A less obvious threat within organisations is the that of a psychologically unhealthy workplace. When colleagues, or worse managers, add mental and emotional fatigue to an employee’s work day, it’s enough to drive down productivity if not drive out workers.
It’s not an isolated case either. In Australia alone, the government pays approximately $543 million in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions.
While it’s true that managing processes matters in leadership, managing people is even more crucial. Likewise, creating a mentally-safe workplace starts with having strong policies and processes in place, but ultimately it is defined by the behaviours of the people within.
That’s where mindfulness can play a crucial role.
Mindful leadership based on being attentive to the present moment and recognising personal feelings and emotions while keeping them under control, particularly during stressful times. It requires an individual’s awareness and understanding its impact on others.
Researchers identified the benefits of mindful leadership and summed it up into three meta-capacities:
- Metacognition. This is the ability to observe what you are thinking, feeling, and sensing during critical times. It is like removing yourself from an intense situation to actually see what’s going on. It’s an effective means of escaping the dangers of operating on autopilot.
- Allowing. This refers to the ability to let situations be. It isn’t about weakness or passiveness. Rather, it’s about dealing with experiences with openness and kindness to yourself and others. It links firmly with not letting our criticism of ourselves and others crush our ability to observe what is really happening.
- Curiosity. This means taking an interest in what occurs within our inner and outer environments. It drives a strong impetus for bringing our awareness into the present moment and staying with it.
Emotional intelligence and mindfulness
There are three parts to emotional intelligence according to the man who coined the term back in 1995, Daniel Goleman. The first involves self-awareness, and this is where mindfulness fits in. By monitoring what’s happening within your mind, you can handle it better. This leads to the second part of emotional intelligence, self-management which in turn allows you to manage stressful situations and display a positive attitude despite upsets. The third part is the presence of others and how the other two components combine to determine the quality of our relationships with those around us.
A note of caution: this is not a quick fix. Attending one mindfulness session doesn’t make a mindful leader. The key to developing this ability is practice. Take just a few minutes each day to focus on your thoughts and gradually integrate it into your daily tasks.