Updated: May 10
In earlier posts I had described the Seven Pillars of Mindful Leadership - important prerequisites and dimensions for your growth as a leader. I also described how you could become a Mindful Leader, and built up a higher level of present awareness to systematically grow your consciousness and upgrade your mind.
There are common qualities associated with good leadership, like honesty, confidence, creativity, being decisive, inspirational, and strong communication skills that most people agree upon in the business world. If you browse through some web pages, blogs, and read a few good leadership books you can collect a comprehensive list of these qualities that will resonate with you.
What are the Capabilities and Qualities of a Mindful Leader?
First, all capabilities and qualities that are associated with good leadership, also apply to mindful leadership.
Training your mind and elevating your level of consciousness (LOC) will enhance your existing leadership capabilities.
However, there will be additional capabilities that are required to become a Mindful Leader. If you have studied the suggested Seven Pillars of Mindful Leadership, there is pillar one that is associated with growing your consciousness and shifting your mindset. In addition, pillars two, three, and four focus on training and upgrading your mind. Pillar five is about achieving clarity on your purpose, vision, and mission.
If you work on your own personal and leadership growth focusing on each of those five pillars, you will systematically elevate your level of consciousness by training your mind. Your consciousness therefore is an enabler for a variety of new capabilities that were dormant in you, waiting to be awakened.
These new capabilities therefore define a Mindful Leader and distinguish an “old school” leader from a Mindful Leader.
Is Mindfulness itself a Capability?
Mindfulness itself is not a capability, but a mindset, process, and catalyst.
“Being mindful is the foundation for cultivating consciousness growth.”
It also leads to a higher level of present awareness. Through regular mindfulness practises and meditation your existing capabilities as a leader will be greatly improved.
In addition, this will also raise your ability of self-reflection and increases your level of self awareness. Both of these capabilities are a key foundation for your growth as a person and a leader.
Furthermore, in my experience enhancing your mindfulness practice with heart centered attitudes like gratitude, kindness, and forgiveness, will take your practise to a higher level.
“You can compare mindfulness as a soil rich in nutrients, on which you can grow colorful flowers and luscious vegetables.“
For example, if you are a strong communicator, with the application of mindfulness your overall communication and collaboration capabilities will be taken to a new level. As leadership is 90% about communication and collaboration, you can see its profound impact on your leadership qualities.
Because one of the reasons is that mindfulness training grows your emotional intelligence (EI), which is by the way an enabler for empathy and compassion. This in turn makes you a better active listener.
What are the Defining Capabilities of a Mindful Leader?
There are specific capabilities that benefit most from consciousness growth. There is already a lot of existing work in the research community related to this topic that can be reviewed to get started.
In the past years the topic of consciousness growth has gained more momentum as a scientific topic. The details of consciousness are still one of the unsolved mysteries in this universe. However, scientists from UC San Diego and the Chopra Foundation had recently published a paper on non-dual awareness, where they conducted a study called a “NETI test” with 69 participants.
Non-dualism primarily refers to a mature state of consciousness, where you feel connected with all beings and the Universe. This is the opposite state of an ego-driven mindset, where you experience disconnection and separation as an individual. To reach a non-dual state can be a life-long journey, and typically requires a significant effort and training of your mind. Still you may not be able to reach it during this lifetime, but is available to you anytime if you earnestly long for it.
Their test would examine qualities related to consciousness growth:
Propensity to surrender
Interest in truth
Minimal level of defensiveness
Capacity to tolerate cognitive dissonance and/or emotional discomfort
Frequency of non-dual experience
Low Anxiety level
Level of disidentification from the mind
As an exercise, if we take this list as a starting point, try to reflect on each of these qualities, and inquire whether the question:
“If I would have more of X, am I a better and more effective leader?”
… is true. If yes, you will for yourself determine a good list of mindful leadership qualities that you can cultivate when regularly engaging in mindfulness exercises and meditation.
Some of them like compassion, gratitude, empathy, and humility could be categorized in a more general term as a subset of emotional intelligence (EI).
As your consciousness grows, your connection with your intuition is also growing. This allows you to tap into your inner wisdom, and significantly improve the quality of your decisions.
Furthermore, as your mind allows you to access altered states of reality, tapping deeper into your creativity results in a new level of innovation. As a leader, being a creative problem solver is crucial in a variety of leadership tasks. Especially when it comes to strategy, those leaders who demonstrated a high level of creativity and resourcefulness usually are the most successful.
Another important quality that you need to train and cultivate is equanimity, that is accepting what is and not being judgemental. You never really know whether an event is “good” or “bad”. Things or persons you encounter and judge as bad, can turn out to be the best thing ever happening to you. It is only in the future, where you can look back afterwards to determine whether something was helpful or not toward achieving your goals.
Last but not least, in your daily situations and interactions with other persons, the ability to adjust the presence of your ego is an important capability. I call this “ego calibration” - adjusting the ego to a minimal level at any given situation.
For example, in a meeting with a tough business partner you may need to temporarily strengthen your ego while still being mindful. In other situations like a brainstorming meeting no ego may be necessary at all.
Recently during a retreat with friends of the Mindfulness Leadership Circle (MLC) in the Alps, we had a very prolific brainstorming meeting on the same topic as well. We arrived at a draft for leadership capabilities, that will be shared in the near future.
The capabilities of a Mindful Leader are primarily related to your consciousness growth, and result in new qualities that were dormant in you, or upgrade your existing leadership capabilities to take them to a new level.
Fundamental to your growth as a leader is the ability of self reflection and your level of self awareness.
Your emotional intelligence (EQ) increases, which positively impacts your ability to communicate and to collaborate.
Your connection to your intuition grows stronger, which results in higher quality decisions, and a deeper level of creativity to foster innovation.
The list above can be used as a starting point to define the qualities of a Mindful Leader, and more general the topic of mindful leadership.
You can take any quality of a leader that you could find in common leadership literature (e.g., integrity), and determine for yourself whether this capability will grow with an elevated level of consciousness.
Therefore the number of capabilities of a Mindful Leader is not limited, but possibly it is helpful if we can agree on a small list of the most important ones, to keep some focus.
What do you think are the most important capabilities of a Mindful Leader?
Please share your thoughts here!
With your feedback and over time I will condense them into something like “The Top 10 Qualities of a Mindful Leader.”
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