5 Ways to Lead More Mindfully

Deborah Dugan
29th May, 2018

There is no denying it, we are living in an age of constant distractions.

As a leader, it is crucial for you and the companies you will lead to pause and focus on how and when you can amplify much-needed compassion in this world. When we focus on our values and try to solve the world’s problems the results are staggering.

We are living through a noble paradox of sorts. There is so much telling us we have lost our way and yet, in spite of all the distraction, polarization and confusion, more good work is being done to eliminate human suffering than ever before.

Deb Dugan speaking at the 2018 Mindful Leadership Summit

Let’s look at psychologist and Harvard professor, Steven Pinker. During his 2018 TED Talk, Is the World Getting Better or Worse? A Look at the Numbers,Pinker argues humanity as a whole is improving. Using data to back his claims, Pinker illustrates how today literacy is at a record high with more than 90% of the world’s population under the age of 25 being able to read and write and only 10% of the world’s population currently lives in extreme poverty, compared to 37% thirty years ago.

So, back to the paradox – there are distractions yet we seem to be, as Pinker puts it, entering into a new age of enlightenment that perhaps will force a greater sense of purpose. As business awakens into this new epoch, so too should you.

Great progress has been made, but there’s still more work to be done. Following are just a few simple ways to cut through the noise and set you on the path of mindful leadership in a world yearning for social change:

Inspire and Mentor

We all care deeply about something and we all have important idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. Too often we lose our sense of purpose and empowerment in the banality of the everyday rat race that can be work life.

Humans are hardwired to help one another. All of civilization is built on that specific evolutionary trait; the one that makes us want to feel like we are contributing to something greater than ourselves.

I suggest introducing new projects that inspire a sense of community for you and your coworkers. Whether that means signing a new client that does exceptional humanitarian work or simply volunteering an hour each week of everyone’s time for their campaign of choice. Focus on others and your ultimate purpose and passion will reveal itself.

A true leader shares their experience and knowledge to empower future leaders, so become a mentor. Don’t tell your mentee, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can get just as much benefit from the relationship as being on the other side. The best way to move forward is to learn from the past. Having someone to share your stories of achievement, missteps and aspirations forces you to confront yourself as a mindful leader.

People are a lot better at giving advice than heeding it. Giving advice to the kid just starting out, that’s the easy part. The hard part is reflecting on how you take your own words of wisdom into action. Once you’ve pinpointed that purpose, lay out ways in the past you have and haven’t achieved that purpose. This will help you and your mentee steer clear of past misdirection’s to maximize your impact and happiness.

Be Aware and Trust  

One of the most important aspects of leadership, from mentorship to management, is awareness. As I mentioned, we’re living in an unprecedented era of immediate action and reaction; too often the simple act of observation is underrated and overlooked. Your career, company and community is hinged on the amount in which you practice mindfulness.

I never thought of myself as a creative person until years ago, when my boss at the time, Steve Murphy, told me I was. Murphy, then president of EMI Records, was trained in mindfulness and even studied under mindfulness expert Michael Carrol. So, when Steve leaned over to me and said: “You are more creative than you know. You’re always finding the hit single. You’re always getting the photograph that resonates,” – I believed him. That small endorsement changed how I thought about myself and my career. Suddenly, I saw something that until then only those around me were able to see.

The point is not to go out and seek your nearest monk-for-hire, but rather to purposefully observe yourself and those around you. Practice awareness daily. Learn about and from your employees. When you inevitably find that spark of intuitive talent, trust that instinct and trust your team. Your team will then begin to trust themselves.

Lead with Values

Speaking of trust, earlier this year Edelman released their 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Report, which breaks downs global trust in government, media, and business. While trust in government has declined over the past six years, media is now considered the least trusted institution in the wake of real vs. fake news.

This current distrust demands a sense of creditability and as a future CEO, you must step in. According to the report, 64% believe and expect CEOs to lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it. As the next wave of global leaders, I find it refreshing to know that 76% of millennials now regard business as a force of positive social change. The success of a business should be measured in terms of social impact, not just financial gain.

The world is looking to future leaders like you, not governments, to solve the worlds ills. CEOs are now transformative leaders and activists. Take, for example, Marc Benioff, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce. Benioff has not only addressed gender pay inequality at his organization, he’s threatened to move operations out of the state of Georgia due to a proposed religious freedom bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. More recently, Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, banned the sale of assault-style weapons after the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

 With such a heavy weight to carry, you have no time to meander.

As writer Annie Dillard once said, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

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