How to be an inspiring leader in an ever busy world.

There is a leadership crisis in the office. In your company. And with you as a leader. So much so that majority of employees surveyed in global surveys by Gallup would much rather forgo a pay increase in order to get their bosses fired !! 

 You think you are different ? 

You may be surprised. 77% of leaders think they do well but 82% of their employees think they don’t. There is a 80% chance you are a worse leader than you think.

As a result companies run training courses, retreats, workshops, bring snacks and food into the office, look at all kinds of remuneration solutions. Most of these things are not working. 

The biggest factor that drives successful leadership, according to authors of a new book “ The Mind of the Leader” is self leadership. It’s not about the strategy or the bold vision but about whether the leader is mindful, aware, present and compassionate. This determines whether they can truly engage with their teams and motivate them to perform at their best.

 It’s a sad truth that as per research leaders are distracted roughly 47% of the time. Not listening, not being fully present, doing emails in meetings when others are presenting are some examples of the same. 

As a result leaders are ineffective and their teams are less and less engaged. Even more so if they happen to be leaders with a hero complex who like to make things happen by diktat and push.

As a result 65% of leaders admit they fail to do all the important tasks ahead of them everyday or they feel overwhelmed in trying to do them. Do you ?

What is the solution ? Before we manage others we must manage ourselves successfully. To do so research shows 3 leadership traits we need to cultivate that are core to successful leadership in an age of busyness, distraction and technology.

  1. Mindfulness Is the Secret – The ancient hindu and buddhist meditation secret of mindfulness is the no.1 quality leaders need to develop. It is the ability to be fully present in the moment and to be fully aware. To notice as you get distracted and bring back your attention to the moment and what matters. It means doing one thing really really well at a time and tuning out of others. This elevates your capacity to do work, increases creativity, shows the other people in the room especially your team how valuable they are to you and is shown to dramatically increase both productivity and happiness. So how does one develop mindfulness. A few simple practices that you can begin today
    1. Single Tasking – Multi tasking is a myth. It doesn’t work. it creates stress, lowers performance, ensures everything is half done. One thing at a time. if emails so be it. if a meeting so be bit. Not to be mixed. Shorten meetings if they are dragging but when in it be in it. 
    1. Focus. Turn off the phone and social media notifications when you are working. Find an isolated spot in the office to work to prevent being interrupted. Each interruption costs. In terms of quality, quantity and impact of the work produced
    1. Mindful Breathing exercise – Do this 3-4 times a day for 2-3 minutes at a team. Sit in a quiet place in a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes. Breathe out. Notice your breath. Breathe in. Notice your breath. Repeat. As you do this your mind may wander to some random thought. Notice the thought as if it is a bubble or a balloon emerging. Bring your attention back to your breath. As you do this repeatedly you will get better and better at concentrating your mind
    1. Stillness – Practice being still. Sit in one place and do nothing. Don’t move. don’t fidget. Notice how you feel. Most people cant do this beyond a few seconds. Hence the phone addiction, which is an addiction to distraction. Practice this for 1-2 minutes a few times a day

Here are the enormous benefits of mindfulness as have been studied over the years:


  1. Compassion – The second pillar of a leader’s mind is the ability to develop compassion or to feel what others feel and then work with them to address and solve their issues, literally to become one with their feelings. Buddhist teachings tell us this was at the heart of what the Buddha taught. When the great recession hit, Marriott putting people first did not fire people the way other companies did. HE instead hired a doctor to take care of the people in extremely stressful times. This was when occupancy had dropped below 10%. Putting people first means putting their needs and feelings first. How can one do that as a leader. A few simple ways
    1. Connect – How often and how deeply do you connect with your team mates and really understand them, their lives, concerns, issues. Or is It purely a transactional and work related relationship. Take this action today. 
    1. You, not I – Notice how often you use the words “I, I think” in a sentence and how less of “you, we”. A subtle shift here to recognize the importance of everyone who contributes to yours and the organisation’s success matters. Can you begin meetings by acknowledging the contribution of others. Can you end meetings by asking the opinions of others. Leaders speak last, leaders speak least
    1. Don’t be in the CEO Bubble – Many leaders of financial institutions were shocked when their big name banks were caught up in fraud or wrongful financial practices. They literally had no idea. Reason = the CEO bubble. This is the invisible bubble in which the CEO is insulated from feedback and is unable to get a picture of the real world. People are too shy or too scared to tell the CEO what is the reality and what really needs to be done. Leaders encourage dissent and make a role model of the case. A CEO after a  meeting got an email from a junior executive who called out the CEO’s performance in the meeting as a “D”. The CEO recognizing this as a golden moment circulated the feedback to all his reportees asking for the same. So every week the leader must step out of the bubble and ask for feedback. This shows you care, this shows you treat everyone as an equal.
    1. Self Compassion – Sleep 8 hours. It matters even more than eating. Exercise. Eat Well. Meditate. Spend time with family. No phone at night ( currently 50% of leaders do). Unless you take care of yourself you cannot take care of others
  1. Selflessness – The third and final quality of a leader’s mind is of being selfless and putting others and the organisation first. Most leaders especially those with a successful track record develop a strong ego and hence start putting themselves first – their opinions, their views and their desires. This will put off others leading to the first fact I started with – most people would much rather forgo their bonus to get their bosses fired. How do you prevent yourself from becoming one of those fireable bosses.
    1. Give Credit Take Blame – Take responsibility, take the bullets for the team. Give credit at every instance. Let others shine. When feeling precious, nervous or concerned doing this remember your job is to create successful leaders and teams. You need to help your team shine. Let them stand in front and get the glory
    1. Mentor and Coach – How rich are your coaching conversations. How often do you do them. Do you take notes on people. Can you start now ? the simple question to answer is “how can I help you improve and grow”. What is coming in the way of your results. 
    1. Practice Gratitude & Kindness – Say thanks. Send notes of appreciation. Give gifts. Buy things for your team when you travel. Practicing gratitude and kindness in most cases is free but can lead to rich rewards.
    1. Reduce status symbols – human happiness is directly proportional to  the differences we feel versus others. Hence at office at work reduce status symbols. Whatever privileges you have as a leader can everyone have them. Or can you let go of them. If your team flys coach, can you do the same. Why do you need a big desk or a cabin ? can you realise within that we are all equal playing different roles. No one is more special or important as a human being.
    1. Compassion Meditation – Sit in a quiet place. Close your eyes. See a colleague who you want to send compassion. Feel happiness flow from you to them. See them smile and feel the happiness and joy. Do this everyday with one person.
    1. Celebrate others success as if it were your own  – Can you celebrate the success of others with true joy and happiness. Enjoy and relish their success as if it were your own. Practice this. You will overcome your natural concerns and get better at this.

Remember most of your team thinks your leadership sucks. And wants to get rid of you. You can change this and become an inspirational leader by practicing mindfulness, compassion and selflessness. You can be a great leader. A few breaths at a time.

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