I take leadership seriously. I think leadership is tied to the person not the title. I see leadership as both a joy-filled opportunity and lonely responsibility. I believe in servant leadership, and as such don’t have much tolerance for inauthentic leaders. I think some elements of leadership are innate in a person and others require cultivation. I think leaders seek to grow and help others find their path to leadership.
Following the chaos of the COVID lockdown, I began a leadership reset. The all-consuming work model of sleep where you work, all-day iPhone access, wall of online meetings, and increased corporate metrics took a toll. What I once referred to as the feeling like I was working in “sludge” shifted over time into burnout and right on to “crispiness.”
I worked hard to keep my leadership façade in place…. show up for my team perky on camera, check-ins with my deputies, ask for feedback, add on hours to hit the metrics, mentor my network, and talk with my work sponsor. I hoped that if I just stuck with it, I’d emerge on the other side. But, as I’ve stated in a few client planning sessions, “hope is not a solid strategy.”
I got intentional about my needs as a leader. I got intentional on my boundaries. I got intentional about learning. My journey led me to mindfulness: to be fully present; aware of your senses, state of mind, body, emotions – rather than reactive to what is going on around us; or as Janice Marturano wrote, “you are present to life and your experience just as it is – not as you hoped it would be, not as you expected it to be, not seeing more or less than what is here, not with judgements that can lead you to a conditioned reaction… meeting each moment with equanimity.”
I learned about and applied mindfulness through an exploration of my left big toe in MBSR (which warrants its own blog), a communal experience exploring a raisin with 60 classmates from around the world, the jarring experience of just how long a 3 minute meditation can be, a kind mentor, a happier app, a day-long silent retreat, nightly meditation that improved my sleep, “mico-practices” in work meetings, conversations that led me to a new community, and practice, practice, practice.
This past week, my leadership reset culminated in attendance of the Mindful Leadership Summit. The presenters at the Summit shared:
- 98% of what we do in conditioned … and mindfulness helps us move beyond that status quo comfort into a state of growth by helping us be more present by asking: How is my response (thought, feeling, action) serving me? Not serving me? Limiting my growth?
- The importance of breath to break the auto-response cycle through a simple 3 breath exercise … (1) breathe in to collect your attention, (2) breathe in to relax, and (3) breathe in and ask, “what is important now?” – then step back into the habitual moment with a fresh lens.
- The value of “gifting another person on your team with your full attention.”
- The belief that “I am not my idea” and to share yours with others to make it better.
- That it’s a dis-service to bring diverse groups together and then focus solely on what they have in common … but rather embrace the diversity and be empathetic.
- The importance of a “check in” with your team members as a group.
- Examples of mindful leadership, mindful meetings, mindful performance reviews, mindful governance, and mindful boards.
- That the “command and control work model is dead” and a new community centered model is replacing it… put another way: “a shareholder model vs. a stakeholder model.”
- It’s all about the invitation to co-create and feel included.
- You’re always practicing something with every action, feeling, and thought – what is it?
- Space to be creative through the combination of meditation, music, and art.
- How you feel in contagious … so what’s your strategy to deal with your feelings?
- “Be the first to _____________” as a role model of mindful leader.
I also discovered the joy of integrating music and art into my mindfulness practice through an emotionally captivating session with Najeeb Sabour.
With 2 days of information and inspiration, my mind is full as I set out to be a more mindful leader.