Mindful Leadership Brings Multiple Rewards

By Dori Meinert Jun 21, 2016
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2016 Annual Conference & Exposition
2016 Annual Conference & Exposition
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How much of our time is spent trying to change others? It’s an ineffective practice, at best. At worst, it can be destructive.

A better course of action is to focus on changing ourselves and to lead by example, said Pandit Dasa, meditation instructor, author and professor, speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition on June 20.

“Change is never easy,” but without introspection, change will never happen, said Dasa, a professor at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City who presented a Masters Series session on “Principles of Mindful Leadership.”

The common definition of a leader is one who has the ability to meet goals. But a mindful leader prioritizes people over productivity, he said.

“If people are happy and cared for, they’re going to be more productive,” Dasa said.

A major turning point in his life occurred when he was young. He and his immigrant parents came to the U.S. in 1980, and his parents worked seven days a week for years, eventually building a multimillion-dollar business in California. However, they lost everything in a fire.

To learn how to deal with that reversal in their fortune, Dasa spent time at a monastery in Mumbai, India, and then spent 15 years living as a monk in New York City.

He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

He now carries that message to those in the corporate world where job stress is costing employers more than $300 billion a year, he said, citing a study by ComPsych that found 46 percent of the workers surveyed attributed their stress to their workload, while 28 percent said they were stressed by the people they worked with. Another 20 percent said stress stemmed from their difficulty juggling work and personal life, and 6 percent blamed a lack of job security. Workplace stress is causing greater absenteeism, turnover, insurance costs and workers’ compensation awards, the study found.

Applying the principles of mindfulness to the workplace, Dasa urged leaders at every level to help create an environment where egos aren’t driving the organization down and where everyone feels appreciated. Those mindfulness principles are:

  • Lead by example. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t delegate the difficult work. They were out front actually doing it, Dasa said.
  • Show appreciation. If showing appreciation is like a deposit in the bank, then giving feedback, or criticism, is like a withdrawal. Ask yourself: “Am I making more withdrawals than deposits?” A mindful leader wants to “create a culture where people appreciate each other and aren’t threatened by others’ success,” he said.
  • Be humble. Put your ego aside, recognize your weaknesses and seek input from others.
  • Develop your communication skills. Dasa said the monks taught him that, when you speak, be truthful and make sure your words are beneficial to others. Good communication builds trust.
  • Keep your emotions in check. Anger has the ability to override our intelligence, making us lose clarity and objectivity, he said. When you feel anger building, step out of the room and take a breath, he advised.
  • Meditate. Mindful leaders recognize the importance of having a trained and healthy brain, he said. Research has shown that meditation improves both physical and mental health, he added. It can increase your productivity and creativity, boost your memory, and reduce your anxiety and stress.

Dori Meinert is senior writer/editor for HR Magazine.

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