The Mindful Leader

By Jennifer A. Schofield, M.Ed

Mindfulness is a hot topic these days. It’s no wonder with a typical manager’s workweek topping 50 hours, 60+ the higher up the reporting chain you go. Maintaining balance throughout the day, from getting the kids ready to face the world, staying on top of work deadlines, dealing with cranky personalities inside and outside of the office leaves little energy to make it to the gym or book club or happy hour for some much needed “me time.”

The successful leader simultaneously possesses the confidence to lead, and also the confidence to be objective about their programs and teams, even if it means admitting they’ve made a poor leadership decision. You need the ego to set your ego aside.

How to find this clarity? Take the time to evaluate what’s going on, what’s really going on, and how it’s making you feel. Again, how? Be mindful. Simply put, mindfulness is non-judgmental moment to moment awareness. The Dalai Lama recently contributed an article on the importance of leaders’ mindfulness, selflessness and compassion to the Harvard Business Review. “Cultivate peace of mind,” he writes.

Without judgment, find the thing(s) that feeds your soul. It might be exercise, gardening, cooking or even just taking as long as you want to do the dishes. Personally, I find that a mix of exercise, creative outlets and meditation works well. A good friend relies on gardening and cooking to feel like herself again after a stressful day. A word on meditation – I spend at least 10 minutes on it every day, following Tara Brach’s guided meditations. I carry my stress in my shoulders, and resemble a hunchbacked gargoyle on particularly bad days. I credit meditation with much more relaxed and pain-free shoulders. Need a quick fix in the middle of the day? Focusing attention on your breathing is a great way to re-center, even in the middle of a tense office situation.

Peace of mind requires both clarity and compassion. Remember that this compassion should be directed not only to those around us, but we also need some of it ourselves. Getting upset at yourself for getting upset only starts a vicious cycle. Recognizing emotions, thoughts and desires for what they are clears the way back to your true north, to your peace of mind. The Dalai Lama writes, “When the mind is compassionate, it is calm and we’re able to use our sense of reason practically, realistically, and with determination.”

Compassion leads to peace of mind – which leads to being the best we can be. Breathe it in, soak it up, and spread it around to your programs and teams too.


Want to learn more about mindfulness in leadership? Sign up for the March 28-29 Leadership With Soul Workshop offered March 28-29, 2019 in Redmond, Washington