Mindful leaders come to work ready to inspire and empower those around them. They are transformational in a sense. It is however sometimes difficult to lead with integrity, as there are constant distractions, disturbances and things that just “get in the way”. From the moment you get to the office, you’re bombarded with various distractions and tasks. Emails to respond to, reports to address, articles to read, employees to coach, clients to interact with, etc. It can be quite exhausting at times. So let’s slow down and focus in order to make thoughtful decisions. Let’s stay engaged with our employees to empower them, motivate them and help them excel in their careers. Let’s make a difference by establishing a consistent practice of mindful leadership. What does that look like and how can we start? Let’s start with three basic characteristics of a mindful leader:
Our biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. How many people really listen to their co-workers or employees? Think about it-most of the time we’re preoccupied listening to our own inner voice. Commentaries like: I wish he would stop talking. I know what she’s going to say next. I’ve heard this before. I wonder if Joe responded to my text? I know you’ve done this! We all have. And I know you’ve been on the receiving end. So question for you-how did it make you feel when you’re talking to someone and maybe trying to get advice and they’re obviously lost in space or texting a mile a minute? Probably unheard and frustrated. All people really want in life is to be heard!
To be an effective leader, you must be a good listener. When you listen, you will engage people and create a better connection, which will improve performance. Research has shown that the more a leader is present, the better the employee performs. When an employee feels heard, they will perform at optimal level and be an asset to your team.
What is a compassionate leader and how can we apply this to the workplace? Compassion is opening our hearts to the feelings of others without judgment. How do we do this? By acting from the heart. Now, compassion does not mean we overlook the mistakes made by our coworkers or employees. It means we have sympathy and understanding for their difficulties and know we are not different from them.
As you move into the workforce, whether you’re in a leadership role or not, you may become upset with your coworkers or employees. You may feel you work harder than another person, or you may think your solution to a problem is the best and only solution. You might start losing patience with people. Sometimes, when we move up the corporate ladder, it’s easy to forget where we came from. We forget what it was like struggling to get to the next rung, and what it felt like when a coworker or boss didn’t show compassion when we had to call out because we were sick. Or when it took a little longer to understand a new policy or procedure. We only remember where we are now, and we forget who and what got us to the next level.
It’s ingrained in us to be logical and to hide our emotions in the workplace. The mind is held in higher regard than the heart. By tapping into the power of the heart, you will discover your ability to be compassionate. At first, your ego will resist this. The ego will always bring up many reasons why someone doesn’t deserve your compassion. It will also try to tell you that you are a weak leader if your lead from your heart. (Believe me, your ego will be relentless on this advice.) In addition, your ego will start judging others. Judgment will keep you small. Judgment is a nasty little trick the ego uses to separate us from others.
When we are compassionate, we shift from a “ME” mentality to a “WE” mentality. And isn’t that what the workplace is? A team effort. As someone who has continuously led through love instead of fear, I will tell you this: your heart will always lead you to a better outcome. And you know what? In return, you’ll be a fierce leader!
A commitment to service helps you get out of the way and provide the space and support that people need to thrive. It’s important that we connect with others in a meaningful way and show by our actions that we are there to serve them in their career. To lead, we must not only appeal to the minds of the people we work with, but also to touch their hearts, to understand what motivates them and to really care about them. Leadership is not about telling people what to do, but to put the needs of others first and help people develop and perform at the highest level possible.
One way to do this is to have the awareness that your role as a leader is to serve others. Servant leadership involves putting your team first and yourself second. While the idea of servant leadership goes back at least two thousand years, the modern servant leadership movement was launched by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 with the publication of his classic essay, The Servant as Leader. It was in that essay that he coined the words “servant-leader” and “servant leadership.” Greenleaf defined the servant-leader as follows:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”
“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”
By listening, showing compassion and being a servant leader, we help employees develop the skills they need to advance in their careers, even if it means moving up and out of their current position. We become that transformational leader that everyone wants to work for and everyone will work tirelessly for. When we bring these attitudes to work, we cultivate a new type of leadership. A leadership of presence. We develop self awareness in order to inspire, motivate and empower our team with authenticity, vulnerably and compassion.
Breathe into this moment
This moment is perfect as is