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Seven Core Mindful Leadership Practices

Working with others can be immensely challenging. Some difficulty always arises, whether that’s painful emotions, stress and uncertainty, budgets and deadlines, interpersonal conflicts, political and marketplace strife, or the unexpected obstacles that typically appear whenever we pursue meaningful work. So what do we do?

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A team leader having a high five with his team in the office

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
— Peter Drucker

This famous quote by Peter Drucker, a world-leading business-management writer, teacher, and consultant, may be one of the most well-known and least-disputed aphorisms of business. It captures the truth that company culture is ultimately more important than business strategy for achieving success, and the wisdom of this statement has only become more relevant in today’s tumultuous business environment.

What makes up company culture? People. Human beings working together to solve problems. I sometimes call this the “dirty little secret” of the business world, one that’s easy to lose sight of in the midst of the daily pressures, anxieties, and busyness that so frequently overwhelm us. Business is people working together, and business success inevitably depends on how well we interact, collaborate, communicate, and care for one another. That’s the essence of what Drucker means.

I think we recognize this and I think this is what we search for, both in the workplace and in general in our lives. We want to create and be part of a supportive, positive culture — a culture of real trust and care, of transparency and integrity, of accountability and achieving results. This type of culture helps us as individuals and collectively to act with clarity, to not hold back, to show up as fully and completely as possible in all our relationships, to flourish and grow, to better serve others, and to reach our goals.

Achieving this isn’t easy. Being human isn’t easy. Working with others can be immensely challenging. Some difficulty always arises, whether that’s painful emotions, stress and uncertainty, budgets and deadlines, interpersonal conflicts, political and marketplace strife, or the unexpected obstacles that typically appear whenever we pursue meaningful work.

So what do we do? How do we create and sustain what everyone says we need?

I’ve always appreciated the corny joke about the out-of-town visitor to New York City who asks a stranger: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” Without hesitating, the stranger responds, “Practice, practice, practice.”

When people ask me, “How can I create a great organizational culture?” or “How can I be a mindful leader?” I’m always tempted to give the same answer: “Practice!” It’s somewhat humorous but true.

Here are seven core mindful leadership practices

  • Love the work: Start with inspiration, with what is most essential. Acknowledge and cultivate aspiration — your deepest, most heartfelt intentions.
  • Do the work: Have a regular meditation and mindfulness practice. Learn to respond appropriately at work and in all parts of your life.
  • Don’t be an expert: Let go of thinking you are right. Step in to greater wonder, openness, and vulnerability.
  • Connect to your pain: Don’t avoid the pain that comes with being human. Transform pain into learning and opportunity.
  • Connect to the pain of others: Don’t avoid the pain of others. Embody a profound connection to all humanity and life.
  • Depend on others: Let go of a false sense of independence. Both empower others and be empowered by others to foster healthy group dynamics.
  • Keep making it simpler: Let go of a mindset of scarcity. Cultivate awe and wonder. Integrate mindfulness practice and results.

What are the benefits of mindful leadership?

  • Mindful leadership cultivates a richness of experience; ordinary, everyday work can feel heightened, meaningful, and at times extraordinary.
  • It removes gaps between mindfulness practice, work practice, taking care of people, and achieving results.
  • It considers learning from stress, challenges, difficulties, and problems to be an integral part of the process of growth and not something
  • to be avoided.
  • It helps us recognize and work with contradictions and competing priorities to cultivate flexibility and understanding.
  • It helps us experience timelessness, effortlessness, and joy even in the midst of hard work and exceptional effort.
  • It can be applied to any activity to cultivate both confidence and humility.
  • It embraces individuality and unity — everyone has a particular role and yet all make one team, supported by and supporting one another,
  • practicing together.
  • It considers true success twofold — in the character and compassion of the people and in the quality and results of the work.
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