Mindful Leadership

This past weekend I attended a workshop on “mindful leadership” conducted by author Bill George and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a rising star among Tibetan Buddist Masters. The audience, including this one, was fascinated by the interplay between Eastern and Western philosophies.

Mingyur spoke about how daily meditation can help us achieve a state of mindfulness. Bill, a Professor of Management at Harvard Business School, has practiced meditation for over 35 years. He believes that leadership qualities – such as building relationships and practicing self-discipline – are greatly enhanced by his meditation practice. Both agreed that self-awareness leads to greater self-compassion, and this in turn helps you know how to lead yourself and others.

Bill suggested that that the root cause of the 2008 financial meltdown and recent organizational disasters was failed leadership that focused on short term gains over long term goals. None of the leaders failed due to a lack of I.Q. Rather, they failed due to lack of emotional intelligence (E.Q): lack of self awareness, inability to deal with crucibles, destructive emotions, and a lack of compassion.

We all have the capacity to inspire but we must first be willing to devote ourselves to our own personal growth and development. As you think about the basis for your leadership development and the path you need to follow to become an authentic leader, here are a few further questions* to ponder:

1. Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest impact on you?

2. What tools do you use to become self-aware? What is your authentic self? What are the moments when you say to yourself, this is the real me?

3. What are your most deeply held values? Where did they come from? Have your values changed significantly since your childhood? How do your values inform your actions?

4. What motivates you extrinsically? What are your intrinsic motivations? How do you balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in your life?

5. What kind of support team do you have? How can your support team make you a more authentic leader? How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?

6. Is your life integrated? Are you able to be the same person in all aspects of your life- personal, work, family and community? If not, what is holding you back?

7. What does being authentic mean in your life? Are you more effective as a leader when you behave authentically? Have you ever paid a price for your authenticity as a leader? Was it worth it?

8. What steps can you take today, tomorrow, and over the next year to develop your authentic leadership?

Being a good leader or manager or parent is hard work. You must continuously balance (and rebalance) humility with power, collaboration with decisiveness, kindness with knowing how and when to push back. I am back in NYC now and although I am not planning to move mountains, but I am beginning to think about ways that I can better lead and change my culture in little ways. Even if the effect I have is on one person.

Ghandi said it best: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

* Discovering Your Authentic Leadership, HBR Online