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Mindfulness and transformational leadership

I work in international software business and on my journey searching for learning about leadership I’ve come across Amara. Within the last six months I’ve participated in two separate Amara workshops and while they’ve provided plenty of great thoughts and techniques – mindfulness training is one of them.

Right before the first workshop I read through Bill Torbert’s book Action Inquiry, and went into the workshop expecting lectures and examples on different levels of global leadership profile as described in the book. To my great surprise my first note from the workshop states something like ‘Speed kills our ability to enjoy what we have right now’. Eventually we did come to Global Leadership Profile and Action Inquiry, but for me the biggest take away from the workshop was the heavy highlight on being in the present moment. Apparently being focused on the moment is a pre-requisite for being a good leader. For me mindfulness had always been a bit of ‘San Francisco Hippie’ -type of exercise, so this was not good news.

Being an engineer I wanted dig deeper to make sure that the Amara people are right 🙂 I then found out that Google and many other US corporations have a mindfulness program and most importantly: modern brain imagining technologies such as fMRI or EEG have proven that mindfulness does change the brain for the better. Some of the improvements documented in scientific studies are improving concentration and attention, reducing anxiety and even preserving the aging brain. Links to some of my favorite resources are below.

So I was ready to accept that in today’s world the ability to be present, focused and reflective is becoming a scarce resource. Open office spaces, WhatsApp beeping, email -notification popping up, an interesting Tweet from a competitor…they all take focus away from the actual, productive task on top of my to-do list.

After finding out all these facts I was full of energy and good intentions to develop my transformational leadership skills and start by focusing on being present and focused. I’ve had regular mindfulness exercises in my schedule for some months, though it’s still hard to hold on to. Being a working mom of two little boys ensures that my days are full on action. If there’s a twenty-minute break on the madness, it takes a ton of discipline not to spend that time on a good book, Facebook, or cup of coffee, but instead sitting still and doing nothing. Or at least it looks like doing nothing, even though in my head I’m re-framing mindfulness training as going to a mental gym. Every time when I return my attention from today’s to-do list back to my breathing is like squatting with heavy weights, and I do believe it makes my brain stronger. Below is a link to Tim Ferriss’ podcast where he says that days started with mindfulness are 20-30% more productive. I’m not sure about percentage, but I have to say that in a focused mindset I do get more done with less stress, so there’s some magic to mindfulness. Thanks to Amara for showing me the way to this learning path.

How is mindfulness then related to transformational leadership? I see it as the first step, as mindfulness gives people ability to reflect before reacting, which I believe is one of key skills of transformational leadership. It’s hard to reflect on different levels of time and detail, if there’s no space for reflection. As a conclusion I feel that being able to control your focus and being present in the moment is a pre-requisite for any further transformation leadership development.

Blogtext by Maija Erkheikki

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