How to become a mindful leader
To lead others effectively you need to be able to lead yourself first, says author MS Rao
“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Most of the leadership literature revolves around leading others and deriving satisfaction from it. There is hardly any literature highlighting self-leadership at the moment. In fact, it is easy to preach to others to lead effectively. But what is most challenging is to convince yourself and lead yourself first to enable you to lead others.
It's a well known saying that people can either preach or practice. But there are hardly any people who can preach and practice. Most of the leadership literature is littered with scholars, intellectuals and educators who do intensive research on leadership theories to create new models, styles, tools, and techniques. When they are asked to lead, they find it challenging to lead.
At the same time, there are leaders who hit the ground by following the theory. They lead better than scholars, educators, intellectuals, and preachers. However, they cannot create new leadership theories and models due to a lack of theoretical mindset.
Here I offer some tools and techniques to lead yourself successfully.
- Analyze your strengths and weaknesses to enable you to capitalize your strengths and guard against your weaknesses
- Identify your talents and skills. Build your skills around your talents. People waste their precious time by building talents around skills. Remember, leadership is more of a talent than a skill. Additionally, leadership is a blend of both nature and nurture. Some are partly acquired through heredity (nature) while the majority is acquired through learning, experience, and practice (nurture)
- Learn from the mistakes of others. It is rightly said that wise people learn from the mistakes of others while foolish people learn from their mistakes. Of course, we all become fools one day as we all make mistakes in our lives
- Take calculated risks, and lead by trial and error. If you succeed, you become a leader; if you fail, you become a guide
- Embrace failures but learn from them. Overcome the fear of failure that prevents people from leading
- Inculcate a positive, right, and strong attitude. Don’t let your failures distract your attention and disrupt your traction
- Emphasize ideas rather than individuals. Avoid wasting your time on issues that disrupt your traction
- Read books widely to understand various perspectives on leadership to put them into practice. Remember, no amount of theoretical knowledge helps unless you put it into practice. You cannot become a crack shot unless you lose some ammunition. Be prepared to lose some energy, time, and resources while leading to achieve leadership effectiveness and excellence
- Hire coaches or mentors to acquire leadership ideas and insights
- Take feedback from reliable sources regularly to improve your leadership abilities and skills
- Learn, unlearn and relearn because no specific styles and models work forever in leadership. Remember, leadership is a continuous learning process
- Don’t bother about criticism. Be thick-skinned to excel as a leader.
Become a mindful leader
To grow as a mindful leader, you must pay more attention to what is happening “inside” than what is happening “outside.” To become a mindful leader, regularly spend some to reflect your thoughts. Focus on your breath. Do meditation. Go for a mindfulness course or attend a workshop to understand mindfulness. Aldous Huxley remarked: “In all activities of life, the secret of efficiency lies in an ability to combine two seemingly incompatible states: a state of maximum activity and a state of maximum relaxation.”
Leadership is easier said than done. John Maxwell quoted: “Leadership is more of a Crock-Pot proposition. It takes time, but the end product is worth the wait.” Hence, come out of your comfort zone to evolve and excel as a leader. It is the unwise people who endeavor to conquer the world without conquering themselves. As Peter F Drucker rightly remarked: “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.” Hence, conquer yourself to conquer others. Similarly, lead yourself first to lead others.
Professor MS Rao is the Father of 'Soft Leadership' and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. This is an adapted excerpt from his award-wining book See the Light in You: Acquire Spiritual Powers to Achieve Mindfulness, Wellness, Happiness, and Success