How to become a successful leader using these mindfulness techniques

Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK
14 April 2016
An image showing a man and a woman working together

Mindfulness can make you a better leader in the workplace, or in other aspects of your life. Here’s how.

What makes a mindful leader?

The best mindful leaders are great at focusing on the present moment and the task at hand – they don’t scatter their energies. They have a keen awareness of their own emotions, and the feelings, strengths and weaknesses of others. They are also positive and optimistic, moving towards goals, rather than away from problems.

These are all skills that you can learn by applying some of the principles of mindfulness. It’s such a powerful approach, it has even been recommended in a Parliamentary report called Mindful Nation UK. 

One thing at a time

Anyone can fall into bad habits and repeat ineffective patterns of behaviour without noticing. Targets are missed, nothing seems to get finished, and frustration builds.

Multi-tasking is one reason for this revolving door syndrome. Many tasks are started, but none are ever completed, and we feel overwhelmed. The remedy is to really focus on the job in front of you, and bring it to a sensible stopping point before you move on to the next one.

When you feel your mind wandering, gently pull it back by paying attention to your breathing. Set a timer for one minute, and take this time to notice your breathing. Once you’re ready, go back to the task. Each time you do this, you're training your brain to focus.

Let your team see you working this way, and encourage them to try this technique too. Once you set this standard consistently in your work place, others will usually follow.

Lead from the inside out

Real leadership starts with emotional intelligence. You first have to notice and control your own feelings and desires. Leaders who lack self-awareness are more likely to deny their own weaknesses and mistakes. They’re also less likely to notice when their bad moods rub off on other people.

So whenever you feel pressured, just stop for a moment and breathe. Don’t feel rushed into answering questions either. Pause, count to ten, and then answer when you feel ready.

It's also about noticing the reactions of other people (especially when they’re in a difficult situation), and responding appropriately. For example, if you see a colleague becoming stressed, you could give them permission to take a break and slow down.

Effective leaders create a positive emotional environment, which is very productive. They’re motivated by values, rather than a quest for rewards or power, and other people can pick up on this and feel inspired. Leading in this way can help your team to feel motivated to work towards shared goals.

Move towards the good

There are two distinct styles of leadership: avoidance-led and approach-led.

People who follow the avoidant pattern seek out the dangers in every situation. They tend towards fearfulness and denial. While it’s important to be aware of risks, it’s not beneficial to be driven by them.

On the other hand, approach-led thinking seeks rewards. It’s positive and optimistic. Leaders who think like this are creative, and have the ability to spot potential. They’re also a pleasure to work with, and bring of out the best in other people.

You can train your brain to follow an approach-led way of thinking, through regular mindfulness practice both in and out of work. Then watch as the benefits become apparent – you’ll gradually notice your team enjoying a more open environment where communication flows, people feel valued, and expectations are exceeded.

If you'd like to ask one of our experts about mindfulness - submit your question here. We'll be using the questions to create a Q&A video blog in the next few months!

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Jane Bozier
Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK

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