Research shows us that mindfulness can serve as a key tool for leaders in corporations worldwide. This form of leadership enables managers to be mindful of themselves, employees, customers, and changing market needs. Through mindfulness, leaders can create workplaces that engage talented people and enable them to express themselves, be creative, and develop innovative products and services that add value for customers in their markets.
However, in the real world, we’re starting to see what mindful leadership looks like in practice. Global organizations such as Aetna have been joined by LinkedIn, SAP, General Mills, Check Point, Verint, Intel, Google, Apple, Nike, Salesforce, and others to offer mindfulness programs to their employees. At Aetna, for example, over 20,000 employees have participated in their mindfulness programs. In their Mindfulness Challenge program, participants experienced an 18% reduction in stress, while in their Mindfulness at Work program, participants showed a 36% reduction in stress and a 24% improvement in productivity.
These organizations have learned that when their employees act mindfully, their behaviors:
- Improve communication between team members
- Increase productivity and positive customer outcomes
- Support a sense of belonging, social connection, and compassion
- Increase an agility mindset and a creative solution orientation
These companies’ mindfulness practices may be even more important in the pandemic era as corporate leaders contend with new challenges. With a need to increase employee well-being and decrease anxiety, leaders can use mindful practices to stave off their team members’ stress and burnout.
The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2021 survey even states that well-being has been rising on the organizational agenda for several years, with 80% of their survey respondents identifying it as important or very important to their organization’s success even before the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
No matter what challenges we face, leaders know that we need to create good relationships with our employees, customers, vendors, and all stakeholders—and this is where mindfulness matters most. A cardinal part of creating an interpersonal connection is embodying trust and partnership-based relationships. As teamwork becomes ever more paramount and traditional leadership, based on hierarchal relationships and authority, falls away, building trust-based relationships becomes critical to effective work. Mindful leadership helps us navigate the new hybrid workplace, in which flexible and creative solutions are required to engage employees.
Another crucial outcome of mindful leadership is embracing tensions instead of closing them. Presence and mindfulness are characterized, in part, by paradox as well. The modern organization is filled with tensions: between the short term and the long term, speed, and quality, between employee needs and organization needs. A mindful leader must confront a central tension between doing and being to handle this tension. This means being present while listening and taking it a step further by actualizing this presence into realistic business terms. As managers, we have always learned that we need to do the right things to promote and push people, projects, and processes. This means we may become too focused on doing.