Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Leadership without mindfulness is pointless

By Inderpal (Indi) Bahra, UK Head of Activation, Captify

These articles have been written by the latest cohort of the Practice Makes UnPerfect programme – a course that helps women find and finesse their public voices

Mindfulness. What is it? The Instagram account telling you yoga will change your life, meditation is the cure to your mental health problems and celery juice is the key to a happy body and happy mind. That’s what most people associate with mindfulness. Now I’m not taking anything away from self-help and self-care, it has its place, however, due to the stigma around mindfulness many people, especially business leaders, don’t see how it could help with leadership ability. There was a study conducted by the Institute of Mindful Leadership on the impact of mindfulness on leadership ability. “89% said the program enhanced their ability to listen to themselves and others” and further to that “Nearly 70% reported that the training made a positive difference in their ability to think strategically”.

To put it simply, mindful leadership is a practice. It is the practice of understanding your feelings, keeping your emotions under control in stressful situations, and making sure you’re focusing on the present moment. It is a tool to allow you to be self-aware. It is commonly accepted within leaders that self-awareness is one of, if not the most important capabilities to have to be successful. Mindful leadership is bringing the best version of yourself to the table at that given moment in time.

As an employee what would you prefer; a stressed, worked up, uptight manager projecting all of their troubles onto you OR a leader who is calm, composed and looks at everything through a clear lens.  

We’ve all had leaders who impose their stress onto the team. Leaders who are under pressure to hit targets from senior management, often suddenly shift the tone of their emails/meetings/1-1s. The atmosphere is tense, the team culture completely alters. Imagine having a leader like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Someone great at their job but leads by using fear. How would that impact your drive for work if you were working with someone like that? In 2021 a global survey by workplace options showed the top issue causing a decrease in wellbeing was stress (45%). When wellbeing decreases, productivity decreases. A study by champion health in 2021 showed poor mental health is also cited as a factor that impacts productivity for 1 in 5 employees, contributing to costly levels of presenteeism (on both a personal and business level). 

Now imagine having leaders who do the complete opposite of this. Those who give employees the autonomy to work in the best way that works for them. Leaders who understand there are so many different factors that impact productivity, which could be outside of the workplace. If you had a manager that listened to you, understood your needs and what is causing you to not be able to hit your goals, would you feel less stressed? Is mindfulness the answer to managing stress levels in the workplace? 

Over the last 2 years, the dial has shifted. After having to adapt so quickly to the world of video calls as business meetings and working with your cat walking in front of your screen every 5 minutes, we’ve seen businesses opening their minds to flexibility. Flexibility not only in terms of working from an office or working remotely but also when it comes to getting the best out of employees and tools to improve their leadership teams. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce mindfulness into organisations. 

I am fortunate to work for a company that encourages all employees to spend time on themselves, understand what helps them work best and to be open with leadership to make change happen within the workplace. I’ve been on training courses that have enabled me to understand myself better. I now know what makes me my best productive, creative self and what hinders that. My top tips for mindfulness at work:

  1. Take at least one minute between meetings to do nothing. Stop, breathe and reset. It helps to bring you back to the present moment and let’s you refocus.
  2. Take control of your diary. Block time out to get high priority tasks done so you’re not having to multitask throughout the day. 
  3. Have open communication. Give your team your undivided attention when they need it. Transparency and open communication will help you thrive. 

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