In this guide, I am going to share with you a powerful meditation for leadership skills, and I’ll explain why I believe that mindfulness is the absolute number one tool for leaders.
Now, here is the truth of it: absolutely anyone can become a good leader. Whether it’s in the workplace, on the sports field, or even just with your family, you have the power to be a leader of vision, integrity, and confidence. And while some evidence suggests that certain leadership skills are genetic, I do firmly believe that anyone can achieve those skills.
But precisely what “skills” are we talking about?
Generally, the best leaders exhibit the following character traits:
- Confidence in your own abilities and your ideas, which must be both an inward and outward confidence (you need to genuinely feel confident and also communicate that confidence).
- Communication skills so that you can relay your thoughts and ideas to your employees in clear and concise ways. Ultimately, better communication means less risk of misunderstandings.
- Management skills: Broadly speaking, the ability to recognise the strengths and weakness of each member of the team, and to create a structure that works with those strengths and weakness, to the betterment of all.
- Emotional intelligence: To understand the feelings of team members (as well as your own) so that the decisions you make serve the interests of both the team members both as individuals and as a group. This is also why meditation is so good for team building.
- Empathy and compassion: With empathy and compassion you will have a deeper understanding of the psychological motives of your employees, which will enable you to motivate and inspire them, and, hopefully, to their betterment. Because, as Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “The right leader uses their power compassionately to cultivate the happiness and wellbeing of others around them.
- Imagination, and particularly the ability to imagine pathways to prosperity, for as Abraham Zaleznik once said, “Imagination in business is the ability to perceive opportunity”.
- Levelheadedness, for when things turn south, you, as leader, will be expected to act as the stabilising force of the team, maintaining a confident calmness no matter what.
- Decision making skills: Because the choices you make will shape the future of your team / company.
Notice how all of those are qualities of the mind? That’s why meditation, the number one mind-training tool, is so beneficial for leaders.
The Benefits of Meditation for Leaders
Meditation can help to improve our leadership skills in many ways. It can improve our communication skills, heighten our ability to emotionally connect with our employees, help us to make better decisions, and so much more. But let’s forget about all that for now. Instead, let’s focus on the fact that meditation can completely stop the single biggest problem that all leaders face: ego.
Researcher and author Jim Collins conducted studies from which he determined that the number one issue that interferes with a company’s sustainability is “the presence of a gargantuan ego”. Why? Well for starters, egotistical leaders are likely to shutdown any constructive criticism that members of their team might give them. They also run the risk of devaluing the creative ideas of others simply because they weren’t the ones to come up with them. And finally, they forget that the success of the team is just that—the success of the team—and they focus purely on their own successes.
Ego kills teams.
But meditation can help. Indeed, traditional texts on meditation, which are predominantly Buddhist, often include practices that remove the ego and lead to oneness. Sure, we don’t have to go that far, but the fact remains that meditation can help us overcome an ego problem. And indeed, in my work teaching executives to meditate, many have admitted to me that their meditation practices helped them to escape their ego, and that this in turn greatly improved their leadership.
But that’s just the beginning. Also consider the wonderful effect that meditation has on emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman states that emotional intelligence is an absolute necessity for leaders. He tells us that high EQ is largely about awareness, both social awareness and self awareness. Research shows that meditation increases EQ and makes us more aware of both our own emotions and those of other people. It also makes us less reactive to our emotions, which helps us to remain level-headed. In particular, meditation strengthens the insula part of the brain, which is essential for managing emotions. This is particularly true of Vipassana meditation, a technique in which we observe our thoughts and emotions and label them.
Meditation also strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which is the logical part of the brain. This is one reason why meditation sharpens our decision-making skills. When you combine this with the increased cortical thickness in the insula it means that meditation empowers us to stop, pause and reflect, even at times when many people would be panicked into making rash decisions. Two good meditations for this are Zazen, the principle meditation used in Zen Buddhism, and Trataka, a yogic meditation in which we meditate on a lit candle flame (although the important part of this meditation has nothing to do with the candle and is entirely about holding our gaze still).
And let us not forget conflict avoidance and resolution. Meditation techniques such as Loving Kindness can massively improve our empathy and compassion. In turn, this empowers us to see things from the other person’s point of view, which is essential for both avoiding and resolving conflicts in the workplace.
It even helps with creative thinking. Research shows that meditation improves divergent and convergent thinking, which in turn improves our ability to formulate new ideas. In particular this is true of meditations in which we do not focus on one thing but rather open our mind to the entirety of our surroundings, a technique called Open Meditation. Indeed, in my meditation sessions I have been able to help writers and other artistic types to overcome a creative block and to start creating new concepts, purely through practising Open Meditation.
And best of all, you’ll be a pillar of calmness. Because meditation balances the stress chemical cortisol, as well as other neurochemicals such as noradrenaline and serotonin, it helps you to stay calm and balanced. And surely that can only be a good thing both for you and your team.
So yes, there are some incredible benefits of meditation for leaders. But how do you start meditating? For best results, I recommend booking an online meditation lesson with me. But I will give you some pointers here too.
Best Meditations for Leaders
Loving kindness and other compassion-based methods: When you have compassion and empathy, you will gain a deeper understanding of your employees’ psychological needs and desires, and this will help you to motivate and inspire them in ways that go far beyond the monetary.
Mindful breathing for calm: Whenever you feel calm or anxious, take five to ten minutes to breathe mindfully. This is the very practice used by of Scott Shute, former VP of Customer Operations at LinkedIn, who now heads-up the company’s mindfulness program. Mindful breathing is beneficial to everyone on the team, whether or not they be a leader. This is one of the many reasons why you might like to introduce meditation at work.
Open Meditation for creativity: If you want to be more creative and come up with new ideas, practise Open Meditation. This is a method in which we do not focus on one thing but instead open the mind to the entirety of our surroundings. This will improve your convergent and divergent thinking, which will improve your creativity.
Practice Trait Mindfulness At Work: Mindfulness comes in two versions. There is State Mindfulness, which is the actual formal practice of meditating. And then there is Trait Mindfulness, which is the general quality of being consciously aware. It is best to do both. Have a meditation session once a day, and then aim to be mindful at all times.
Note that all of the above are methods we teach in our virtual corporate meditation classes.
Other Ways To Improve Leadership Skills
Practice self awareness: As a leader, your own actions are paramount, and as such it is crucial to have a high degree of self awareness, including an accurate understanding of your strengths and weakness. One way to heighten self awareness in your leadership role is to use anonymous questionnaires.
Improve your communication skills: Leaders must be able to communicate effectively. Thankfully, mindfulness and meditation can help with this. When you calm your mind through meditation you will clarify your thoughts, which in turn will make it easier to communicate those thoughts.
Practice personal development: The more you advance as an individual, the stronger your leadership skills will be. There are many ways to develop, ranging to contributing more to your community, to learning new skills, to getting fitter in both mind and body—indeed, that’s one reason you might like to consider workplace wellness programs.
Being a leader is both a privilege and a responsibility. While we may enjoy our positions of leadership, we must make sure that our egos don’t interfere, that we are empathetic and compassionate to each and every individual on our team, and that we have both the vision and the skill to take our workplace or team to the next level. Thankfully, meditation can help. We have seen in this guide how meditation can reduce problems related to the ego, enhance mental processing, boost our levels of compassion, and strengthen our emotional bond with our team.
If you would like to make the most out of meditation, book a meditation lesson with me today.
To learn more about leadership and development, I recommend taking a look at:
- Dale Carnegie.
- Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Programs.
- Center for Creative Leadership Development Program.
- Columbia Business School’s Executive Education Program.
- Abraham Zaleznik
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison
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