Mindfulness and empathy in leadership

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I recently attended a Women in Leadership forum hosted by the Australian Director Institute, and had the privilege of listening to four remarkable women, one of which was The Hon. Julia Gillard, speak on the topic of resilience. In which the overriding message was about the importance of bringing mindfulness and empathy into leadership.

As leaders, resilience is something we put into practice regularly. But what about mindfulness and empathy? How prevalent are they in today’s leadership practices, and what direct impact do they have?

In striving to answer that question, I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review by Belinda Parmar on the most, and least, empathetic companies of 2016 http://bit.ly/2gJ1I8J and how empathy in leadership has become more important than ever amidst continued global economic uncertainty. She talks about how developing empathetic culture directly correlates to company growth, productivity, and revenue generation.
So how do we go about bringing mindfulness and empathy into leadership?

Be courageously vulnerable

Mindfulness is about creating awareness. Paying attention to people’s thoughts and feelings without judgement. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
As leaders I believe that if we can be courageously vulnerable, learn to say things out loud, speak outwardly about how we feel inwardly, and meaningfully engage with those around us, it is a great place to start in creating an environment of trust. Where people feel ok to fail, as long as they have done everything they can to succeed, and have the scope to thrive.

Do what you can, when you can

I have learnt never to underestimate the impact we have on those around us as leaders; doing what we can, when we can, with the resources available to us, is all it takes to have impact. Taking the time to communicate openly, and lead with authenticity is key.

Be responsive, not reactive

Being a leader who takes time to reflect, process thought and emotion, and then respond accordingly, means people come to know what to expect from you, because you’re consistent. As such they will feel more comfortable communicating openly with you. Without that, we miss the opportunity to help, and to instigate positive change. Create a safe environment of open communication, and reap the rewards.
If every one of us as leaders actively took these three things, and implemented them into our daily leadership practices, with the sole aim of bringing a higher level of mindfulness and empathy to the workforce, I do sit and wonder at just how much is possible.

If you’re an industry leader, and share an interest in this particular topic, I’d love to hear from you, on what steps you’ve taken to instill a greater sense of mindfulness and empathy into your culture.