By Cathy Huyghe
Mindful meditation is key to successful leadership.
What are the first adjectives that come to mind when you think about "best leadership," or the icons of business leaders today that receive so much media attention?
Typically it's things like decisiveness, vision, integrity, determination, and confidence. Occasionally the so-called "softer skills" might edge their way in there too, like compassion and empathy, but for the most part, the best leadership characteristics are ego-motivated. That is, they're focused on one person's seemingly innate ability to steer the course of a company and its bottom line.
A recently published article in the Harvard Business Review suggests exactly the opposite. Rather than ego-driven leadership, author Matthias Birk suggests that transcending our ego-- to see ourselves as part of a whole instead of separate from others-- has major benefits for leaders, namely to see things more objectively and to form deeper relationships.
Those benefits can help to save a business from the "gargantuan ego" that contributes to the demise or continued mediocrity of two-thirds of the comparison cases that Jim Collins found in his seminal study on the topic.
So, how do we get there? How do we as entrepreneurs "transcend our ego" and, hopefully, still manage to steer our businesses to success?
It has to do with mindfulness meditation, which Birk describes as an antidote to ego.
Writers and researchers, ranging from anecdotal evidence to Google and neurobiology, have long advocated for more mindfulness in the workplace. Here are three ways you can add mindfulness to your own:
Walk the Walk as the Leader
Mindfulness meditation won't catch on until you as the leader prioritze it. As an example, I work in the wine industry and, even before I launched our business, I'd been writing about the business and politics of wine for about ten years. About two years ago, however, my colleague and friend Rebecca Hopkins launched A Balanced Glass, a website and community which advocates for maintaining health and wellness when alcohol is at the core of our work. She asked me to co-create the content with her, focusing on my experience as a yoga teacher and meditator.
"Going public" about mindfulness and meditation holds practitioners accountable, which is all the more reason to incorporate this wellness strategy into our roles as entrepreneurs and leaders.
Getting Grounded to Think Big
As entrepreneurs we all have "hacks," big or small, that help us to ideate or get clarity on a particularly hairy situation. My hack? Have a seat, preferably on a meditation cushion or yoga mat, and close my eyes.
It's an eons-old practice, to get quiet and close off external stimulation. The ancient yogis knew what they were talking about. When we're quiet and still, we inevitably turn inward. When we turn inward, we inevitably hear our inner voice. When we hear our inner voice, we inevitably listen to a guidance that I think of as my "true north."
That's exactly when some of the best ideas for my business have surfaced, from single words like naming the company all the way to how to formulate a response to a challenging colleague or partner.
Share the Stage, Lessen the Ego Spotlight
I've written before about sharing the stage, sometimes literally, with partners and complementary voices who help to deliver the narrative of your business. The takeaways are, first, to lessen the role of our own ego and, second, to highlight our respective contributions. The effect is, ultimately, better than the sum of its parts.
Mindfulness meditation is well-documented as an "incubator" for creativity and equanimity, both at the office and at home. The three takeaways mentioned here also act as a protective shield against the "gargantuan ego" that can cause so much damage to young and thriving companies: share the stage (and the credit), walk the walk, and take the time to get quiet and still, so that what really matters has a chance to rise to the surface.
Read the full article here.
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