You are a leader regardless of your day job.
No matter what it is that you do for a living you are a leader. Many of us might scoff at this thought because it seems a little absurd but truthfully in some way people look up to us. Whether it’s in our roles as parents, partners, or family, or as part of our professions. Leadership is a quality that we all carry and an action we all take part in (even if you think the only leadership you participate in is taking your dog for a walk in the park). Leadership for sustainability is a passion of mine and it is my belief that every one of us has the capacity to be a stylishly sustainable leader in an area we are passionate about.
This belief is so strong within me that I’ve fought tirelessly for years (with many successes and learning experiences A.K.A failures) to follow a career in empowering the individual for sustainability. To be aware of your capacity to be a sustainable leader you need to be mindful of where you are at. You also have to be mindful of your passions and the impact that you can have on others. You can only imagine my delight to come across a book that looks specifically at Mindful Leadership that just so happens to have a great big endorsement from my fave lifestyle guru Arianna Huffington slapped in the centre of it’s cover (major #fangirl). This post slaps together some of my thoughts about sustainable leadership with some tidbits of mindfulness from this epic-good book.
Mindful leaders do it from a place of service!
You are accurate in the assumption that leaders are loud, extroverted and powerful people who command action with their huge presence. This is very much the ideal put-forth in our media and cultures. This is the ‘great man’ leadership theory. Where leaders are larger than life and people know who’s boss. If you scoffed at the idea of being a leader then you might prescribe to this ideal. Don’t feel bad if you do! There are HR departments across the globe overlooking great candidates (specifically introverts) as you read this because they don’t present in this way at interviews.
According to Marturano, the author of Finding the Space to Lead: A practical guide to mindful leadership, a mindful leader isn’t just loud, bossy, and proud (although they might be):
A mindful leader embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion in the service of others.
One of the key take homes from this definition is that there is no one ‘great man’ leader, it’s about collaborating in a way that’s good for the organisation, the individual and the community through focus, clarity, creativity and compassion.
Take homes from space to lead
You might get an idea from the talk above as to the content of Finding the Space to Lead, but here’s a bit of a summary from the book of some of my most interesting findings in the four categories of leadership excellence.
Focus: How can I stay focused in a multi tasking world?
My favourite focus tip from this book was probably one of the most simple take home messages. Start a daily meditation practice. I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of meditation on daily focus. Having had a morning practice for a few years now I can really feel the difference in my mind on days when I skip my meditations. It’s subtle, but the thoughts in my brain tend to jump around a little more when they haven’t had a morning ‘reset’.
There are lots of meditation suggestions between the covers of this read but I liked the idea of purposeful pause. A purposeful pause is the ‘free parking’ on monopoly, a small moment where your check out of the game to catch your breath. The serving suggestion is two of these per day. Scheduling a ‘purposeful pause’ into your day could mean different things to different people, from taking a mental time out to prepare for a meeting, or just switching off your computer screen for ten minutes to observe a tree outside your office window. These little mindful breaks can really aid in resting a hectic brain.
Clarity: How to stay in the present to see the reality of a situation without personal bias.
Unfortunately life moves fast nowadays. We might love it’s speed when our working week dissolves into the weekend at the blink of an eye, but clarity comes from moments of focus not deadlines whizzing by. Clarity as a leader is intertwined with the other elements in many ways but clarity and focus really work together hand-in-hand.
When we take moments to focus on actions and patterns- rather than working from a place of reactivity- then we can create space for creative and compassionate alternatives to the norm. Finding time for meditation, moments of purposeful pause, and compassionate communication can aid in breaking through barriers to clarity. Self responsibility and personal enquiry are essential to clarity as they help shed light on personal bias, filters, and pre conditioned ideals.
Creativity: Comes from clearing the to-do list in the mind.
Creativity and innovation is touted as a ‘thinking’ or ‘brains-trust’ kind of activity. It might come as a surprise that most creative innovation comes from the spaces between thoughts. When we work really hard to ‘think’ of new ideas our brain becomes cluttered with judgements, emotions, and other self-doubt-creative-blocking processes. When we allow for meditative practices or purposeful pauses our subconscious has time to start unpacking some of our learnings and creating new and innovative connections.
This is why you get ideas at 3am or in the shower! Understanding that being ‘on’ all the time isn’t always the best path to creativity can help you give yourself permission for that bath, shower, long walk, or trip to the beach. Just be sure to have a pen and paper handy because it’s likely all the ideas will flow the moment you start to dissolve your to-do list thoughts.
Compassion: From the inside out.
One of the key traits that a mindful leader can carry is the ability to to step back when the need some time out. While it’s admirable for a leader to work tirelessly for a cause, it’s hard for them to maintain focus, clarity, creativity and compassion for others when they can hardly keep their eyes open. For this alone, self care on the very basic level of sleep and nutrition is essential to all leaders (whether you run a corporation or a household no-one likes a hangry authority figure).
The message of self care is essential to leadership success for sustainability as many sustainability minded people exclude themselves from ethics and sustainability in their own businesses. While feeling compassion for the planet and people who work in unethical conditions is a great reason to start your own label. Working around the clock in your self-made-sweatshop isn’t true compassion. Include yourself in your ethics and sustainability agenda!
Where do you practice your leadership prowess? Do you think you will adopt any of these tips? Have you attended a mindful leadership course? Share!!!