Friday, April 14, 2023

Cultivating a Mindful Culture: How Leaders Can Build Mindful Teams


The Mind of the Leader by Hougaard and Carter is a must-read for anyone aspiring to become an effective leader. Throughout the book, the authors share ideas, practical tools, and strategies for improving leadership based on research including more than 35,000 leaders, and they distilled it into three main areas: mindfulness (M), selflessness (S), and compassion (C). 


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Called MSC leadership, it's leadership that begins with leading one’s self, then leading one’s followers, followed by leading one’s organization. 

Mindfulness, based on focus and awareness, allows leaders to be effective at giving their time and attention to goals, objectives, and pathways. 

Selflessness by the leader is the understanding that the leader is not the sole contributor to an organization’s success, and paired with self-confidence, the leader’s focus is that of the wellbeing of the organization and its employees. 

Compassion, not to be confused with empathy, creates a lens for the leader to view others and the organization with care, even in challenging and difficult situations. 

The three characteristics are interrelated and connected. Mindfulness (M) makes a person selfless, and selflessness (S) makes one more compassionate (C). To be an MSC leader, one must courageously commit to self-leadership and be willing to cultivate the three characteristics relentlessly.

Mindfulness is the pathway to self-awareness. Authors Hougaard and Carter go into detail about mindfulness and awareness, stating that mindfulness allows people to be fully in the moment and aware of thoughts, decisions, and actions while giving a pause where new thoughts, choices, and actions can be made.

Today’s world is full of distractions that lead people away from being mindful and self-aware. From email to social media to phone notifications, mindfulness can take a “back seat” to the incoming information and distractions. With the overwhelming amount of information that we face each day, it can lead to operating in autopilot mode. When on autopilot, leaders can say or do things without self-awareness of how the actions will be perceived from followers.

To become an exceptional leader, one needs to have consistent, focused performance. In The Mind of the Leader, the authors share four strategies to accomplish focused performance. 

  • In line with self-leadership, it is important for leaders to know what impacts their own focus, including time of day, caffeine, emotions, and physical health. 
  • The second strategy is to stop multitasking. Easier said than done, it is important to be aware when multitasking and limit one’s actions to one task at a time. While it may seem as though it is less productive to perform one task at a time, there are negative results that arise when multitasking. 
  • The third strategy for focused performance is to take time to do nothing. Our brains are wired to be doing something all the time, yet many of the behaviors in which we engage are non-productive tasks and distractions to our greater goal of focus performance. 
  • The fourth strategy is to create focus time. It is important to make it a priority to spend time away from devices and do focused work. As a leader, set aside time with your followers to work collaboratively on distraction-free activities.

Being kind to others is a side effect of showing compassion, and the authors remind us that it's important for leaders to show kindness to themselves as evidence of self-compassion. 

Showing kindness to oneself includes forgiving oneself for mistakes that happen. Leaders can feel like they have to have all the answers and do everything right, but the exceptional leaders understand that mistakes happen and they keep moving forward while silencing their inner critic. When leaders learn to be kind to themselves, they learn to be kinder to others, which in turn causes greater feelings of happiness and well-being. True happiness comes from what we do for others, not ourselves.

In the research by the authors, they found that one of the highest rating qualities of leadership was selflessness. Being a selfless leader is not being a servant to employees. It is about being of service to employees and helping them to grow in knowledge and skills. Becoming and being a selfless leader can be challenging because ego is hard to quiet without affirmations and getting credit. When the ego is left without recognition and praise, it often creates fear in a person. The fears can get in the way of being an effective leader, because it can  cause a leader to be indecisive, selfish, and bureaucratic. Once the fear is recognized and the ego in check, a leader can let go of the need for praise and affirmation. Some of the best leaders give credit to others on the team while taking the blame themselves, because they see failure as a means for success.

"Selfless leadership is about having the wisdom to develop and grow your people so they can shine and thrive with your support."        

                                                 - Hougaard & Carter, The Mind of the Leader

The Mind of the Leader by Hougaard and Carter is a must-read for anyone aspiring to become an effective leader. The authors provide insightful perspectives on leadership, including the importance of mindfulness, compassion, and self-awareness. They also offer practical tools and strategies to develop these qualities in oneself. Overall, this book is an excellent guide to cultivating the mindset and skills necessary for successful leadership.

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