Monday, September 8, 2014

Is All Leadership Mindful Leadership?

I attended the inaugural 2-day Mindful Leadership Global Forum in Sydney last week with 400 participants from business and government agency management roles. Mindfulness is in the news as a revolution in leadership. Companies that embrace mindfulness such as Google and Facebook claim reductions in absenteeism, enhanced productivity, and improved business results.

Mindfulness is the practice of focused attention, certainly a useful skill for any leader. But there are 5 other practices considered to be equally essential to good leadership - what are they?

It seems to me that mindful leadership is becoming a catch-all for practices ranging from decision-making to body awareness. The essence of the transformative leader is embodied in 6 practices, sometimes referred to as "the six perfections". They are - in order:

1. Generosity
The act of giving means giving the best of what you have, graciously and unstintingly, without reservations, hesitation, or regret. Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression. The leader who practices generosity experiences joy in forming the intention to be generous, and joy in the act of giving.

2. Ethics
Moral ethics is widely considered to be the basis of all excellent qualities. Though rare today, the virtuous leader is the very heart of every society. Such a leader considers whether his or her daily words, deeds, intentions, thoughts and feelings are helpful or harmful, skilful or unskillful, virtuous or not.

3. Patience
Self-regulation is a prerequisite for any leader. Anger is the antithesis of self-regulation. And good leaders have learned how to manage their frustration and anger through the practice of patience, which is the ability to face discomfort with courage.

4. Effort
Leaders need to take action, heroic action. A good leader needs to know where he or she wants to go and how to get there, and then never, never, never give up. Heroic effort depends on and generates a true enthusiasm for life.

5. Mindfulness
Mindfulness means the intentional use of attention as applied to this very moment: whatever is arising in the body-mind field of consciousness. Leaders need a highly focused and alert presence of mind free from judgment, evaluation, and reactivity. Mindfulness training is - or should be - an essential skill for the transformative leader.

6. Wisdom
Now more than ever, we need wise leaders. Wisdom implies deep understanding about patterns and relationships, causes and origins, as well as insight into the future implications of all our thoughts, words, and deeds. The wise leader is able to grasp the truth at the heart of any situation.

I believe mindful leadership is essential to good leadership and important in the training of leaders, but it is a component of the six practices outlined above, which constitutes the transformative nature of wise leadership.

Wisdom may be summed up as: "to know, to will, to love, and to do what is good, true, beautiful and just".