What do we expect from our leaders? Or really, what habits and traits do we associate with good leadership? Do we just expect them to be better at their job than others? Or do we expect them to do their job while making everyone else around them better?
Leaders need to inspire, motivate, and communicate clearly. They have to talk the talk and walk the walk. But there is no one way to lead; leadership can involve any number of unique problems to solve. You can’t prepare yourself for every possible situation you might end up in as a leader. Rather, it’s better (and more efficient) to build up habits that facilitate better leadership practices.
In other words, you need to develop habits of mindful leadership.
What Does Mindful Leadership Look Like?
A mindful leader starts conversations by talking about the goal of the conversation—the mission—and keeps everyone on the same page.
Mindful leaders are also able to act logically, not emotionally. They’re able to stay calm and focused on their goals without letting feelings get in the way of decision-making.
Finally, mindful leaders are empathetic. Empathy is a superpower! Some things might be obvious to you but the person you are talking to might not have the same information. Or they might not be thinking about the same goal. Or maybe they are just exhausted and not thinking clearly. Be patient, empathetic and do not assume.
How do you react to stress? How do you communicate? How do you balance your work and life? You want leaders who can be agile during projects, relate to others, and keep the overall goals of the project in mind. This takes being mindful. You can develop it too, by taking small steps repeated regularly, over time. Here are a few habits of mindful leaders:
Be Present And Focus On One Thing At A Time
“Being present” has become a bit of a buzzword but there’s real meaning and usefulness behind it. Being present means being completely immersed in what you are doing and the practice can spill over into all areas of your life, not just work. It’s achieving that “flow state” we’ve all heard about. Meditation is one of the most popular ways to cultivate a sense of presence but you can practice it anywhere, even in your interactions with others.
Next time you have an interaction with someone, stop everything else you are doing and divert all your attention towards the subject at hand. Not only does this show respect to the other person, it also allows you to think more holistically about the situation. It’s also more efficient; focusing entirely on the task at hand means you’re less likely to have to revisit it later to fix things you might have overlooked while distracted.
When was the last time you practiced gratitude and you took a second to acknowledge the good in your life? Gratitude is its own mindfulness practice in that it forces you to pause for a moment and soak in the things in your life that you truly appreciate. It’s a good mood booster in the short-term. Over time, your tolerance threshold for stress will increase, making you less likely to fly off the handle when you’re overwhelmed. It also helps keep the positives in your life at the forefront of your mind.
Learn To Let Go
It’s human nature to want to hold onto things. Several behavioral science concepts revolve around our innate inability to let things go. The Ikea Effect, the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and Loss Aversion are just a few concepts behavioral economists have identified that tie in with our tendency to cling to things. But we shouldn’t hold onto everything; in fact, there are plenty of situations where you’re better off simply letting things go. Knowing when and how to do that is basically a superpower.
If a tool, behavior, or goal isn’t working, let it go. Let yourself be lighter as a result.
This is just a small sampling of useful habits for mindful leadership but they’re all a great place to start. Implement these practices into your daily work life and encourage your teammates to do the same. You’ll be surprised how much calmer and more efficient your work environment becomes when everyone is more mindful!