5 Mindful Practices to Inspire Stronger Leadership

Published: Tues., January 28, 2020

Your capacity to be a distinguished leader can increase as you incorporate or strengthen practices in communication and mindfulness. Although being a good leader is reliant on your relationship with and awareness of those whom you lead, there are several simple habits you can adopt to build your capacity every day. Whether you’re currently a leader or haven’t yet undertaken a leadership role, these five practices are daily activities you can use to enhance your ability to develop as a leader.

Practice active listening

Listening to respond, defend, or deflect is a common conversation mishap. Mentally preparing what to say next in this approach takes your mind away from the speaker. This can cause you to inadvertently miss important details and could create frustrating interruptions or premature questions for the speaker. Active listening can help you learn listening to understand.

Practice active listening by looking directly at the speaker, showing you’re engaged through nods or appropriate posture, and blocking any mental or environmental distractions. Feedback and clarification are excellent active listening techniques. These are best used to paraphrase what the speaker has relayed through responses that begin with phrases like “What I’m hearing is…” or follow-up questions that start with a phrase like “What do you mean when you say…” Developing this habit will help you learn more about your team or peers and their perceptions or issues.

Build resilience to fear of making mistakes

Fear of making mistakes can prevent potentially great leaders from taking initiative, which limits opportunities and coinciding progress. Being resilient to the fear of making a mistake emboldens you to take initiative. This doesn’t mean you should foolhardily accept tasks you’re ill-prepared to complete. Instead take initiative in projects and collaborations that are appropriately matched to your skills and capacities. As you become more resilient, your aptitude for identifying and accepting productive challenges will improve. Building resilience to this fear will not only keep you moving forward but also help you see mistakes as learning opportunities.

Find your preferred way to build fear resilience by writing them down to throw away, talking through the fear with someone you trust, or exploring your vision for the task. Most of all, don’t focus on the outcome of a project or collaboration as it will cloud your thoughts before you even begin.

Learn how to fail gracefully

Failing is never desirable, but it could potentially be part of the learning process for many activities. Look at your failures as opportunities to grow and learn or imagine them as the space between stepping stones to success. Use failures as a way to energize your curiosity in what went wrong and commitment to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Whether it’s a small mistake or a major error, your best recovery is to advocate for yourself rather than self-deprecate. Learning how to fail gracefully will help you become more agile in your projects as well as more encouraging in your leadership.

To fail gracefully, you should avoid the temptation to take it personally and fend off the impulse to devalue your worth. It could be worthwhile to document the failure and what you intend to do differently the next time. This will capture the constructive perspective and give you a point of reference for future failures.

Designate time for reflection

Reflection is key to developing an increased capacity for leadership. Finding time to reflect should not impede your schedule or cause self-imposed pressure rather it should complement your lifestyle and needs. Reflection is also a time for you to find composure during stressful periods of your life. If you have trouble finding time for reflection, you may want to try using a block schedule or set boundaries. Setting aside time to make meaning of your observations and experiences as they relate to your projects, team, or self will support your ability to make informed decisions.

Your reflection process should suit your preferences and interests. You may consider starting small with 10-minute reflection sessions or incorporating reflection into your lunch hour. Whether you decide to write, talk, or simply think as your process, it could be useful to draft a list of questions, like the ones below, to guide your reflection.

  • What is working well in my life and work?
  • How can I begin/continue caring for my well-being?
  • What am I avoiding or fearing at the moment?
  • What is motivating me to make progress?
  • What actions can I connect to my progress?
  • How can I stay grounded today?

Find a leader role model

Experiences with leaders give us an impression on what we, individually, view as good or bad leadership. Your history of leaders is a useful tool in better understanding what kind of leader you want to be. A leader role model can be as close as someone whom you know personally like a former supervisor or someone whom you’re aware of through media like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Establishing a leader role model will help you narrow what leadership means to you.

You can find your leader role model by thinking of an experience with a current or previous leader. If no one comes to mind, then consider leaders of whom you are aware. After identifying that person, think of their characteristics and what you like most about their leadership. While this is not a perfect blueprint for how you may want to shape your leadership, it’s a practical starting point to discover what you find essential in leadership and adhere to those qualities.