5 Mindful Behaviors That Increase Leadership Capacity

5  Mindful Behaviors That Increase Leadership Capacity


Applying mindfulness to everyday leadership practices is a life style choice for the leader and a shift in culture for organizations adopting mindfulness as a practice to innovate, improve productivity, increase quality, lower costs and improve sustainability.   I know what you’re thinking.   Practicing mindfulness can impact business goals??  Yes, mindfulness leads to improved performance.

For all the Doubting Thomas types, you should know quantitative data is being collected daily from all over the world by experts in business, medicine, neuroscience, industrial psychology, and higher education. The performance data is provided in partnership with companies like SAP, McKenzie & Co., Aetna, Google, Ford Motor Company, Bank of America, Apple and the United State Marine Corps. Are you surprised to learn such traditional stalwarts of manufacturing, finance and the armed forces like Ford, Bank of America and the Marine Corp are investing in mindfulness training?  See citations at end of this blog to gain additional insights about which companies are implementing mindfulness and why. 

Why Does Mindfulness Matter?

Did you know on average, we experience 87 interruptions per day? (an average of 22 external interruptions and 65 triggered by the individual) 58% of smartphone users don’t go 1 hour without checking the phones.  From these numbers we can begin to imagine the impact on performance from being distracted and disconnected.  Leaders are not immune to the impact of distractions.  We need to be perfectly clear on why mindful leaders demonstrate greater leadership capacity and the common behaviors they exhibit.   The most commonly observable and impactful behaviors demonstrated by mindful leaders include greater focus, clarity, creativity, compassion and humility in service to peers and employees. 

A Day in the Life of a Distracted Leader

Let me tell you a story about Anthony Schmitt, CEO, Vanguard Manufacturing.   Vanguard has 830 employees and provides customized metal frames for signs and ventilation screens that are shipped to customers all over North America. The company has been in business for 45 years and is experiencing its best sales volume in in the past 5 years.  Vanguard is a family owned business. Anthony’s father opened the doors in 1975.   Many of the employees started when the company was new and includes several relatives including Anthony’s siblings and two cousins. 

So, what’s the problem? Production isn’t keeping up with demand; skilled workers are not available to expand production because of record low unemployment rates; increased healthcare costs are taking a bigger bite out of profits and there is tremendous pressure from a shrinking market where Vanguard is ranked #2 and #1, their competitor, wants to buy them out.   Anthony can’t seem to get a handle on day to day issues of complaints about quality, late deliveries or challenges with the supply chain let alone execute long-term strategy.  

Anthony is very distracted.   His brain is trained to flit from emails or phone calls from frustrated clients, back to back meetings where he tries to focus on strategy, and difficult conversations driven by conflicting opinions from the leadership team who has not yet presented a strategy for the way forward that doesn’t include selling out to the competition!   Another distraction is a constant train of thoughts reminding Anthony of a time when leading and managing was not so volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. 

Okay, you get the picture.  This story is a compilation of all our clients that range from 125 -14,000 employees in healthcare, finance, manufacturing, technology, non-profits, hospitality and retail. Many companies are starting to realize mindfulness leadership training can improve performance and employee engagement while reducing stress related healthcare costs.

Focus is needed because our ability to target and sustain attention is critical for problem-solving which is almost impossible because we are continually distracted and pulled away.

Clarity is needed to see what is – not what we expect to see based on previous experience or what we project the future will be. 

Creativity drives innovation which will keep your company and you in demand.

Compassion is about cultivating true understanding of what employees need and want from leaders today and compassion for yourself as you develop self-awareness and realize great leaders don’t have all the answers and are not afraid to say so.  We call that humility.

Humility gives leaders the grace to receive the gift of feedback, the awareness of their strengths and weakness, the empathy to value diverse opinions and experiences, and the desire to never stop learning.

One more thing you may find helpful whether you aspire to improve your own leadership capacity or wish to bring mindfulness training to your executive team and others to shift the culture of your company.   Start by learning and adopting mindfulness practices so you can better understand the challenges of becoming disciplined with techniques that best suit you and, most importantly, the benefits of improved creativity, personal productivity, improved relationships, and less stress at work and at home.  

Early Adopter Citations and References

NBC News, Jan, 2013 - CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The U.S. Marine Corps, known for turning out some of the military's toughest warriors, is studying how to make its troops even tougher through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching and exercises based on mindfulness. The military has been searching for ways to reduce strains on service members with a record suicide rate.  According to Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese the techniques can help warfighters think more clearly under fire and help them reset their nervous systems after combat.

4-traders, Jan. 2018 – NEW YORK, NY - Many financial institutions and insurance companies such as Aetna, State Farm, Nationwide, Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, The World Bank, TD Ameritrade, UBS and many others have experimented with mindfulness training. Mindfulness isn't just practiced on a beach, in a garden, a yoga studio or some other peaceful location. It is moving into a very unlikely environment; the corporate world. Corporations and mindful leadership seem to be at odds with each other. After all, when one thinks of the corporate world, one thinks of deadlines, competition, high pressure and long shifts.

Media.Ford.com Sept 2017 – DEARBORN, Mich.  -  Promoting well-being in the workplace is not just a company priority – it’s what people want. Nearly 80 percent of American adults believe mindfulness matters, that it’s not just a fad, while 58 percent say they consciously try to disconnect from their devices to improve their well-being, according to Ford’s 2016 Trend Report. Bettering individual well-being and improving company fitness go together. Several Ford partners in the initiative will be on hand to provide tips to reduce stress and improve overall health. According to the clinical advocacy group Health Advocate, stress-related illnesses can cost a business between $200 and $300 billion a year in lost productivity.


Midge Streeter

As the Director of Talent Management & Culture, Midge Streeter leads three interrelated areas of professional focus: Culture Alignment and Employee Engagement, Leadership Development and Building Cohesive Teams. Through executive coaching, organizational and individual assessments, workshops and leadership retreats, Midge uses her years of experience in manufacturing, financial services, telecommunication and professional services, in addition to a long list of certifications, to customize all organizational effectiveness solutions designed to help companies achieve their business goals.