An older, short-haired woman leans over a younger woman sitting at a laptop. The younger woman looks up at the older woman, who appears to be explaining something.
Emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand yourself, your feelings and your relationship to your work, can also help you understand the perspectives of your employees. — Getty Images/filadendron

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware of your surroundings. Originated by Buddhists, mindful meditation has gained increasing mainstream popularity in the United States and around the globe in recent years. Now, more and more business leaders are using it as a leadership strategy.

What is mindful leadership?

Mindful leadership means being consciously present with your team members and your work. Through this practice, mindful leaders encourage those with whom they're interacting to be mindful as well. While the concept may sound simple, many find it difficult to stay focused and effectively implement the practice into their daily routine.

A good first step to becoming a mindful leader is for leaders to prioritize who they're with and what they're working on in the present moment, and to avoid thinking about other issues that they cannot currently devote their time and attention to. Once they've mastered this approach, they are better able to navigate stressful and last-minute scenarios with calmness and clarity.

Benefits of mindful leadership

Seeing the bigger picture

Many business leaders get stuck on a problem and develop tunnel vision trying to come up with a solution. Mindful leaders, on the other hand, are able to take in what’s going on around them and consider all points of view to find the right solution, as opposed to the most immediate one.

Cultivating a secure company culture

Employees naturally gravitate towards mindful leaders and feel safe and loyal to them. This creates a work culture in which employees are encouraged to speak their minds and operate with less stress and anxiety. They know that a mindful leader trusts and cares about them which will motivate them to want to perform their job to the best of their ability.

[Read more: How to Build Trust Within Your Company]

Managing stress better

Practicing mindfulness helps leaders better manage their stress. Employees follow leadership’s example. When a manager is calm and composed in the face of adversity, it teaches others to do the same. When an entire team is less stressed, they have higher morale and tend to be more productive.

Even if a conflict is entirely out of your control, as the person responsible for the team and the project, you need to be the one to address the issue and work to find a resolution.

Tips for becoming a mindful leader

If you want to become a more mindful leader, here are some steps you can start taking today.

Practice mindfulness in your everyday life

The first step of being mindful at work is being mindful in life. Mindfulness is not a concept you can turn on and off. Implement mindfulness in your daily routine by meditating and being fully present in each moment. At first, mindfulness can be challenging. Start with breathing exercises that bring attention to your mind and body. You can then slowly incorporate the sense of calm and awareness these exercises bring into aspects of your everyday life.

Build your emotional intelligence

Emotional awareness helps you understand yourself, how you're feeling and your relationship to work. When you can separate your personal self from your professional self, you gain more clarity on professional situations and are able to see a new perspective. Having strong emotional intelligence gives leaders the ability to separate external events from their employees and their own emotional reaction to them. By improving your emotional intelligence, you increase your self-awareness and ability to work through your own emotions, as well as those of your colleagues.

[Read more: Emotional Intelligence: A Guide for Businesses & Entrepreneurs]

Take responsibility for your mistakes

As a leader, you need to set the example of accountability and responsibility. Even if a conflict is entirely out of your control, as the person responsible for the team and the project, you need to be the one to address the issue and work to find a resolution. It’s important not to point fingers or blame; rather, practice radical responsibility to empower yourself and your team — even when you are the one who makes a mistake. When you take ownership of your circumstances, it helps you understand what is — and isn’t — in your control, giving you the confidence to move forward in a productive manner.

Value integrity and ethics

It’s important to prioritize integrity and ethics in every interaction when you’re leading a team. Mindful leaders need to be aware of everyone's unique situation and treat everyone with respect. When leaders show that they value integrity and respect within their work practices, others respond to it and do the same, leading to an ethically responsible workplace.

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