Mindful Leader-ship? 

What do you consider as the key leadership capabilities to support and grow business opportunities in a rapidly changing environment? Which tools can enable you when your ambition is to release and nurture the potentials held by your colleagues? This post is dedicated to leadership – valuebased and mindful leadership. The leadership I believe is a key competitive advantage for the world we live in.  

Last month, I attended SIKT2015, a conference organized by H.R.H Crown prince Haakon of Norway, gathering around 200 leaders and talents (including students and entrepreneurs) below 40 from all levels and areas of Norwegian society, who wouldn’t normally meet. Almost 60% women and a good mix of multi-cultural backgrounds. A truly diverse group of people, with 2 main things in common; the drive for a sustainable world and business focus, combined with an engagement and urge to contribute in driving our society forward – believing that everyone can (and should) make a difference.

Valuebased leadership was a phrase that came up frequently, and in my opinion that has a lot to do with Mindful leadership as well. In a hectic life with many urgent issues of varying priority, and a development where the boundaries between work time and personal time are blurred out, many of us experience the challenges of making the neccessary space to clear our head in between the “battles”, and manage to stay focused in each situation equipped with a brain that isn’t disturbing us with all the other ongoing stuff we have on our agenda.  I found my best tool for that some years ago, as I joined my father for a course in mindfulness by Dr. Andries Kroese, a Dutch Norwegian heart surgeon who had studied meditation and mindfulness from a professional science-based perspective, and started using it as a tool both for himself, colleagues and patients in a high-stress environment where ability to focus 100% is crucial. A version stripped of all wishy-washy nonsense, providing some simple yet efficient techniques for switching the brain and mind from “flight or fight” mode. I had already used a CD by Andries since 2005, which had helped a lot in times where I struggled with sleep due to stress (what a friend of mine calls coffee brain, when you try to sleep but your brain just won’t switch off and all kind of thoughts keep pouring in on you like a tumble-dryer gone mad). Yet, it wasn’t until my father was fighting the last stage of terminal cancer in 2012 that I truly made use of it, and have continued to do so since.  

The key is to Stop – Observe – Accept – and then Let go. And it’s basically about becoming aware of your own (negative) perception and reactions on things affecting you, taking a step back and allow any bad feelings and/or fears to surface, not suppressing any of them. And afterwards, when you have observed and accepted those reactions and feelings, deciding for yourself whether it’s something you can do about it or not, and choosing mindfully of letting go rather than holding regrets, anger or grudges. In some way, taking control of your own situation by letting go. I know this probably sounds strange to many, but it actually works, at least for me.. 

It enables me to sleep efficiently on flights, relax in the couch in the evening even when everything is chaotic around me, and it helps me not to be eaten up by negative situations but rather put myself on the sideline and keep an objective perspective (at least when it comes to work related situations – it’s definitely not that easy when it comes to arguing with my partner or dealing with the kids.. I’m still practicing though!). It also enables me not to be controlled unconciously by my own emotional history, feelings and ego, not taking feedback/input too personally and becoming offended and act on emotions and the stone age part of my brain only, but rather evaluate it more objectively. Which I think comes in quite handy as a leader. You simply cannot afford acting in affect, as it might cause severe negative impact to your team and organization.  

Obviously, I’m nowhere near an optimal leader, and I struggle to balance my ideals with having sufficient time and capacity to focus and communicate with my colleagues in between everything that has to be done. I see it as a process, where I hope to be a better leader day by day. But I think the mindful perspective enables a better basis for growth and development than I would have had otherwise.

During the past decade, there has been some interesting research on how the brain develops when you meditate. It actually changes… It will be exciting to see how these potentials and upcoming research/science can be used for the better of individual human beings as well as organizations in the future. 

In this connection, I wanted to share a blog post which is quite relevant in a business perspective and well written. Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington on why mindfulness is good for business;  Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate America’s Bottom Line

Based on my own experiences, both personally and work-wise, I definitely agree with her. 

Enjoy your Saturday whether you choose a mind-full or mindful! // Birgit 😋


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