I am always on the lookout for inspiring, real-life examples of corporate leaders who embody mindfulness. This morning while enjoying my ritual morning chai at a local West Perth cafe, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation between three people at the next table.
To use HR speak, it was an ‘on-boarding’ meeting between two business owners and a new employee they were orientating to their business. And as I listened-in with interest on their dialogue, it soon became apparent that these were two very mindful leaders.
The focus of their exchange over a coffee wasn’t about policy and process, or performance expectations, reporting relationships or even the expected hours of the job. The focus was about getting to know the new employee and finding out what they needed from the organisation to work at their best. Sure, they shared an inspiring business vision and described their workplace culture, but the exchange was more about connecting and understanding than telling.
The tone of the conversation was calm and spacious. There were several relaxed pauses after each person spoke that showed deep listening. Even though one of the business owners had to leave shortly after the meeting began to attend another meeting, there was no hint of rush or urgency to cover a heap of material or to get across a particular viewpoint.
The two business owners each talked about their families and the challenges around balancing work and family life. One shared about their morning meditation practice which helped them to manage stress and to be kinder to their partner. The other said they loved cycling and invited the new employee to join their local group.
A positive, yet gentle rapport had soon developed to the point where the new employee took the time to reveal some quite personal health information that needed extra care to manage whilst at work. Without hesitation, the business owner gave a clear commitment of support and offered to create a work-station that better met the new employees’ needs.
A mindful leader embodies leadership presence through their focus, clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others. I could clearly sense all four of these mindful leadership qualities. But what I found most striking (and delightful) about this encounter was that none of these three people meeting were women – they were all men.
Professional men, dressed in charcoal suits who each bore a strong physical presence and air of success, as well as a quirky, relaxed and compassionate warmth.
I’m not suggesting that men are not mindful leaders. I am fortunate to personally know many inspirational male leaders who are very self-aware! But often it’s been my experience that the ‘softer skills’ essential for successful and mindful corporate leadership like creativity and compassion are given lesser importance and are therefore less developed in the average male leader.
We can all learn to lead with excellence by cultivating our inherent capabilities to focus on what’s important, to see more clearly what is presenting itself, to foster greater creativity and to embody compassion.
Mindfulness for both male and female leaders alike involves making more conscious choices about how we manage at work, how we manage ourselves and how we live our lives.
This mindful leadership that I was privileged to witness first-hand just made my day.
Natalie Snooke is an experienced Mindful Leadership Coach, Meditation Teacher and the founder of Momentum. She specialises in guiding leaders to develop focus, presence, creativity and compassion in their personal and professional lives. She has a background in human resource management and takes a pragmatic yet light-hearted approach to her work.