Learn to Become a "Great" Leader through Mindfulness

Let me begin this first Coach’s Huddle by asking you a few questions in hopes to frame an exercise that will make you more mindful and with time, a great leader.

  • How did you become a leader? 
  • Do you know what defines a “great” leader?
  • Are you mindful of yourself and others? 

How did you become a leader?

People often find themselves throwninto a position of leadership.  Most of those people havereceived little or no training on “how” to lead.  They’ve merely learned how to lead by watching other leaders in action.  Or, we have learned how “not to lead” by watchingmediocre and sometimes poor leaders in action.  On the other hand, some of us have had the good fortune to have worked with or know a “great” leader.

Do you know what defines a “great” leader?

The subject of leadership has filled many books and generated countless theories of how to lead.  One of my favorite books, Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, offers many helpful insights and actionable tips on how to become a great leader.

I’ve selected three quotes from their book that will hopefully inform and inspire you as they did me:

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Are you mindful of yourself and others?

Mindfulness is really being in touch and in tune.  Being in touch and in tune implies that we live in a state of full and conscious awareness of one’s entire self, the people around you, and the context in which we both live and work.  We need to be fully awake and aware of our whole self and how we manage our self.  We also need to be fully aware of the social relationships around us, and how we build, sustain and manage those relationships.

The tenants of “great” leadership all revolve around mindfulness.  The four basic foundations of emotional intelligence and resonant leadership are:

  1. Awareness of Self
  2. Awareness of Others
  3. Management of Self
  4. Management of Other

To truly be a “great” leader, one must master these four principals.

In the next several issues of this newsletter we will explore these elements from both a conceptual (the what) and an experiential dimension (the how).  We will also be offering a Coach’s Workout/Tip, some practical “how  to’s”, so you can work on developing the skills that you need.

Coaches' Workout/Tip #1:  Mindfulness Radar

The Mindfulness Radar exercise gives you a chance to establish your foundation, to determine where you are on the Mind-Body-Heart/Emotions-Spirit dimensions.

If you have a blank journal, you may want to consider doing this exercise in that journal.  If not, I’d suggest that you get some blank paper and use those sheets for this first exercise.  (If you’re using loose sheets of paper, you might want to three-hole punch them and put them in a binder.)

Starting the exercise:

First, I would suggest that you sit in a place that is quiet, somewhere that you’re removed from distractions.

To help you begin this process, take a very deep, abdominal breath.

Breathe in (through your nose) from your diaphragm (slowly), expanding your rib cage, letting the air move up and fill your entire body.

Check to see that you’re not lifting your shoulders -- keep them relaxed. 

If you find you can’t do this successfully and find that your shoulders are rising up while you are breathing, then you’re doing upper chest or Clavicular breathing. 

To help you breathe correctly, i.e. diaphragmatically, lie down on a couch or the floor.  Place your hands over your belly button…inhale, slowly through the nose/exhale slowly through the mouth.  You’ll find that you revert to the natural breathing action of diaphragmatic breathing (this is how we first breathed when we were born).  

Repeat this process five times…each time inhaling and exhaling more slowly and deeply each time.  Try to increase the lengths of both the inhalations and the exhalations. 

You might want to close your eyes and totally focus on your breathing.

Now that you have focused on your breathing (you have also simultaneously lowered your blood pressure level and relaxed yourself) let’s focus on the four major dimensions of being:  the Mind, Body, Heart/Emotions and Spirit.

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Mind: 

For two-three minutes, write down whatever thoughts are in your mind, now.  Capture everything…don’t judge anything…just write it down.

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Body:

Trace the outline of this body.  As you do, scan your own body and notice where are the areas of tension, relaxation, soreness or good feelings? 

Write down the areas that you need to focus on.

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Heart/Emotions:

Make a list of the emotions you’re currently experiencing.

Where do you feel the emotions in your body?

What do you need to continue doing today to sustain the positive emotions that are useful and serve you well?

What do you need to do in order to minimize or change your feelings that are distressful or not serving you?

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Spirit:

Close your eyes again.  Focus on your deep, diaphragmatic breathing:  as you are relaxed and in a state of calm, visualize something or someone who inspires you.  Be there for a few moments.

What images come to mind?

How do these images inspire you to act today?

Imagine yourself radiating this image today:  what will you… Say?  Think?  Do?

Mindfulness Radar Review:

Once you have done all four areas, review what you wrote.  What themes emerge?  What does your Mindfulness Radar tell you?

Now, think about what you can do to practice being more in tune and in touch with your thoughts, emotions, body and your spirit? 

List one thing you can do, related to each area, that increases your mindfulness. 

Mind:

Body:

Heart/Emotions:

Spirit:

Try doing each of these four things for a week. 

Record what happens each day.  Review the results in a week.  I'd be interested in hearing about your results.