Mindfulness for the Self-Aware Leader

I recently facilitated a half day workshop on Mindfulness for Personal Resilience to kick off an annual two day executive retreat. Here are some highlights and a few practical pointers on how you can increase your own leadership effectiveness using mindfulness techniques.

VUCA Times                                                                                            

Do you  sometimes feel uncertain of how best to respond to issues or challenges? It may not be just you! Some situations are inherently more unpredictable than others. The phrase VUCA Times started in the military. It refers to situations that are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; like super-storms whose effects are hard to predict, or shifting electoral patterns which can suddenly tip ballot box results. Sound familiar?

The Self-Aware Leader

One of the ways to respond to the demands of these complex VUCA situations is with the multiple facets of robust leadership. Leadership has an objective side, involving driving for results and smoothly integrating diverse systems and policies. It also has a subjective side, involving relations and culture. Most of these are well known, although not often systematically integrated. The often forgotten aspect of  leadership is self-awareness;  your values and motivation, your view of what constitutes good leadership, your awareness of your own impact and your ability to self regulate, particularly when stressed out!

Mindfulness Cultivates Self-Awareness

Mindfulness is the skill of paying extraordinary attention to ordinary things. In a leadership situation, this could include; being fully present with others in conversations or meetings, pausing before you hit ‘send’ on an email, considering multiple implications of a decision, or being able to quickly re-focus on new tasks during your day. There is mounting and solid evidence that mindfulness practice causes neurophysiological changes and relaxation responses in the body. Cultivating mindful attention is a learnable skill. Like physical training, it requires motivation to get going, training in good techniques and of course practice. Like physical training, the results are improvements in physical, mental and emotional health.

Mindfulness in our Midst              

Mindfulness is much more generally accepted than even a few years ago. One woman in this workshop  said that her son was learning these techniques in school! As little as 10 minutes most days of formal ‘sitting’ practice can provide the foundation for effective mindfulness strategies in daily life. When I coach people, we often develop focused self-reflection practices, to help them see where they might be tripping themselves up unintentionally, or becoming more aware of how unconscious emotions are affecting their decisions,  actions or relationships.

Mindfulness to Go

There are many mindfulness techniques, just as there are  many physical exercise techniques.

Here is a simple practice that you can sprinkle throughout your day, to help you break out of auto-pilot and focus on what you really want to, or what seems to be most relevant in that moment. Each repetition of the STOP technique can take 5 – 30 seconds, so you can enjoy these mindfulness ‘sprinkles’  dozens of times a day!



  •   Stop, pause for a few seconds
  •   Take a breath, a good deep one, down to your   chest and belly, if you can
  •   Observe – your body, muscle tension, any   emotional feelings or mental talk that may be arising. Don’t censure yourself   for what your observing. After all, you’re just noticing!
  •   Proceed with whatever you were doing. And as a   bonus, you can notice if it your actions are any different than they would   usually be!

2 thoughts on “Mindfulness for the Self-Aware Leader

  1. True self-confidence has to be built on a foundation of self-awareness. This kind of self-awareness lets you understand your strengths and your weaknesses on a deep and intimate level.

    1. nicely said! mindfulness is one way to cultivate that self awareness

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