In an increasingly busy and connected world, it's easy to get swept up in endless to-do lists, emails and social media feeds. But when was the last time you acted mindfully — slowed down, took a breath and focused on just one singular thing?
Mindful leadership simply means that you are highly aware of what's going on around you, said Richard Jolly, adjunct professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School.
"It involves the ability to pay attention to your environment, both within the organization and in the broader business environment," Jolly told Business News Daily. "(It means) being present to what is happening in the moment ... (and) listening carefully and nonjudgmentally. Mindful leaders are collaborative and able to cope with high levels of uncertainly and complexity without getting overwhelmed."
Kim Bassett, president and CEO of Norwood Hospital, noted that the ability to tune out the constant flow of distractions on any given day is an essential quality for mindful leaders.
"Leaders are responsible for taking a lot of data in various forms and turning this information into decisions," Bassett said. "We are in constant communication with others through email and text messages. Mindful leaders do not let all the constant distractions interfere with their ability to prioritize what issues are most important and will receive their full attention."
Why mindfulness matters
Actively trying to be more mindful is one important way to combat what Jolly calls "hurry sickness" — an "understandable reaction to a world that's increasingly complicated and chaotic."
A video published on the London Business School's website explains that hurry sickness stems from the high associated with multitasking and accomplishing goals.
"Getting things done feels good. And our brains reward us with a hit of dopamine," Jolly wrote in an article about the video. "What busy executives don't realize is that if they carry on like this it'll affect not just their career but their health."
Hurry sickness sufferers are often tired and stressed, and end up achieving little of lasting value for their organization, said Jolly. Therefore, it's critical for leaders to slow down, practice listening and ask open questions.
"The main impact is to build greater focus and confidence, enabling people to be more collaborative and resilient," Jolly said.
Mindfulness can also help a team reduce the stress of day-to-day distractions by focusing on the members' own talents, said Bassett.
"If each member of the team is mindful about his or her own talent and can bring that to the table, then as a team you have a greater chance for success," she said.
Sharone Ben-Harosh, CEO and founder of FlatRate Moving, agreed, noting that mindful leaders inspire others to lead themselves.
"It helps personal growth," Ben-Harosh said. "If you can show self-leadership, it will inspire them to do the same, (and) also become mindful leaders."
"The main impact is to build greater focus and confidence, enabling people to be more collaborative and resilient," Jolly added.
Becoming a more mindful leader
The London Business School video says that the best way to slow down is by creating and protecting the space you need to think: "Focus on your key priorities. Set ground rules for managing communications across the organization (and stick to them). Block out time to think. Work smarter, not harder."
Leaders can also set a good example for their employees by demonstrating the importance of the things that truly matter in life, Bassett said.
"Family. Faith. Those things come first," she said. "If we are mindful in the moment for those things, then I think people are more productive in their work life as well. It's our job to take care of our employees and provide them with a safe environment."