Mindful Leadership at the workplace
  • Employee Management

Mindful Leadership - How mindful leadership succeeds

Sabrina Fiorin

Digital transformation, "Great Resignation", the shift to hybrid and remote work and the increasing workload in recent years are just some of the current challenges for leaders.

Former leadership styles such as the authoritarian or laissez-faire style have largely evolved and made way for situational leadership models. But is this enough to better deal with the challenges on the one hand, and to motivate and inspire one's team on the other? 

For some time now, there has been a new trend, which is being discussed above all in the context of New Work and has the potential to create a more pleasant and efficient working atmosphere for employees and managers: Mindful leadership. We talked to Carla Lippert (expert in leadership) about it. 


What is mindful leadership?

How does mindful leadership differ from other leadership styles and what are the advantages?

Mindful leadership is characterised, among other things, by being completely present in the here and now as a leader, consciously directing one's attention and focusing on what is needed at the moment, what can be the greatest possible contribution. It is about consciously perceiving situations, people and challenges and thus opening the space for new and creative solutions.

A very essential feature of Mindful Leadership is consistent leadership in the sense of the conscious perception process or the simple cascade of action (after Johann Schneider, 2013).

How does the conscious perception process work?

1. Pause: The first step is to pause: no matter how stressful, how complicated a situation is, how great the pressure or the demands are. I pause. It is this moment when I inwardly say "stop" and take a step to the side. I interrupt habitual, automated actions and thinking. 

2. Perception: In the next step, I go into perception. With all my senses I scan the current situation, the person, the challenges. We can imagine that we have numerous antennas that are now stretching out their feelers in all directions, outside and inside, and thus perceive what is going on. It's about perceiving without judging. That is, I observe without judging or evaluating. I remain completely neutral. 

3. Action: In the next step (action), I consider what to do now based on my observations, i.e. I act and act consciously. 

4. Review: In the fourth step, I review my actions and look at the result.

What does the process bring?

Through this process of perception, I open the space for new ideas, for creativity, as I step out of habitual patterns, automatisms, out of this "we have always done it this way".

The more often I practise this process, the more naturally I go through it (within a few seconds): it becomes a positive automatism that supports us in dealing with stress, pressure and challenges differently. On the one hand, we invite new ideas and creativity for new approaches, on the other hand, we save energy by acting consciously and purposefully or by consciously not acting.

How can you recognise mindful leaders?

Leaders who are practised in mindfulness or mindful leadership are characterised by a strong presence, they are completely attentive and at peace with themselves. No situation, no matter how stressful, no colleague, no matter how annoying and demanding, can throw them off track. They are interested, open, approachable and navigate unerringly and resourcefully even through turbulent times. 

Mindful leaders are aware of themselves, their values, their attitudes and motives, their abilities and potentials, without pushing themselves into the centre. Authenticity is what distinguishes them, as well as fearlessness, courage and a deep connection to themselves. They lead themselves actively and consistently. They are aware that this is the only way they can implement excellent leadership, which enables success and growth, in the company.

These leaders are characterised by a high level of self-reflection, self-direction, self-responsibility and self-care, which, in turn, pays into strong resilience.

The perception glasses of managers

One of my favourite characteristics of leaders who have internalised Mindful Leadership is the way they deal with perception: we all look at the world, at situations, at challenges through our perception glasses. These glasses include all the experiences we have had so far, our habits, values and family of origin.

Being aware of this helps immensely in leadership and collective interaction. Another aspect is that we all have the possibility and ability to change our glasses, to choose them anew. This is also a very crucial aspect that should be taken into account in leadership and can be a valuable support for staff in their development.


New expectations and challenges - how to best deal with them?

What are the main challenges facing managers today? In this German study "Arbeitsrealität 2021", 93% of the respondents stated that they would like to see more communication at eye level and be more involved in decisions. What other expectations of your own manager have developed or changed as a result of the pandemic?

In times of change, uncertainty and crisis, leaders need a high degree of orientation, support and direction: What is the big vision, what is the purpose in all our being and doing? 

This means that leaders themselves must be clear about this and also communicate this to their team - in the sense of participation. What is needed is lively and appreciative cooperation in which responsibility is clearly defined and lived. 

Mindful leadership is a great advantage in this regard, to consciously become aware of what is needed and what is not; in which form each individual can make a maximum contribution. 

Mindful leadership for better or for worse

It is always necessary to go through the phases of the perception process, to invite new solutions without judgement, to question the existing, to let things be and to step out of the usual comfort zone. 

Mindful leadership does not mean that everything is always comfortable and easy. It also stands for consistently going through uncomfortable phases, through fears, to open up the space for new possibilities. 

Especially in the current times, excellent leadership is more in demand than ever: leadership that inspires, that creates a creative and vibrant environment. Leadership that encourages but also challenges. Leadership at eye level means that all parties must be aware of their responsibility and implement it, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable it may be. 

Excellent leadership means being in good balance - in balance with the outside and with oneself.


5 tips to get back into balance

Many people currently find it difficult to control their thoughts and emotions because of the constant stress. What tips do you have for people who would like to find more balance in their everyday life but don't know exactly where to start?

1. Minute of presence

Allow yourself to be consciously in the here and now. Take a minute in which you concentrate only on your breath, no more and no less. If thoughts come to your mind, notice them, let them go and focus on your breath again. If you feel or your body hurts, just notice this too and then focus on your breath again. 

These small moments allow you to calm down for a moment, to ground yourself, to recharge your energy and strength.

2. Thought management

This is about becoming aware of your thoughts and controlling them.

Take a moment, focus on your breath and then turn your attention to your thoughts.

Notice the proportion of your thoughts that are positive and the proportion that are negative.

Notice the proportion of your thoughts that are past, future or present-oriented.

Energy follows attention. Mindful leadership also means consciously directing our attention to where we want it to be.

Prioritise the right thoughts

For example, if our thoughts are very much in the past, we put our energy exactly there and we have less energy available in the here and now. Rather, we have the feeling that it costs us a lot of energy and effort. Therefore, it is extremely valuable to think carefully about what kind of thoughts you want to prioritise.

Think about which thoughts you consciously want more of: perhaps more positive thoughts, more thoughts that are sorted by the present?

You alone control your thoughts. Your thoughts decide how you feel, what energy you are in, what or how you do or lead something.

If you find that you are stuck in a thought carousel from time to time, then allow yourself to store your thoughts. Take a piece of paper and write down your thoughts, just like that, without thinking about them, without them making sense. You will feel that your thought carousel will come to rest.

3. Your personal source of energy

We often have the feeling that situations, stress, other people cost us energy. Especially at the end of a week, we feel drained and exhausted.

We can change this by (re)discovering our energy source and filling it continuously.

It is our personal choice in which energy we are and whether or not we allow ourselves to be drained of energy - even if it takes some practice:

Take a few minutes and think about what activities, situations, encounters with people you had today. How was your energy level, how did your body feel, what emotions were there?

This will give you a good overview of which situations, activities, people give you energy - i.e. fill your energy tank - and which take energy away from you. 

Now it is a matter of expanding the energy givers - "more of it" - and reducing or completely omitting the energy takers.

4. Set yourself an intention - bedside exercise

After getting up in the morning, sit down consciously on the edge of your bed, a chair or a sofa and set yourself an intention for today: In which energy do you want to be, with which attitude do you want to go through your day, who do you want to be perceived as, how much do you want to be stressed, etc.?

Consciously choose one aspect for your day and remind yourself of it again and again (e.g. a reminder on your mobile phone). 

This way you will gradually come more into your inner balance, be the person you want to be and how you want to lead.

5. Acknowledge yourself

Often we are very aware of what was stressful during the day, what may have gone wrong, what we were angry about.

All of this does not lead us back to our balance, to our equilibrium.

Therefore, take 2-3 minutes in the evening for your recognition. Write down, for example in a small notebook, all the points that you are proud of today, for which you can acknowledge yourself. It can be the cup of coffee you drank in peace. It can be a no, a pleasant conversation. It doesn't matter how big or small, how significant or insignificant it may seem. It's about noticing these things and moments and acknowledging yourself for them. By doing that, you put the focus, your attention on it and make it bigger.


Does a rethink have to take place throughout the company?

Some managers are already aware of the importance of mindful leadership, but how do you deal with it when the management sees it differently?

From my experience in supporting organisations and coaching leaders, the key is to make Mindful Leadership tangible. 

We often try to convince or argue that others are already doing it or that it is the new trend. But all this usually does not lead to a real change in thinking - it creates pressure. And pressure is repulsive. Pressure creates resistance, is anything but inviting. Therefore, in my view, it is valuable to generate curiosity, to make Mindful Leadership tangible, attractive. 

This can be individual leaders and teams who are already fans of it and who have developed new ideas, solutions and a different way of working together. It can be employees who tell their colleagues about it and radiate this inspiring, pulsating feeling. 

I like to talk about the so-called "Hey Yes" energy, this energy of "I want that too, absolutely". 

And it is also about making the advantages, the benefits, visible for each individual.

What is the advantage of mindful leadership?

I myself, as a leader, am in my power, in my energy, I am powerful and clear without the feeling of tension or exhaustion. I am bubbling over with new ideas and creativity. And yes, I get up in the morning with this feeling of joy and enthusiasm, this confidence that I really can master anything - no matter how stressful or challenging it is. I know how to inspire and motivate my team so that they develop their full potential and come into excellence. 

It is also about being in balance myself, between all the demands outside and what is important to me, what gives me energy; in a balance between job and private, which makes me realise, for example, that there is less stress and discussions at home, too. 

Mindful leadership starts with ourselves! 

It means leading myself consciously, powerfully and clearly. And that can be a starting point: let the management feel it in themselves. Let them experience how it makes a difference for them personally, in what energy and power they can be on the road through it, that they become downright magnetic and attractive through it and thus create an environment in which others naturally want to contribute.



How can you create more awareness of mindfulness in the company in general?

In the end, isn't it always about wanting to live a happy and fulfilled life, about wanting to be part of a community, a successful organisation, that is attractive, that invites joy and fun, that promotes togetherness and gives space for development, for growth, for participation and responsibility? 

From my experience, it is important to see people as individuals, with all their potentials and strengths. To promote and develop these and thus give them the opportunity to be able to make a valuable contribution.

As a leader, I am allowed to become aware of all these factors. 

And from my point of view, this includes first becoming aware of myself: 

Who am I, how do I want to appear, what contribution do I want to make? It is about strengthening my potentials and abilities and being completely myself. 

Be space for others

If we achieve this, then we also have the ability to be space for others. The space it takes for success and growth, the space it takes so that others can also develop. 

In the end, I ensure more awareness by BEING as a leader - fully myself, powerful and clear, in my energy, full of passion and inspiration, because then I am also in my awareness and am Mindfulness itself.

How can leaders support employees to become their best version?

By modelling it and being the best version of themselves - speaking fully themselves. This means being courageous, being authentic, being clear, being fully in your own energy. It also means leading yourself consistently: Self-reflection, self-responsibility, self-direction and self-care. 

And it means allowing emotions, showing feelings, being weak once in a while and accepting support - being fully human, fully myself.

As a leader, I can and must give space for development, space for empowerment, emotions, vulnerability and trust. I can give all this if I allow myself this space and lead myself in a mindful and conscious way.


Author description:

Carla Lippert accompanies top managers and executives towards more excellence in leadership.

She has more than 14 years of leadership and management experience in corporate groups and a high level of practical expertise as a transactional analysis consultant and coach. 

Her passion is to accompany people with ease into their true potential to be an inspiring and valuable contribution as a leader: successful, clear and authentic and in good balance with oneself.

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