Have you ever heard the expression: “leaders aren’t born, they’re made?”
I’d like to take this one step further: Mindful leaders aren’t born, they make themselves.
The driven mind will blow right past leadership with its break-neck pace. It leaves team mates and relationships broken in its wake.
Those of us with the driven mind will wonder why no one is keeping up with us and why our team mates can’t rise to the occasion.
I was in this boat too, my friends.
The key for me was realizing it wasn’t them (well, it wasn’t in most cases). It was me.
My leadership wasn’t intentional. I needed to learn more about mindful leadership.
Today, we’re diving into mindful leadership examples and exercise.
Mindful leaders are aware of their thoughts, words, and actions. They move with intentionality in everything they do with planning and support, and those around them respond well to this. Mindful leaders practice exercises such as the rubber band trick to increase their own awareness and redirect their responses towards more positive avenues.
Let’s dig into the details.
Why Is Mindful Leadership Important?
People often hear the word, “mindful,” and they immediately dismiss it as “Buddhist monk stuff.”
I’m not saying we need to all convert, but I think there is a stigma around this philosophy in our Western mindset, to our loss.
There are some important things we can gain from looking at other ways of life. This doesn’t mean we need to toss ours away, but if we approach knowledge with an open mind, our lives are sure to improve.
At its core, mindful leadership is about being away from how you lead.
It’s about intention in all you do.
How does it help?
Helps Manage The Driven Mind
For one, mindful leadership makes those with a driven mind (such as myself) more cognizant of how their actions and expectations affect those around them.
Learn more about how to manage the driven mind with the ABC technique.
Reduces Stress In The Workplace
Stress is a good motivator when it’s under control. Out of control stress has some serious health risks.
Most stress in the workplace comes from a disconnect of expectations.
Most people aren’t trying to make you mad or fail you. They’re just confused or make mistakes, often due to a toxic environment you may be accidentally growing in your place of work.
Raises Your Leadership Skills
Unintentionally, you may be causing pain, drama, trauma, and letting your unneeded ego run amok.
Look at yourself to help you realize your strengths and weaknesses.
Reduces Toxic Cultures
Whether you mean it to or not, unconscious leadership or actively poor leadership often causes toxic and overly-competitive cultures.
You know which ones I’m talking about.
The one where gossip and backstabbing run amok. The kind where people don’t do their best, they try to make others worse.
Mindful leadership shows you the places where you’re fostering this environment and how to fix it.
What Is Being A Mindful Leader?
As I mentioned before, it’s all about intention.
You don’t let things happen to you, but you’re the driving force.
You don’t just react to situations, you plan and respond.
Most people don’t move up in their careers thinking: “I want to be a leader.”
People just want to get promoted, move to the next rung in the ladder, and leadership is just a part of that.
This is where problems in leadership start to arise.
Being a leader is not the same as acting like one.
To be an effective and mindful leader, you need to do it on purpose.
My time in the military taught me a lot and inspired me to become an entrepreneur.
In the military, promotion was an ordinary part of our lives.
You put in your time and received a grade promotion. It just happened.
I saw this and wanted more.
If I was going to move up, I wanted to earn it and deserve it.
I bet you do too, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
Leadership doesn’t just happen; you need to find it.
Become better in order to lead better.
3 Types Of Leadership: Mindful Leadership Examples (And Bad Ones Too)
Whether you wanted it or not, if you’re in a leadership position, you’ll eventually fall into one of the 3 leadership categories.
This is another word for mindful leadership.
These leaders are clear with every thought, word, and action they do.
Because they have control over their thoughts and actions, they come to situations well-planned.
When things go wrong, they respond with thought.
This is harder to achieve with a driven mind (that’s where the exercise later on comes in), but once a driven mind is aware, watch the magic happen.
You’ll plan and respond fast and be able to lead others with you, not drag them along.
The environment will end up being positive and your team mates will reach their potentials and begin to follow your example.
A client had a bad experience with a small team in your company.
The conscious leader feels irritated and angry at this but knows such thoughts are unproductive. Changing the thoughts, negative words don’t come, and negative actions are stopped.
The leader sets up a meeting and plans for group reflection on what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. They facilitate a meeting on setting up accountability checks within the teams to avoid such problems in the future.
The conscious leader meets with the team at fault individually. They listen to their side and come up with a plan together as a pair to hold the person accountable again.
This is where most leaders fall into. I’ve been there myself many a time and still creep over this line if I get lax on my self-awareness.
The unconscious leader just does their thing. They react to situations and say what they’re thinking as soon as they think it.
Often, these leaders aren’t able to change their thoughts away from negativity, and it leaks into the workplace causing stress.
These leaders aren’t mean; they’re just always playing catch-up.
A client had a bad experience with a small team in your company.
The unconscious leader apologizes and calls the team in for a meeting. They’re frustrated and angry (understandably).
The leader yells at the team or questions why they would do that at all. They’re threatened with termination or being written up if it happens again.
The team members learn not to trust each other. They’re angry at the boss and embarrassed.
They do their job fearfully and stressed out.
Team mates begin to snap at each other over small mistakes. This, in turn, causes more mistakes.
Unconscious leaders don’t want to be mean but don’t know how else to be. They regret yelling at their team but convince themselves it just slipped out and there was no other way to handle it.
These leaders rarely start out this way.
Anti-conscious leaders had little success as an unconscious leader and decided to push their company and team mates to greatness.
These leaders create drama and toxic competition on purpose to see who the winners are and to “weed out the weak.”
They wreck people on purpose as an example to keep the rest motivated.
Anti-conscious leaders thrive in a negative environment where fear gets things done.
I think most people have been in this situation before. It’s not fun, no matter how well business was done.
A client had a bad experience with a small team in your company.
The anti-conscious leader calls the team and publicly berates them. They fire or reprimand the person or persons most responsible.
The anti-conscious leader plans for ways to make sure it never happens again by coming up with a reward system valuing individual success over actual teamwork.
Team mates with the most points get the lion’s share of the bonus while those with less get little to nothing.
Points are earned by getting good reviews or commissions at any cost. Points may be taken away if poor performance is reported by other team mates on the same level.
The team mates actively back-stab each other and cheat their way into their clients’ and boss’s good graces.
The anti-conscious boss sits back and relishes in the success of those who rose to the top while waiting for the failure to quit or make a mistake big enough to dismiss them.
3 Questions To Ask For Mindful Leadership
The good news is no matter what kind of leader you are, it’s not too late to be a better one.
The bad news: being a mindful leader is an active process for the rest of your career.
These 3 questions are ones mindful leaders are always asking.
What am I thinking?
When a situation arises, do you know what your reaction is? Do you let your thoughts lead to negative words and actions?
You can’t take your words and actions back, but you can monitor your thoughts.
How am I speaking?
What words are you using? What does your word inflection imply?
Mindful leaders choose how they say and respond intentionally to motivate workers in the right direction.
How am I acting?
What am I doing as a result? Am I modeling how I want my team mates to problem-solve?
As a mindful leader, they move with care, not with a panicked rush.
Ask yourselves these questions as you go about your day to day. See what you learn about yourself.
Bonus: Book Recommendation
Check out Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom.
This book inspired me to become a better leader and person by covering his four agreements.
For today, I want to focus on one of them:
Be impeccable with your words.
It’s a simple agreement to make with yourself.
Be aware of what you say.
Words lead to action and actions speak louder than words. Agree to improve your words and the actions will follow.
When your actions and words are out of alignment with one another, this disconnect causes stress in you and your work environment.
This is tough for the driven mind which is going, going, going like the Energizer bunny (do people even remember who this is?).
Mindful Leadership Exercise
Harnessing the driven mind is where this exercise comes in.
I was struggling with controlling my thoughts, words, and actions, and friends, I won’t pretend to have this mastered or be an expert therapist.
But I did learn this Cognitive Behavioral Therapy strategy I think everyone can get a benefit from.
If you don’t know what CBT is, it’s basically a series of strategies for managing how you react to situations and building awareness.
Check out the American Psychological Association’s explanation if you want more details.
The Rubber Band Trick
There are 3 parts to this trick and all you need is a rubber wristband and some patience.
#1 Catch Yourself
When something happens and you have a negative thought to the situation, snap that wristband. It gives you a physiological response to ground you in awareness.
Here are some examples:
|Team mates use an old selling technique.||“I just taught him this new way this week, and he already forgot? He must be an idiot.”|
|Wife asks you to empty the dishwasher.||“What a nag.”|
|Restaurant messes up your order.||“How hard is it to get one simple order right? This place is the worst.”|
|Client drops you.||“Who did this? Someone’s going to pay.”|
|You forget to finish one form.||“I’m so stupid. I can’t do anything right.”|
#2 Say “Cancel that thought.”
After snapping your wrist, say out loud: “Cancel that thought.”
Speaking stops your thoughts on the issue instantly. This leaves you open to respond rather than react.
#3 I’m Free
Acknowledge the thoughts happened, and realize you’re now free from the negativity. You’re free to respond in a better way.
Over time, these 3 steps will help you become more mindful of how you respond and make you a better leader.
The homework for this post is a big one, but it’s broken down into manageable pieces.
- Reflect on how you think, speak, and act
- Do the rubber band trick for at least one week
- Decide which type of leader you want to be
- Forgive yourself for the mistakes you will make
- Invest time in improving and evolving as a leader
Mindful leadership examples and exercises changed the way I do business for the better.
I can’t tell you how much it helps me avoid stress in my work environment (and personal life). This awareness was key for my harnessing the power of my driven mind and turning it into something everyone can work with successfully.
Let me know how these tricks work for you by dropping a comment or email my week.
Go and make it a better-than-fantastic week!
About Kenny Chapman
Kenny Chapman’s mission is to help driven leaders build their ideal lives and careers (even if they don’t know what that looks like yet). He is an award-winning authority on helping people discover their true potential and make the simple, though not always easy, necessary changes.
Kenny is a professionally trained speaker, consultant, columnist, author of The Six Dimensions of Change 2.0 and In-Home Sales Acceleration, and host of the Leadership in a Nutshell podcast. He is an entrepreneur at heart, building multiple successful companies, most recently the Blue Collar Success Group. His teachings have inspired individuals worldwide to reshape their lives and organizations, creating sustainable change, happiness, and personal fulfillment.