How Mindfulness Benefits Leaders

A few things to know.

Our always-on culture combined with the vast amounts of available data and research literature are key reasons why mindfulness meditation is exploding in Canada, the US and Europe. 

Some may argue mindfulness is so mainstream it's become a bit of a fad and is at risk of becoming part of the self help movement. I don’t think this is a big issue (after all it's been around for thirty-five hundred years).

But it does make it more important when choosing a mindfulness advisor or consultant, that they have a deep daily personal practice and check their bio to make sure they're qualified or certified. 

Mindfulness can be introduced in simple ways to begin with, but becoming a mindful leader isn't always easy. If you're looking for a silver bullet, mindfulness and meditation may not be for you. It takes time to cultivate self knowledge, attentional awareness and new mental habits.

Many people are now using this ancient practice to improve leadership skills. Not only does training in mindfulness help increase happiness and reduce stress, but it also promotes clear and creative thinking.

Here's four benefits of mindfulness for leaders. 

#1: Focus

What is it? Our attention is a powerful weapon. Mindfulness is about retraining our attention to focus for longer periods of time.  We become aware of when our mind is wandering and redirect our attention back to whatever we're engaged in, like a brainstorm, presentation, or an email we’re writing. In time we’re able to more easily let go of distractions as well as ideas which may not be serving the organization any longer. 

How does it impact leadership? Greater focus enables CEOs to make skillful, thoughtful and faster decisions and adapt proactively.  A few examples; our ability to create and learn new things is dependent on our ability to focus. Letting go of distractions and baggage increases the potential for innovation and engaging for impact. It also enables us to clear our mind, focus on what really matters and see more clearly.

#2: Emotional Regulation

What is it? This is our ability manage and respond to emotion. We all experience times when our emotions control our actions. Mindfulness gives us a space between our emotions and our fight-flight-freeze reactions, however brief and increases our ability to respond more skillfully. One of the ways we achieve this, is by dropping in on ourselves, paying attention to our breath and body sensations. In time, this helps us become more aware of our own (and others) perceptions, filters, judgements, thoughts, and patterns.

How does it impact leadership? Top performing CEOs need a black belt in emotion management. Over time an increase in self awareness and emotional intelligence can lead to a reduction in conflicts that don't serve us well, ability to utilize empathy to drive stronger relationships and more skillfully overcome adversity. We become less reactive and more responsive (note, reactivity isn't always something that manifests outward).

#3: Resilience 

What is it? When you're moving a mile a minute, it takes its toll. Resilience is our ability to bounce back from stressors. We build resilience by paying attention to something, noticing when we get distracted and coming back to our intended focus. When you practice this over and over, eventually you strengthen equanimity (which is the ability to let things be and get out of your own way). This leads to a number of benefits including the ability to pivot faster, adapt to changing priorities and be ready for whatever is coming at you in your day.

How does it impact leadership? We spend less time pushing water uphill, trying to change things we can’t and focus more of our time and energy in places where it matters. We bounce back from adversity faster and begin to see stressors and challenges less as a threat and more of a springboard for positive change.

#4: Creativity

What do we mean? Mindfulness is about having a kind, curious, open attitude to your present moment experiences, whatever they are. There’s a settling of our busy minds over time, which increases our ability to see more clearly and notice all kinds of ideas that we might ordinarily dismiss or miss. Research confirms this and has found meditation helps us be more creative, deepen our insight and see things in new ways. 

How does it impact leadership? One of the reasons Steve Jobs was a meditator was because of the profound impact it had on his intuition, creativity and innovation. We cultivate what’s called a beginner’s mind, which increases our skill in seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes and innovative thinking.

One final thing.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you’re into mindfulness and meditation or not.

What matters is that it's on your radar.

Because meditation is likely to be the next big counterculture movement that will help organizations create resilient leaders and employees who know how to reinvent, overcome and thrive.

Why not take a moment right now to check in on yourself, notice what's hear and breathe.

Then drop a comment or two in the box below and let's connect.

Kate Kerr is Chief Attention Officer & Founder of Wake Up Kate Inc., a consultancy dedicated to delivering mindfulness-based skills to the corporate, education and healthcare sectors. If you want to leverage mindfulness on your leadership journey or within your organization, get in touch, sign up for our free monthly newsletter: or follow Kate @wakeupkate_inc