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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Leadership and Mindfulness

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #162

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"The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence."

— Thich Nhat Hanh

I had to admit that until one of the doctoral students at Saint Francis University, Chip Iglesias, asked me to participate in a webinar about leadership and mindfulness, I only gave the concept minimal thought. Chip is the city manager for South Miami, Florida, and is quickly becoming an expert in leadership and mindfulness as he continues his research for the dissertation. Although I noticed over the past decade that mindfulness has become prevalent in leadership literature, meditation and getting in touch with yourself never appealed to me. I had this false assumption that to become mindful meant sitting on the floor with my legs crossed, fingertips together, and humming while in meditation; this mindset was established early in life and hung around until recently. This "Leadership Thoughts" issue will allow me to become "mindful" about mindfulness practice. I encourage you to consider how developing your mindfulness practice will enhance your leadership. 

I decided to keep an open mind about mindfulness's value and explore the alignment of mindfulness to emotional intelligence (see Leadership Thoughts Issue #155: Dancing with Emotional Intelligence); I realized that being mindful can be a pathway to developing emotional intelligence leadership skills. Skills like being present and fully engaged with whoever or whatever we are doing and attempting to be free from distractions or judgment while being aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.  

Examples of Mindful Opportunities

  1. When you are up against a pressing issue or timeline, someone pops in your office or stops you in the hallway and says, do you have a minute? I need your advice. How do you handle the situation? Do you say, not know I don't have time? Do you listen half-heartedly and give an off-the-cuff response, or are you fully engaged and attuned to what is being said?   

  1. You are scheduled to meet with disgruntled employees, bosses, parents, co-workers, and customers (fill in the blank). How do you prepare emotionally and mentally? What is your mental model and mindset of what will occur during the meeting?  

  1. You're participating in a team or a board meeting, and there is a heated debate. With several members becoming very argumentative, the meeting moves to the edge of chaos. What are you doing? Are you leading the argument against those who are in opposition? Do you withdraw and go to your mental safe place, hoping for the best? 

Over the years, I've learned a few techniques to bring internal calmness to external events that challenge my temperament. William Ury described one of those skills as "going to the balcony" in his book Getting to Yes. Mentally, going to the balcony to observe your feelings, behavior, and thinking at the moment provides greater calmness and clarity. Another strategy is to be committed to always being in the present and attuned to others by practicing my best listening and questioning skills.

Attunement and Leadership

Attunement refers to a leader's ability to sync with individuals or the team's emotional and psychological states. It requires a deep awareness and understanding of others' feelings, needs, and perspectives. Attuned leaders are more effective in making good decisions, motivating, supporting, and communicating with others. They will foster a more positive work environment, enhance team cohesion, and increase engagement.    

Attunement is a critical trait in the realm of mindful leadership. It comprises essential elements necessary for effective team management and motivational strategies. Consider a leader who excels in the practice of empathy. Such a leader comes to the office daily with an open heart, ready to understand the team's perspective and emotions. Effective leadership is about instructing and connecting on a human level, grasping the feelings and perspectives that drive others. Attunement is a powerful tool that enables leaders to communicate with their team members and motivate them to perform better.

Reflection and Leadership

I have always been a big advocate of purposeful reflection. I've discovered that reflecting on actions and decisions is critical to being a mindful leader. It is a tool for personal growth and a strategic asset for conscious leadership. 

Two simple reflective strategies are "after-action reviews" and "reflective questioning." The after-action review answers what went well and what didn't and how we can improve in the future. Get into the habit of asking, "What am I missing?" What could I have done better?" and "How are my actions affecting others?"

Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence

The connection between mindfulness and emotional intelligence (EI) is closely intertwined. Mindfulness is a fundamental element that has the potential to enhance various aspects of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence requires the ability to effectively recognize, understand, manage, and utilize one's own emotions and the emotions of others.

  1. Mindfulness leaders are self-aware of their thoughts and feelings in the moment. Emotional intelligence requires leaders to recognize how their emotional state affects their behavior and decision-making.

  1. Self-regulation is an essential aspect of mindful leadership. It enables leaders to observe their emotions without reacting impulsively.

  1. Leadership values empathy, understanding, and consideration of others' feelings and viewpoints, reflecting emotional intelligence and mindfulness.

  1. Mindful leadership improves social skills by encouraging compassionate, honest, and transparent communication. Conscious leaders are better listeners and more skilled at engaging with others, which is vital to strong social skills.

  1. Mindful leadership can help leaders uncover the purpose and meaning of their roles, enhancing their motivation and ability to inspire and motivate others.

Mindfulness can be considered part of and a practice that enhances emotional intelligence in all its aspects. By improving self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation, and social skills, mindfulness can enable individuals to navigate their social and professional environments more effectively. This synergy makes mindfulness a valuable tool for anyone who wants to enhance their emotional intelligence.


I have experienced a personal and professional shift in mindset by challenging my assumptions about mindfulness. The dialogue initiated by Chip Iglesias and subsequent reflections has made me realize the profound impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness. Mindfulness goes beyond mere presence; it involves deep, empathetic engagement with others and a strategic approach to self-reflection and emotional regulation. Integrating mindfulness into our leadership practices enhances our emotional intelligence and fosters a more collaborative, resilient, and dynamic organizational culture. As we continue to navigate the complexities of leadership, let us commit to cultivating mindfulness as a core component of our development. This commitment will equip us to lead with greater awareness, empathy, and clarity, ultimately enriching our professional environments and the lives of those we lead.

Reflection Questions

  1. How has my understanding and view of mindfulness changed after reading this blog? 

  2. Where can I incorporate mindfulness techniques to strengthen my emotional intelligence and leadership abilities?

  1. How dedicated am I to prioritizing mindfulness and emotional intelligence in my leadership journey? 


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May 08

Dr. Crawford,

Your observations and comments are most gratifying and humbling given your influence on me and others as a leader but yet you take the time reveal a willingness to place more emphasis on exploring how mindfulness can help our leadership journey and those around us. That is leadership! Modeling a growth mindset and sharing a simple vulnerability of the mystery of mindfulness in leadership is refreshing and it invigorates me to keep learning how I can better serve others by being more mindful. I too have a lot to learn but I am committed to contributing to thought leadership in this space and improve well-being and performance for myself and others. Thank you for your humbling mention. Chip…

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