Creating Mindful Managers and Leaders
- Posted by wellness
When it comes to the development of leaders, there is much debate about the importance of hard versus soft skills. By hard skills, we generally mean those that are more quantifiable and can be taught, like technical skills and reading and writing. In contrast, soft skills are those of an interpersonal origin and include compassion, empathy, listening and understanding.
In many cases, it is implied that the two are in fierce competition with one other. Herein lies the problem. The reality is that to be an effective manager or an enigmatic leader, you must cultivate skills in both camps. It is of little consequence if you’re a high-flying project manager capable of hitting every milestone on the Gantt chart, but you can’t influence your team or engage with your peers and subordinates.
Put simply strong managers are mindful managers. If we truly want to direct, motivate and develop others, we need to know how to manage ourselves effectively. Read on to discover five of the most effective ways to become a mindful manager and start leading with courage and purpose today.
Tip 1 – Learn to be self-aware
Mindfulness starts with awareness. It’s the much-underestimated practice of being here and now or simply ‘living in the present moment’. If we are to begin to understand others, we must be in tune with ourselves and be aware of our thoughts, beliefs, emotional reactions, responses and triggers without judging them. If we can achieve this, we stand a much better chance of recognising and understanding others’ behaviour and traits.
Self-awareness is knowledge, and we all know the old adage, knowledge is power. Experience allows us to make informed decisions and choices, helping us change and grow and guide those under our charge.
The takeaway here is this. To understand others, you must first get to know yourself better.
Tip 2 – Lead from who you are, not where you are.
There is a common misconception that you must be a manager to lead, but we can all lead regardless of our role. Similarly, it is never prudent to rely on our authority or status to make us a good leader. Having director or manager in a job title is not the default setting for exemplary leadership.
Be authentic and allow your personality traits to shine through. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate vulnerability. Far from the weakness we have been conditioned to believe it is, vulnerability shows we are human and creates a common ground and a shared experience. This can help to engender respect and loyalty.
Go back to tip one and revisit the notion of self-awareness. When you connect to who you are, you strengthen your own core values and strengths and lead with conviction. Leading others and seeing your labours’ fruit manifest in others’ success creates harmony and joy in your working life. Let’s face it, when we spend more than 90,000 hours or one-third of our lives working it helps to find pleasure in what we do.
Your action point here is to start now! Don’t wait until you are a manager. Lead from within and with all of your being, and you will fulfil not only your own goals but inspire those you lead to accomplish theirs.
Tip 3 – Communicate with empathy
Empathy is a competency of every true leader or manager. Not to be confused with sympathy, it means understanding and being aware of others’ feelings and needs. You don’t have to share those feelings or needs but recognising that they are legitimate and real empowers those within your influence.
Communicating with empathy lets your staff know that you ‘hear’ and understand them and makes them feel part of a team. That sense of belonging fosters loyalty and a willingness to do you proud.
Your takeaway here is to not sympathise but to show empathy. Sympathy can be patronising and demoralising, leading to demotivation and absenteeism. When you listen, relate and connect with your team productivity will skyrocket.
Tip 4 – Lead from the middle
Confident leaders get in the middle of the action. They dare to put their status aside and are comfortable standing shoulder to shoulder with those they lead. Leading from the front or the back is always at the expense of seeing and ‘knowing our team’. Whether it is our back they see or theirs that we view, it is to the detriment of a collegiate approach. By immersing yourself in the inner circle of your team, you have a 360-degree vantage point and can connect with each and every one of them. This, in turn, encourages them to do the same, creating a well-oiled machine where each of you represents an interdependent cog in the organisation’s master wheel. Without the combined effort and support of each cog, the wheel cannot turn.
Tip takeout: Get in the middle of the action. Cast aside your invisible manager cape and be the ultimate link in your team’s circle.
Tip 5 – Model your behaviours
The most effective way to lead is to BE the change you want to see. There’s so much more authenticity in a manager who walks the walk rather than the type that expects to inspire with the ‘do what I say, not what I do’ approach. In many ways, being a leader is like parenting. You should always seek to demonstrate the behaviours, morals, and actions you would like to see emulated or echoed.
In summary, to succeed here, you must embody tips one through four. Lead with all of your being and be true to yourself. Do not be afraid to show vulnerability and choose empathy over sympathy. Ultimately, only ask your staff to do what you are prepared to and if that means getting in the thick of it, then so be it.
All of your endeavours, both personal and professional start and end with YOU. To excel at anything you better be sure you’re comfortable with who you are and what you’re about. Be prepared to hone those soft skills we mentioned at the beginning of this article. Take a long hard look at yourself and ask how well you know the real you and how in tune with yourself you are.
To know yourself is to know others and when you can comfortably say you know yourself, you’re well on the way to being a great leader.