The popular and common conception of leaders is that they are the best among everyone and have the right to rule and dominate over others to gain more for themselves. But another type of a leader is a mindful and compassionate leader. This type of a leader is not concerned about how he can exploit people for more fame, power, or money for himself, but how he can help and uplift others.
On Bloomberg, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner discusses how he practices compassionate and mindful management. He defines it as “putting yourself in another person’s shoes and understanding their perspective” along with acting with an attitude of “how I can help you.” He says that he aspires to apply this philosophy in every interaction. Because of the focus everyone in his organization has on this type of leadership, he believes LinkedIn is as successful as it is today.
We all act as leaders on different scales through our own examples. We are influencing everyone who comes in touch with us, speaks with us, or even sees us. A mindful and compassionate leader always questions the example he is setting with his behavior and what his motivation is. Just as Jeff Weiner is setting the example for all of LinkedIn to follow, we can set the example for everyone we impact in our day-to-day life.
A common example Jeff shares is when we're speaking with our colleagues and a disagreement comes up. We usually start to assume a negative intention – that they are trying to be political or get one up on us. But that might be completely wrong – they might just be having a bad day or genuinely see another perspective that we do not. Rather than reacting to this frustration, which will continue to escalate and create unnecessary problems, we can become a spectator to our thoughts and emotions and try to recognize what the other person is experiencing as well as why they are experiencing it.
This is called mindfulness. Based off our past experiences, our mind creates so many illusory ideas, concepts, and conclusions. When we believe these illusions, we suffer because of them. For example, consider a nightmare where we are being chased by a tiger and almost eaten alive. Our physical bodies are lying safe and sound in bed, but our mind is believing the visions and thoughts it is having and as a result our bodies are sweating in anxiety and fear. In simple terms, we are overtaken by a complete illusion and as a result, we are suffering.
Mindfulness means to become aware of the way our mind works, distancing ourselves from it, and acting in a productive and positive way. Let's say we assume that our coworker is trying to get one up on us in the discussion that Jeff mentioned. If we act on this false notion, we will create an ongoing conflict that will keep growing. This will lead to increased stress, negativity, and suffering for everyone, just as it made us suffer in our nightmare.
But if we can notice that we are feeling emotional and angry, then we can wisely take a step back and practice mindfulness before acting. Mindfulness training includes breathing, focusing, and separating ourselves from our thoughts and emotions and witnessing them neutrally, among other practices. After stopping our mind's impulsive reaction, we can try to understand the other person's perspective and how we can help them. For example, we may notice this colleague has been having a rough day and also acted rude in other interactions. Diffusing any personal anger or hostility we feel, we can then try to best help them overcome their struggles.
In contrast to conflict, appreciation is a powerful component of mindful leadership. When we appreciate others' hard work, we acknowledge their value and build a positive team culture where everyone's individual work contributes to the cumulative group goals. Too often than not, the only feedback we receive from others is criticism, which leads to frustration, tension, and second-guessing others' motives. This does not lead to a productive group culture but to a stressful and pessimistic culture. By encouraging others, we can create an environment where everyone is valued for who they are and inspired to work together.
Along with mindfulness and appreciation, meditation is a vital practice. Studies by many universities including Harvard, Yale, and MIT show that meditation leads to physical changes in the brain regions that deal with stress and anxiety. It is scientifically proven that those who meditate have a stronger emotional balance and can understand situations with a deeper perspective and maturity. Rather than reacting impulsively to situations, our mind develops the strength to analyze a situation thoughtfully, considering the other person’s perspective, and act to benefit others. If we are not trying to balance our emotions, it will not be possible to have this consciousness. Instead of neutrally witnessing our mind’s emotions, we will succumb to its rash urges, emotions and ideas, unable to consider the other person’s experience and viewpoint.
There are many mindfulness workshops and trainings available. It requires consistency and a strong desire to become aware of and overcome our mind’s illusions, to be more in touch with reality, and ultimately to be in a position to uplift others. With these tools, our mind can be trained to function productively and steadily so that we can be a mindful and compassionate leader. To learn more on mindfulness workshops, visit panditdasa.com.