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Mindful Leadership

Leading yourself is a prerequisite for successful and efficacious leadership and Mindfulness is the fundamental competence. Self-Regulation enables you to influence your "automatic" inner processes and to better regulate your stress. Instead of being driven on autopilot you regain your competences to act. Additionally Self-Reflection and Presence - being in the here in now - are vital to efficacious leadership. In this short video I will introduce you to Mindful Leadership.


Transcript of the video

Welcome to the space beyond right and wrong.

How can I become more efficacious as a leader? Mindful Leadership is the foundation of your efficacy and effectiveness as a leader. In this short video I would like to introduce you to some essential aspects and the possible benefits of Mindful Leadership.

As a manager and as a person, you are constantly moving in different fields of expectations and demands: Your professional challenges as a leader, your personal and professional development, your physical health, contact with friends, your family and many more. Balancing these different expectations and demands is in itself already a challenge. At the same time, the professional challenges are constantly increasing in a VUCA world characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity or ambivalence. But VUCA is only half the truth. One of the essential tasks of leadership is to make decisions that nobody else can make and a decision always involves uncertainty, otherwise it would not be a decision. In addition, we know from systemic organizational consulting that complex systems cannot be controlled or steered and that at best we can influence them. And ambivalences have always been and will always be present but on closer inspection offer opportunities and potential to develop new and better solutions. As a manager you are expected to deal constructively with all these phenomena and to use them for the well-being of yourself and the community - respectively the organisation. Epictet, a stoic philosopher, asked us long ago to distinguish between the things we can control and the things we cannot control. For what we can control is our thinking, how we perceive and construct the world and our behaviour. In this sense the preconditions for successful leadership are: self-regulation, self-reflection and self-leadership.

From an evolutionary point of view, however, our blueprint looks somewhat different: whenever we interpret something as a danger - and this can already be a slightly heated discussion or the fear of making a presentation - our body switches to emergency program at lightning speed and significantly reduces the energy for functions that are not essential to our survival - e.g. our rational thinking. In other words: whenever we urgently need our skills and competencies to bring about a solution, we do not have access to them. Self-regulation enables us to influence these automatic inner processes and to better regulate our stress. This has a positive effect on your own competence to act and at the same time influences the people around you, as your mental and physiological state also has a high impact on your immediate surrounding.

The second prerequisite for both efficacious and successful leadership is self-reflection. Unfortunately, we humans do not seem to appreciate self-reflection all that much. Herrmann Hesse once wrote: I realize today that nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself. What a shame - because this is where the opportunity for real personal growth lies. Mindfulness and meditation foster your capability of meta-cognition - in other words, to think about thinking. You learn to step out of your perceived self - which is only a narrative - and observe yourself. Which assumptions are based on my opinion? Are these assumptions valid and helpful? To what extent have these assumptions been shaped by my socialization, upbringing and past experiences? And does all this fit into the current context?

Once we have mastered these two steps, we are able to lead ourselves. Your effectiveness as a leader depends very much on how efficaciously you can lead yourself. Our internal processes are only partially adapted to the current reality in a dynamic, complex and rapidly changing world. Compared to other organs, our brain consumes enormous amounts of energy. The efficient answer to this is habits or more precisely stimulus-response patterns. Whenever a situation has a certain similarity to a situation we are familiar with, we react in the same way and overlook differences. These habits - just like rituals - give us the illusion of security. We often err and rarely doubt. As a result, we miss the opportunity to grow and explore alternative ways of acting. Because it is precisely in this uncertainty where enormous potential for growth is hidden. If we hold on to old patterns, our future is determined by the past and we stagnate. The fact that we spend most of the day running in the so-called "default mode network" or on autopilot has further negative effects: instead of being guided by rules and routines, these rules and routines determine our actions; we are often trapped in our solitary perspective and do not use other perspectives as an individual and collective opportunity for growth; we do not adjust ourselves sufficiently to the relevant context or perceive it only to a limited extent. Mindfulness and Mindful Leadership support you in taking advantage of these opportunities and create the basis for your successful self-leadership: namely presence. If you are not present and your mind is on automatic pilot, you cannot notice that you are not present. Therefore you cannot change your perception neither your behaviour. But when we develop ourselves we act as a role model - and acting is far better than just talking. Action speaks louder than words! Or as the poet Rumi once said: Yesterday I was clever and wanted to change the world, today I am wise and want to change myself.

Leadership always involves interaction with other people and is a masterpiece. At the same time we are ideally focused on three aspects of this interaction: what the other person says and how he or she acts, how we react and act to it and at the same time create a positive framework in which all this takes place. It is equally important to cultivate empathy as well as your own presence. Please do not confuse empathy with sympathy. The latter has a tendency to separate, since it is based on preferences. Empathy is the ability to perceive and accept other perspectives and to utilize them as opportunities. And where two people have the same opinion, one of them is unnecessary. All other opinions are always an extension of one's own perspective and different perspectives often produce better solutions as a result of their synthesis. Persuasion is transformed into dialogue or perhaps even dialectics. You and your team or your company are entering into a constant process of development. From a systemic point of view this is exactly the purpose of the organisation: to scan the environment for problems and to offer suitable solutions.

I would like to briefly summarize how mindfulness and mindful leadership can support you in your leadership role. By being present, you empower yourself to perceive what is happening right now and identify your possibilities for action. You act instead of simply reacting and being trapped in old stimulus-response patterns. At the same time you are able to activate your skills and competences through self-regulation - especially in challenging situations. Your mental and physiological state has a positive effect on your environment. By promoting your meta-cognition - thinking about thinking - and emphatic interactions, you take a bird's eye view and gain a better overview. Thus you are able to create more comprehensive and superior decisions and solutions.

By the way - as a positive side effect - meditation and mindfulness increases your ability to concentrate, promotes your general well-being and improves your sleep quality.

Do not believe anything I say - but try it for yourself and practice the art of possibility.

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