What is mindful leadership?

The other day I was running late for a meeting. In the hustle to get out the door, I was practicing the illusive skill known as multi-tasking. You know the one. Brushing my teeth while simultaneously checking my email, finding my shoes, and herding the cats inside (I have four, it’s a true herd).

Like always with multi-tasking, I got toothpaste on my shirt. I didn’t get to a single email. Several pairs of shoes fell into a heap on the floor. The cats straight up refused to come. Sound familiar?

I often get asked – how do you do it? How do you stay cool, calm and collected no matter how crazy things get? I had a client recently compare me to a cup of chamomile tea. And here I was in sitting in a pile of shoes getting nowhere. I got caught in the trap of busy.

I’ve been leading mindful leadership workshops for some awesome organizations lately. I continue to be blown away by the power of mindfulness to transform everything. Yes, everything. Whether it’s building trust in yourself and others, aligning values to actions, or taking better care of yourself, mindful leadership can do it all.

What is mindful leadership?

There are many definitions of leadership and mindfulness out there. Mindfulness is becoming more and more accepted as a method of increasing wellness, navigating change, and dealing with the speedy pace of life – in the workplace. In particular mindfulness has found it’s way into the leadership sphere. Here’s how I define mindfulness, leadership, and mindful leadership:

Mindfulness: Non-judgmental open awareness to the moment

Leadership: The act of being in service to yourself and others from your highest integrity (aka your best self)

Mindful leadership is more than applying mindfulness to leadership development. It’s the cultivation of space, freedom and presence to lead with your highest integrity. Mindful leadership is the gateway.

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If you look at anything in life, a colleague who always gets your goat, a task that saps your creativity, a shift in the weather – there is something called stimulus that activates a reaction from you. As Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, puts it:

“Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies growth and freedom.”

~ Viktor Frankl

The goal of mindful leadership isn’t perfection. It’s not to become a super hero to the stresses of life, where you’re unphased and unaffected by what’s going on around you. The goal of mindful leadership is choice. How do you want to show up for life?

How do I do I access mindful leadership? I stop. I put the toothbrush and phone down. I take a few slow breaths. I make space to get clear, reconnect, and refocus. The simple and hard act of doing nothing (I’ll leave that for another post).

So that next time you are sitting in a pile of shoes with toothpaste on your shirt, running around like a headless chicken, stop. Take a few slow breaths. See what happens.