To really embody mindful leadership it’s important to think about the traits that you value the most. The more we are able to embody those characteristics, the more it becomes a part of who we are – our human fabric. In my position as a mindful leadership trainer, I often get to talk to people who are at the very start of their leadership journey, who are still deciding what sort of leader they want to be. And I often get asked ‘What are the traits of a mindful leader?
Defining the characteristics of mindful leadership then can be quite difficult because it’s not a ‘one size fit’s all’. When I talk about mindful leadership, a lot of people go straight to picturing a CEO, or a corporate high flyer who is in charge of hundreds or thousands of people.
But for my mind, mindful leadership is more available than that, and it relates to everybody. It’s how we show up for people in any environment; whether that’s in the boardroom, at your kids sporting event or within your local community group . Mindful leadership is understanding that to be an effective leader of others, we first have to learn how to effectively lead ourselves.
5 Traits of a Mindful Leader
If leadership starts with self, we first have to have an understanding of what’s happening within us. Dan Goleman, who literally wrote the book on Emotional Intelligence, says self awareness is the keystone of Emotional Intelligence. If we aren’t aware of whats happening with self, how can we effectively lead others. We would be more susceptible to mood swings, irrational thoughts, bias and poor decision making. Mindful leaders are self aware enough to realise how their thoughts and emotions affect their leadership.
2. Calmness (particularly under pressure)
A mindful leader has a sense of calm that shines through, particularly during hard times or even during a crisis. This isn’t always a natural ability, but is often cultivated through practicing mindfulness over a number of months or years. A mindful leader will notice when things are starting to get heated and self regulate so they don’t get caught up in the stress of the situation. This skill is particularly useful when leading others, as the leader often sets the emotional tone for the rest of the team.
Another sign of a mindful leader is someone who is willing to stop whatever they are doing, no matter how busy they are, and give you their full attention. I remember the first time I noticed this many years ago with one of the senior leaders I worked for. Despite the fact I knew she was extremely busy juggling many urgent tasks, she always stopped typing on her keyboard and physically turned towards me whenever I entered her office to ask my questions. If a leader chooses to multi-task their way through a conversation, what message is that sending their team? Unfortunately they run the risk of making their team feel unappreciated or even undervalued.
This is a trait that has gotten a bad wrap over the last 5 years because some people feel it has been overused in the leadership space. But I think a mindful leader, who is conscious of their own strengths and weaknesses, still tries to be as authentic to themselves as possible. If we strive to be too much like a mentor or someone we admire as a leader, it becomes tiring and difficult to maintain if it doesn’t match who we are as a person. The best leader you can be is the best version of yourself. We can absolutely look to others as an example, but we have to shape our own style to be true to who we are as a person.
A mindful leader doesn’t focus on the things they don’t have (resources, time, budget etc), they are grateful for the things they do have. It’s easy to get caught up in negativity where there is an environment of people who are constantly complaining about everything. A mindful leader is able to recognise that negative culture, but doesn’t feel the need to join in with the ‘me to’ attitude. Rising above it, and even trying to lift the gratitude of others, is another trait mindful leaders have.
As I started my list, my intention was to keep the list as short as possible, but for me mindful leadership is so much more than just 5 traits! What do you think, what other characteristics do you think are common in mindful leaders (comment below)?
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