THE BLOG

The Gentle Strength of Mindful Leadership

02/03/2015 02:34 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

Let's face it, you don't typically get hired so you can be nice. You get hired to get things done. This is especially true as you climb higher up the corporate ladder.

Awake at Work author, Michael Carroll, writing in Mindful Magazine, asks:

"Can you imagine leaders in the boardroom saying, "Hey, why don't we all try to open up to one another?"

Thought it seems contrary to the established model of corporate success, being willing to listen deeply and open to the experience of others, is central to mindful leadership. Suggesting that we let down our guard, if only momentarily, may raise the fear that mindful leadership dampens our resolve, leaving us weak and vulnerable. Many work environments are packed with people who fight to be right. And as we know, "right" and "might" have been psychologically aligned for a very long time.

But as Carroll points out, skillfully opening to each other and to the moment ultimately ​exposes us to more information. When we're not guarded or caught in our storyline, we connect to an innate intelligence that Carroll describes as "...sharp but flexible, realistic but not jaundiced, clear-seeing but unassuming."

It's an entirely different way of arriving at what's right and leveraging the "might" of that position. Instead of making us weak, mindfulness training helps build "muscles" that allow us to drop the armor and open to others as an act of service and good leadership.

The trick is to be skillful about it -- that's where the "practice" of mindfulness comes into play. As we develop our muscles--our skill--through meditation or other contemplative means, we begin to see our reactive impulses for what they are and not necessarily as the ultimate truth or "right" of a situation.

As we get better at pausing and finding stillness within ourselves, we also find that our judgement improves. We become more adept at assessing situations​ in a way that is balanced. Yes, our opinions do matter and we are hired to make good decisions, so being right is ultimately important. But with practice, we also come to understand the wisdom of stepping out of the "me-centered" point of view, which insists that we defend what we think we already know in every situation.

The practice of mindful​ leadership​ helps us see the rightness of opening to others, of listening deeply, and gaining a more nuanced and informed understanding of what is really important in each situation. That "clear-seeing, but unassuming insight" that Carroll talks about, puts us in a position of strength and allows us to make choices that are more likely to result in what is right for everyone.

Gabriel Riera is a writer and communications professional. He's a co-founder and former director of BuddhaFest, a production company presenting personal growth events. He also co-founded the Mindful Leadership Summit in 2014. For more on fostering a culture of mindfulness, encouraging loving action, and drawing on the wisdom that is all around, visit Gabriel at: www.loveisaforce.com