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Leaders, Mindfulness, & Emotional Intelligence

Training for Leaders

I’m pretty constantly torn between focusing #emotionalintelligence and #mindfulness development on managers & leaders or focusing on developing highly effective and self-reliant teams.

Part of it for me is pragmatic – leaders are a more cohesive and identifiable audience, are often more motivated to embrace development (especially #newmanagers), and can as the quote below indicates influence a team. But I’ve also seen the data on EI in teams: when you develop the whole team they perform and behave just like a team with a high EI leader … and don’t depend on the leader to be that way.

For a long time there has been this assumption that a leader’s behavior will create the same behavior in a team. *shrug* Maybe. Sometimes. I guess the proof for me would lie in the consistency of the result. And here my own experience – for better or worse – gets in the way. I have been part of bad teams with a good leader, good teams with a troubled leader, and mediocre teams with good and troubled leaders. It’s not arithmetic.

Who are your leaders??

Mindfulness and Informal Leadership

When we get curious about what a “leader” in a team is, though, it doesn’t take too long to realize that the assumption above is a little bit of an artifact of “command-and-control” leadership. Most complex organizations have titular leaders and “authentic informal leaders”. You probably know who these people are in your organization. They’re the ones you talk to to get take a temperature check on an initiative. They’re the ones who stand up for their colleagues. They’re the ones who show up for the extra work, who are more committed and more engaged. They’re the ones who help you as a titular leader see where your attention needs to go. They’re the ones who can derail or drive your change programs.

The quote below is a perfect example of this “top-down” development by diffusion attitude that I’m realizing drives me nuts. It’s from a review article from September 2022 looking at leadership training and mindfulness. (Human Resource Management Review Volume 32, Issue 3, September 2022) I’ve added some emphasis

“While employee wellbeing and stress reduction have long been the primary driver of mindfulness education in organizations for employees in general (Eby et al., 2019), recent research reveals the discernible link between mindfulness and leader development. It does so by reaching beyond personal wellbeing and work productivity to address a variety of ways in which mindfulness interventions and practices could benefit leaders as a specific audience and improve leadership quality. A specific line of research focuses on the interpersonal influences of mindfulness and suggests that a leader’s mindfulness can influence people other than the leader (e.g., Eby, Robertson, & Facteau, 2020Schuh, Zheng, Xin, & Fernandez, 2019). Research also indicates that leaders view mindfulness-based practices as something that supports their growth as human beings and leaders (e.g., Goldman-Schuyler et al., 2017Lychnell, 2017). Overall, research suggests that mindfulness is seen as a method to assist in managing change and transformation (e.g., Goldman-Schuyler et al., 2017Hunter, 2015Kuechler & Stedham, 2018).” 

Organizational Mindfulness

“Supports their growth as human beings and leaders” … “Mindfulness is seen as a method to assist in managing change and transformation.” Why shouldn’t all people in your organization be supported in their growth as human beings and leaders? Are leaders the only people who have to navigate, embrace, and support change?? When we start to challenge the notion of “leader” and when shift perspective to see the value of offering this kind of training and resource to all, the focus must also change.

This is where organizational mindfulness (it’s not meditation) comes in. I so appreciate the training products and focus of The Institute for Organizational Science and Mindfulness. Targeted mindfulness practices and their benefits can support every level of an organization (the research and social proof is very compelling). Would you rather have a mindful leader or a mindful team? Why not both?? Organizational Mindfulness starts from the premise that we can infuse mindfulness across all aspects and functions of our organizations. Not only to enhance our wellness but also to work better and more efficiently. Not only to develop more capable leaders but also to build better teams.

I’ve never been one for trickle down economics. I’m less and less convinced that trickle down development is any better. Mindfulness (and emotional intelligence) development is good for your people, good for your product, good for your customers, and good for your bottomline.

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