What Does Mindful Leadership Look Like?

Creating breathing space and taking intentional pauses may be the best thing you can do to be more aware as a leader. And it won’t only benefit you—others will notice your shift.

What does mindful leadership look like? That’s what I wondered as I traveled to upstate New York for a retreat led by Janice Marturano. She’s the founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, and its slogan is “finding the space to lead.”

At Mindful we’re trying to create an organization that does just that: leaves space for ideas and best practices to emerge. So I was intrigued to find out how this four-day retreat might inform my own role as a leader.

The truth is, when the pressure’s on at work (or any other area of my life), I fall under an all-too familiar spell: the feel- ing that everything is urgent. And then when I’m operating at top speed, I’m dogged by the sense that I’m missing something important. It’s not ideal. In fact, it’s the opposite of spacious. But it’s the way the world seems to work, isn’t it? As leaders, we don’t just have to keep up, we need to speed ahead of the pack, right?

So the idea of creating time and space to step back and gain perspective can o en feel like a pipe dream. It sure felt like that as I and the other 16 leaders on the retreat re ected on our packed calendars.

But as Janice guided us through a series of discussions, meditations, and exercises,
I began to feel once again what it’s like to slow down. I learned to really listen to the person seated across from me. And I noticed how much better I communicate when all that awareness is brought to bear.

Thinking or talking about the advantages of slowing down and being more aware is one thing. It always sounds like a great idea. But by actually doing it—making the space, taking a pause—I began to really understand what I’m missing when I don’t.

I confess: I like to get things settled. I like crossing things o lists. But learning to pause and re ect on what’s happening inside of me, while taking note of what’s going on around me at any given moment, has me convinced. Whether I’m leading at work, with my family, or in my life in general, my decisions as a leader are only as good as the information I am open to receiving.

I was a little o track, then, wondering what mindful leadership looks like—it’s how it feels that matters. And it’s not just good for the person doing the leading. Guaranteed: other people will notice—and benefit—too.

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