FAQ: What is mindful leadership and how do you develop it?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing your leadership skills is one of the most effective ways to improve your performance as a manager. Focusing on your leadership skills can help you build a more productive team, increase employee job satisfaction and grow a business. If you're a manager, you may wish to consider adopting mindful leadership, which is a leadership style that encourages managers to approach their role and responsibilities with deliberation, care and heightened awareness. In this article, we provide a definition of this leadership style and discuss why it's useful in the workplace, with tips on how to develop as a mindful leader.

What is mindful leadership?

Mindful leadership is a style of leadership that involves being deliberate, intentional and mindful about your actions and decisions. Mindful leaders focus on building and developing teams and workplace culture focused on strong relationships, healthy community and purposeful habits and behaviours. Mindful leaders carefully consider the needs of those around them. This includes the teams and individuals they manage, together with clients and suppliers. This approach, which places emotional wellbeing and consideration of others at the centre of the decision-making process, can lead to innovation and continuous improvements in both business productivity and employee satisfaction.

Why are mindful leaders useful in the workplace?

A mindful approach to leadership can be useful to managers because it encourages them to place the needs of others first in the workplace. This approach helps to foster genuine, rewarding relationships between managers and their employees and between colleagues within teams. Teams often reflect their manager's personality and leadership style, so adopting mindful techniques in leadership may encourage other members of your team to be more deliberate and considerate with their actions, decisions and behaviours in the workplace.

Mindful techniques in leadership can also be beneficial to overall business objectives and performance. Not only are teams more likely to have stronger, more genuine relationships, but this approach to leadership can also help ensure leaders are present and well-briefed on the nature and operations of the business. It also helps team members to better align their objectives and processes and work together in a harmonious, productive fashion.

Related: A guide on the importance of self-awareness in leadership

What qualities do mindful leaders possess?

Mindful leaders typically possess various qualities that make them considerate and sympathetic to the needs of others, while also being suitable to lead and manage productive, efficient teams. Some of the skills and qualities you may find in mindful leaders include:

Empathy

A mindful leader places the needs and requirements of their team before anything else. As such, empathy is an essential trait for any leader adopting a mindful approach. Empathy is the ability to see a situation from another person's perspective. As a manager, this can help you to build strong relationships, understand your colleagues' concerns and priorities and create a supportive and open workplace culture.

Related: Leadership definitions (qualities and how to improve)

Self-awareness

While mindful leaders focus on the wellbeing and needs of their teams and employees, it's also essential to develop self-awareness, so you can be better equipped to deal with challenges and obstacles when they arise. Self-aware leaders have the ability to see themselves clearly and objectively and understand the motivations and values behind their own actions.

Composure

Composure is a critical quality for mindful leaders to possess and develop. Having composure means you don't rush into decisions, lose your temper or act without thinking. Composure is resilience that allows you to take time, remain calm and carefully consider a situation, so you can decide on the best course of action with a clear mind. This can be a useful asset in business.

Related: How to address and strengthen leadership weaknesses

Compassion

Compassion is a useful tool for mindful leaders because it helps them to see others with love and kindness, rather than judgment. Showing care and compassion towards others is a critical aspect of leading mindfully. Accepting that nobody's perfect and working on your flaws and shortcomings while accepting that other people are doing the same, can lead to a leadership style that's caring and considerate of others.

Respect

Being respectful means paying due attention to the feelings, wishes or rights of other people. This is a fundamental element of leading mindfully, and treating others with respect at all times can foster a culture of inclusion and acceptance among team members. A respectful leader considers each team member equally and strives to ensure they meet the needs of all colleagues without prejudice or bias.

Responsibility

A key characteristic of all leaders, and especially mindful leaders, is a sense of responsibility. Strong leaders take responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees and do everything in their power to help the team grow, develop and become more successful. Strong leadership also involves protecting team members, and if necessary, taking responsibility for making difficult decisions, or for mistakes that the team may have made.

Consistency

A mindful leader typically maintains a calm and consistent attitude and approach to their work. Team members can be more confident in their work if they know you're going to react and behave consistently, regardless of the circumstances. Consistent leaders offer strong foundations for successful teams, whereas leaders who regularly change their minds or display swings in their mood and behaviour, can unsettle team members and create conditions that aren't optimal for success.

Reliability

Similar to consistency and responsibility, reliability is a key trait of mindful leaders, as it helps to create consistent working conditions for employees and team members. If colleagues know they can rely on you to be there for them or you're able to make consistently good decisions for the team, they're more likely to trust you and work to the best of their ability. Being a reliable and consistent presence for your team requires strong values and a great deal of effort, but the benefits for the team are considerable.

Related: The benefits of practising mindfulness techniques: a guide

Selflessness

Mindful leaders put the needs of the wider team above their own, placing employee wellbeing and team harmony above other factors that might provide them with more personal accolades. This selfless approach is crucial to fostering an environment of respect and unity within a team. By thinking first of the needs of others, leaders can encourage their team members to adopt similar values and thrive as a group, rather than as individuals.

How to develop mindful leadership skills

There are various things you can do to adopt the principles of mindfulness in your leadership style. Take a look at the list below for some tips on how to become more mindful in your role as a leader:

1. Focus on personal development

The path to becoming more mindful in your leadership starts with self-reflection and personal development. Consider your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and develop a plan to work on strengthening your weaknesses. Seek feedback from colleagues, including both your superiors and your employees and accept any advice or criticism they may offer. If you have an appraisal system in your workplace, treat the process with respect and make an action plan for soft skills you want to focus on developing.

2. Work on your communication

Strong communication skills are essential for becoming a mindful leader. Better listening skills especially can help you to understand the needs of your team members, and find solutions that bring the best out of them. In addition, working on your verbal and written communication can help you to become more inclusive, respectful and considerate in your choice of words, to create a team culture that reflects the values of mindfulness.

Related: Leadership models: what are they and how do they differ?

3. Adopt breathing exercises

The workplace can be a stressful, high-energy environment. Everyday pressures and distractions may make you feel you don't have the time or the environment to implement the principles of mindfulness in your leadership. Taking a few minutes out of your day to carry out breathing exercises can be transformative to your mood, your attitude and your approach to work and management. Focus on taking deep, slow breaths and try to clear your mind of other distractions, This can help to reset you physically and mentally and gain a new perspective on your priorities.

4. Be purposefully present in the workplace

One of the keys to mindfulness is taking the decision to be present whenever you can and for as long as possible. Being present means purposefully listening and observing your surroundings, and the people you're interacting with. In a meeting, this could mean consciously attempting to observe people's body language, expressions and energy and listening attentively and with a sense of curiosity. You may wish to start by attempting just a few minutes of this approach at first, and training yourself until it feels more natural, so you can be present for longer periods, with less effort.

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