and you realize that there is a personal growth opportunity awaiting, then this process may be a good option to proceed forward with.
Q: How do you know it works?
A: I started the process myself a few years ago. Obviously more by accident. Over time I thought about what I head learned during my journey and how to help others to benefit from the concepts learned in a more systematic way. At work I realized that the Mindfulness Leadership principles might be very beneficial when applied to the workplace. However, people understand these principles, also usually like them, but are typically not able to follow-through. I then thought about why it is hard for them to apply those principles? I found out that simple training unfortunately is not enough, therefore a transformation process is needed. The article you’re reading therefore is the result based on my own experience.
Q: Is there help available during the transformation process?
A: I will write more details for each goal in the next weeks and provide more resources. Feel free to post questions to this blog and I will answer them as good and comprehensive possible. I will also further continue to revise and tweak the article based on your feedback.
Q: How do I know I do it correctly or make progress?
A: If you work on those goals outlined above it will take a few weeks only and you will notice first results. In the beginnings look for little signs of success (e.g., you had a meeting with a co-worker and were actively listening). Later on you will notice more and more positive results as you apply the mindfulness leadership principles in your daily work. The road as mentioned above is however not straightforward. There might be setbacks and detours. When you notice that just make a “course correction” and continue with your efforts.