“Open the window of your mind. Allow the fresh air, new lights and new truths to enter.” – Amit Ray
Mindful leadership means being able to take an honest look at yourself and asking yourself uncomfortable questions on a regular basis. It also means trying to lead without ego and being willing to put the interest of others before ourselves.
Aspiring to become a mindful leader starts by honestly asking yourself a set of somewhat uncomfortable and confronting questions like the following:
- What is my motivation for leading?
- Am I in leadership because I enjoy power, control, and fame?
- Am I leading to serve or am I leading to be served?
- Am I willing to put my interests of the organization ahead of my own?
These questions and many others should keep you mindful of your intentions and help you focus on doing the right things.
Leaders today must understand and apply the knowledge of neuroscience to manage people successfully. In the past, efforts in organizations have focused more on structural aspects of organizations and have systematically failed because they have neglected the reality that change doesn’t happen without individual people changing their thinking, beliefs and behaviour.
What Is This Neuroscience?
Neuroscience is a discipline that studies the development, the physical structures, and the chemical functions of the nervous system. One important question that neuroscience seeks to answer is how the human brain responds chemically to certain thoughts and events. Research has been made possible by advances in technology, including the development of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. Using fMRI, scientists can actually see which parts of the subject’s brain have been activated or deactivated.
Through scientific researches, certain important findings about the brain have been determined. Some of these very important findings about the brain are the following:
- Our brain has a key organizing principle: minimize danger and pain and maximize reward. This means that when our brain judges something to be threatening, our perception of reality is affected because there are five times more neural networks for processing threats than rewards. Our brain is highly responsive to pain and danger than it is to reward.
- Our brain has two operational modes: conscious and non-conscious. Most of our brain’s operations function at the level of the non-conscious.
Now, with this knowledge, it’s clear to see why the traditional “command and control” style of management doesn’t lead to permanent changes in behaviour. Ordering people to change and them telling them how to do it throws them into a threat response state. The more you try to convince people that you’re right and they’re wrong, the more they push back. The brain will try to defend itself from threats. Our brains are so complex that it is rare for us to be able to see any situation in exactly the same way as someone else. The way to get past the brain’s defences is to minimize this threat response and increase the rewards. This requires that the leader understands what the brain deems a threat and a reward and adjust accordingly instead of staying stuck in “command and control” mode.
If you want to develop into a mindful leader, here are some traits you should focus on.
- Leading by example. A mindful leader should not expect others to do the things that he or she is not willing to do. That can gradually cause a deterioration of trust. Those in leadership positions should be aware that their behaviour and attitude will influence the culture of the organization and the people working under them.
- Leading with Humility. Humility is not a sign of weakness or a lack of confidence. A humble leader is able to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses and is not afraid to ask for help when needed. Leading with humility means that the leaders are open to receiving feedback and won’t just blame the workforce, but able to look at their own shortcomings when company goals have not been met.
- Communicating with Compassion. We know how impactful words can be, and for leaders it is vital to be able to communicate in a mindful and compassionate manner. Be aware of your emotions before responding to an email or communicating in-person. Take the time to consider whether the communication you’re about to deliver is honest and beneficial. It may not always be possible to meet this criteria, however, if we’ve taken the time to be as thoughtful as possible, there’s a greater likelihood of a positive outcome from the communication.
- Appreciation and Recognition. A salary is good but is not always enough. Individuals need to be appreciated and recognized on a regular basis for the hard work that they are putting in. Regular appreciation is especially important to balance out the more critical feedback that a leader sometimes needs to provide. The worker who is appreciated and properly recognized will be more engaged and there’s a likelihood that they won’t develop a wandering eye.
Yes, mindfulness will not magically help us develop these qualities, but it will help put us in the right frame of mind so we can be more aware of our thoughts, emotions, speech, and behaviour. The more we become aware of these things, the more we will be able to control them and not be controlled by them. This mindfulness will help you as a leader and those you are leading connect with the highest that’s within them and set their souls on fire to maximize productivity in the organization.
Veli Ndaba is a Neuro-Conscious Leadership Speaker and Trainer, Life & Business Coach, Motivational Speaker and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on email@example.com, www.velindaba.com or +27 83 304 9773