How Mindfulness Makes You a Better Leader
Posted by Laurie J Cameron
60,000 thoughts a day. Constant pings, tweets, and texts. We live in a tech-saturated world. The challenge for leaders today is the external environment compounded by our own neurobiology - the "operating system" of being human. The default wiring of our brain is to constantly scan the environment, searching for threats, which creates a wandering, unstable mind. We are also programmed with a negativity bias which makes negative thoughts stick like velcro and positive thoughts slide off like teflon. When your boss makes a critical comment about a decision you made, the comment lingers, and even gets replayed. Compliments and positive feedback tends to fade quickly.
Your top manager announces she is leaving the company to join a new venture. Your key client has created unforeseen delays on a project, causing the a ripple effect of staffing and billable hours. The CEO announces a reorganization and you will lose one of the critical functions you run when the new organization is launched.
Our nervous system is designed to react to threats- real and perceived - triggering a fight, flight or freeze reaction, setting our nervous system on overload. On top of that, we each interpret our reality through filters, habituated patterns and beliefs. We have developed conditioned tendencies that put us in autopilot when it comes to responding to life. Whew. So what do we do?
The solution? Train the mind to change the brain.
Neuroscientists have caught up with ancient wisdom teachers have known for centuries. Mindfulness meditation can rewire the patterns in our brain to allow us to respond rather than react, to see situations and people with openness and curiosity rather than judgment, and to face each day tuning in to what is good rather than what is missing or wrong.
We develop a greater self-awareness, understanding what is "under the hood" in how we operate as an individual - our strengths, attachments, aversions and detailers. Mindfulness meditation strengthens our prefrontal cortex- the "top of mind" part of our brain that helps us regulate our emotions and develop mastery to down-regulate when we feel challenged, attacked or threatened.
As leaders, when we train and strengthen our capacity to focus our attention, to return to a grounded center when we are startled or triggered, and surf uncertainty with a steady calmness, our ability to lead through complexity with purpose is greatly increased. Our clients are affected, our teams, our health, and those we love.
What is a simple way to practice mindfulness? Use the breath as an anchor on which to focus attention, take mindful pauses throughout the day, and become a witnessing observer to your own experience, thoughts and emotions. Read more in the post Mindfulness in 4 Steps.