This has been a challenging series to write.
How do I boil down 51 years of life and leadership experience into a few core lessons?
I know that I’m leaving out a lot of stuff, but the point of this is to boil down what I’ve learned to the essential mindful leadership lessons.
If you are just joining us, we started with investing in yourself as a hesitant leader, developing self-awareness as a reactive leader, deepening our mindful practice as a creative leader, and building empathy as a tribal leader.
We are now going to look at what is means walk the path of a mindful leader …
The Mindful Leader
The fifth stage of Mindful Leadership is called, surprisingly enough, The Mindful Leader.
Let me begin by saying that this is a challenging stage to achieve and I don’t have all the answers because I don’t think you ever really arrive at this stage.
Mindful leadership is more of a set of principles to live by, and it’s practiced through repeated iterations of passion projects, life’s challenges, and commitment to mastery, that mould us into the leader that we all want to become.
Lesson #1 – Live With Compassion
If I were to pick one word to represent what mindful leadership means to me, I would choose compassion.
Compassion is similar to empathy but with an additional difference.
When we empathize with another we …
- walk in their shoes and view the world from their perspective,
- feel their emotions, whether it’s pain, suffering, anger, happiness, or joy,
- and recognize their point of view, even if we may not agree.
Empathy enables us to connect with others as human beings, acknowledge that we are paying attention, and letting others feel heard.
Compassion is all of these things and yet has one distinct characteristic that empathy does not.
Empathy becomes compassion when you feel compelled to act.
When you feel the compulsion to alleviate the suffering of others, help improve the situation, or perform an act of kindness, that’s compassion.
It could be as simple as a smile or slight node to a coworker to acknowledge that they’ve been heard, making it your life’s work to cure cancer, or perhaps somewhere in between.
In the workplace, I occasionally hear the comment, don’t take it personally. It’s as if, when we go to work, we are expected to leave what makes us human at home, to do whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of how this might impact the people around us.
As a mindful leader, our job is to take it personally. To bring what makes us human into the workplace. To acknowledge the needs of others, to empathize with the people around us, and to act with respect, kindness and above all, compassion.
Lesson #2 – Purpose, Legacy, and Strategy
Before you write-off the idea that there is no place for compassion in the workplace, let’s talk about purpose.
Discovering your life’s purpose must involve contributing to others in some way.
If you think you have a purpose, and it doesn’t involve others, then all you have are personal goals. If you are struggling to find meaning, it’s most likely you’ve missed this vital ingredient.
Throughout my career, I’ve set ambitious goals. To achieve a six-figure income climbing the corporate ladder, to move into a management position, and to start my own coaching practice. The problem is that these were all just personal goals.
It wasn’t until a started practicing compassion that I genuinely connected with my purpose.
I now see my purpose as helping others unleash their inner leader. This is where my journey has taken me, where my strengths coverage, and the reason that I’m on this planet.
It’s why I get up in the morning, that I write these articles, and help others walk the path of a mindful leader.
Another aspect of purpose is legacy.
I’m getting to the age where I’ve had to attend a few funerals, and you can’t help but notice that some have more people in attendance than others.
I’ve noticed that those that lived with compassion, that were of service to others, that practiced simple acts of kindness, had more people attending their funeral.
As stated by the mantra from Robin Sharma, “Who will cry when you die?”
And finally, there is strategy.
Strategy, like purpose, is impossible to master until you’ve moved through the various stages of mindful leadership.
Intention, awareness, empathy, and compassion are all prerequisites to effective strategy.
Lesson #3 – Strive For Equanimity
My mindful leaders’ journey started in 1994 when I first read The 7 Habits by the late Stephen Covey.
It was in this book where I discovered the quote …
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor E. Frankl
… and it changed my life forever.
This quote set me on a path to become a better human being. To live with intention, to develop self-awareness, and to build meaningful connections. And has enabled me to be a better husband, parent, coach, and leader.
I realize now that the mindful leadership quality that I’ve been striving for is equanimity.
Equanimity is the ability to maintain calm and composed, especially in stressful situations.
Don’t confuse equanimity for detachment.
Reactive leaders use detachment to keep others at a distance, which gives the illusion of equanimity. It’s easy to keep your cool when you close yourself off from others.
Mindful leaders are deeply connected with those that they serve and can achieve equanimity (stay calm and composed), even when they are emotionally invested in the situation.
The Journey Continues
Even though we’ve reached the last of the 5 stages of mindful leadership, the journey doesn’t end here.
There are more lessons to learn, points of view to explore, and principles to practice.
What keeps me going is my desire to serve you, the brave souls that are using the tools of mindfulness to make sense of this crazy world, exploring what it means to be human, and unleash our inner leader.
This is the life that we’ve chosen, and I feel blessed that you’ve allowed me to help you walk this path.
Until next time.
Do you have any question about the mindful leaders’ journey? Post it in the comments below and I will be sure to respond.
How Great Leaders Become Great Leaders
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