This week I will be exploring the most common questions that I receive about Mindful Leadership.
Let’s dive in.
Q: What Is Mindfulness?
At the most basic level, mindfulness is training for the brain.
I view it as a collection of tools and techniques that enable you to train the muscles of your mind to build awareness, increase focus, and relax the central nervous system.
A solid mindfulness routine will enable you to calm your busy mind, establish positive habits, set and achieve meaningful goals, and enhance just about every aspect of performance.
As a mindful leadership coach, I take things a little further by also showing you how to mindfully develop strategy, increase influence, and lead your tribe.
Q: What Does It Mean To Be Mindful?
I’m going to get a little deep here. So stick with me.
When you are mindful, you are fully present and aware of what’s happening within your inner world.
Notice how I said inner world and not outer world.
This is because each of us holds an internal representation of ourselves, the world, and our place in it.
Your inner reality consists of all your thoughts, habits, behaviours, feelings, beliefs, judgements, stories, relationships, and strategies wired together to create our internal world view.
Most of the time we go through life thinking our world view is the only reality.
The practice of being mindful is to explore our inner worlds, the inner worlds of others, and how they interact as one system.
Ok, Ron, that’s great, but how does this apply to leadership?
Q: How Does Mindfulness Apply To Leadership?
In the book Mastering Leadership the authors Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams (Bob and Bill) outline 5 Levels of Leadership.
Level I – Egocentric Leadership
This is the lowest level of leadership. Egocentric leaders believe that their inner reality is the only reality.
Unfortunately, egocentric leaders have not evolved past the stage of adolescences (age 8 to early adulthood). Their primary motivation is to have their needs met, and they ignore the needs of everyone else.
The inner reality of the egocentric leader is “my way or the highway” as they insist on loyalty to them, as opposed to that of the organization.
Just like a fish can’t see the water, an egocentric leader is unable to see their inner world, and couldn’t care less about their impact on others.
About 5% of leaders fall into this category.
Level II – Reactive Leadership
Leaders at this level have evolved beyond the adolescent mind and have begun to find their place in the world. The reactive leaders’ world view is shaped by how they fit within society.
We all need to go through this stage of leadership. We build competence to succeed in our chosen profession, we start businesses or climb the corporate ladder, and we take on roles of manager, spouse, and parent.
The challenge at this level is that we have defined ourselves, not from the inside out, but the outside in. When our inner world is threatened, we automatically react with complying, protecting, or controlling behaviour.
About 70% of leaders fall into this category which explains the state of bureaucracy and control that exists in most companies. Leaders at this level can catch glimpses of their inner worlds but lack the disciple and courage to explore them further.
You can read more about The 10 Signs That You Might Be A Reactive Leader here.
Level III – Creative Leadership
We are now starting to move into the levels of what I call Mindful Leadership. The first of the Mindful Leadership levels is what Bob and Bill call creative leadership.
Creative leaders have started to make the shift from outside in, to inside out. This is done by developing the self-awareness to explore their inner worlds, shedding old reactive and limiting assumptions, and being more intentional about who they want to be and what they want to create.
A profound shift occurs to leaders that operate at this level as they move away from what is expected of them toward more out of their own deeper sense of personal purpose. They no longer ignore or distort their unique calling and begin looking for creative ways to live the best version of themselves.
Instead of losing power by letting go of control the creative leader shifts to gaining strength by sharing it. Acting in service to their tribe and developing other Mindful Leaders become the primary job of leadership.
I use a simple 5 step process to practice being a Mindful Leader, and all it takes in 15 minutes a day. You can learn more about this here.
About 20% of leaders operate at this level.
Level IV – Integral Leadership
The next level of Mindful Leadership is what Bob and Bill call the integral leadership and what I call the Strategic Leader.
As awareness, creativity, and openness grow, it eventually expands to include the overall system and the leader shifts to becoming the architect of its future.
The primary skill of the strategic leader is the ability to hold conflicting points of view without judging them as either right or wrong.
The strategic leader can shift between their world view, the world view of other leaders, teams and individuals within the organization, and the world view of the clients that they serve – all without judgment, distortion or over-simplification.
This ability to hold the whole system (self, other leaders, team members, and clients) and shape its future is the hallmark of the strategic leader.
Only about 5% of leaders can achieve this level of awareness and influence.
Level V – Unitive Leadership
The last level of Mindful Leadership is what Bob and Bill call unitive leadership.
This is where the leader experiences everything as one inter-connected system that includes all companies, all beings, and all things. There is no longer me, us, and them – just one perfectly dysfunctional family in pursuit of making the world a better place.
Since I’m not currently operating at this level, it’s difficult for me to describe what happens. However, just like the reactive leader that catches the occasional glimpse of what is possible when they summon the courage to walk the path of a mindful leader, I’m able to speculate based on my personal experience.
When I explore this level of consciousness words like connected, authentic, purposeful, grounded, and unconditional love all come to mind. It’s like experiencing a wave of calm, an inner peace, a perfectly safe place to explore my inner self. I also catch glimpses of waves of energy flowing through my body which represent my connection with all things.
It’s as if anything is possible. That I have all the skills and abilities just waiting inside of me to accomplish whatever I set my mind too. There’s also an awareness of purpose, of bringing my best self to the world, along with a burning desire to make a meaningful contribution.
Is this woo-woo? Perhaps. Or am I just a fish, swimming in a bowl, and noticing the water for the first time?
I do know that it’s all but impossible to achieve this level of awareness and influence without some form of mindfulness, meditation, or spiritual practice and I continue to walk the path.
According to Bob and Bill, less than 1% of leaders achieve this level and are considered global visionaries that act as ambassadors for the universal good.
Q: How Do I Become A Mindful Leader?
To become a mindful leader one has to establish a practice of being mindful.
I created a simple practice called The GAMES Model that can be used in just 15 minutes a day. When used in conjunction with The 12 Measures of Mindful Leadership you can begin forging your path as a Mindful Leader.
What are your thoughts on Mindful Leadership? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Post your comments below and I will be sure to respond.
How Great Leaders Become Great Leaders
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Step-by-Step Guide for New Managers, Team Leaders, and Change Agents to Lead with Confidence