What Can You Learn from These 7 Mindful Leaders?

You may have noticed that I’ve been writing a lot about mindfulness in this space lately, and that’s because I believe in it so strongly. For the average person, it is a wonderful, transformative practice for enhancing life and making sense of one’s place in the world. For leaders, mindfulness brings calm and a sense of being grounded. To me, it is absolutely essential for successful modern leadership.

I have discussed the benefits of mindfulness, and I have listed some of the common mistakes leaders make when they attempt to establish a mindfulness practice. Today I want to talk about mindfulness in the real world. You see, mindfulness is not an abstract concept or a lofty ideal to try to live up to; it is something real, and successful leaders have integrated into their daily lives and their respective organizations. The results of their efforts have strengthened their leadership abilities in significant ways.

Who are these mindful leaders? Let’s have a look at some of the most notable figures who are using mindfulness to lead their organizations more effectively today.

Eileen Fisher, Founder and Chairwoman of Eileen Fisher, Inc.

Eileen Fisher is a fashion icon and global trendsetter. Her multimillion-dollar company exists to do much more than produce and sell clothing, though. To Fisher, her company is a conduit through which she can introduce mindfulness and social consciousness to a wide spectrum of people around the world.

Fisher begins each day by sitting in meditation for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. That is not a lot of time, but it is incredibly transformative for Fisher and the people with whom she interacts on a daily basis. Says Fisher, “Even after years of meditating, I still wake up every morning feeling crazy. And I have to sit up and meditate or my mind will get the better of me.” If you are a leader, I bet the idea of waking up and feeling crazy really resonates with you. Thankfully, meditation is the perfect antidote to the feeling, as Eileen Fisher has demonstrated.

At her company's headquarters in Irvington, New York, employees are encouraged to participate in mindful practices. There is a meditation/yoga room on site, in addition to massage therapists on staff. Crucially, every meeting begins with Fisher and her employees sitting and sharing a mindful moment of silence together.

Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com is the fastest-growing enterprise software company of all time, largely due to CEO Marc Benioff’s dedication to mindfulness. He didn’t come to the practice on his own, though; he was introduced to it by none other than Apple’s Steve Jobs. According to Benioff, Jobs once told him, “Be mindful and project the future.”

For Benioff, mindfulness is something that is woven throughout the course of a day, but it includes a formal morning meditation practice to begin each day. In his practice, Benioff considers all the things in life for which he is grateful, saying “thank you” out loud for each one.

What started as a bit of advice designed to reduce stress and focus on a better future has become a deeply ingrained daily practice and a way of life for Benioff.

Nancy Slomowitz, Owner, Executive Management Associates, Inc.

Slomowitz, who is one of the most powerful women in business today, practices mindfulness daily through Transcendental Meditation, or “TM.” In fact, she has done so since she was a teenager, which is no doubt a significant reason why she has become so successful as a leader. She noticed that her meditation practice delivered several benefits in her own life, so she made the decision to introduce meditation to her employees, as well.

According to Slomowitz, “TM produced tangible, practical benefits in both their professional and personal lives.” What had once been a toxic working environment became positive and harmonious. An added benefit of introducing mindfulness into the organization — healthcare costs were reduced significantly thanks to a considerable reduction in sick claims.

This is a terrific example of how a leader’s personal mindfulness practice can extend through an entire organization and produce amazing, tangible results.

Marnie Abramson, Partner, Lightility LLC; Former Owner of Tower Companies Real Estate Firm

Abramson began her impressive career in her family’s real estate business, innovating by introducing green, eco-friendly solutions for clients. These days, she is focused on providing more efficient ways to light offices, living rooms and other spaces. It has been a hectic life and career for Abramson, but she has avoided getting caught up in the madness of it all by practicing mindfulness daily.

Abramson says, “If you have twenty things going on in your head and there’s no way to organize that, it feels very frenetic.” Regarding meditation, she has said, “What I really needed was a way to come back into myself, quiet my mind a little bit so that I could focus.”

Through her meditation and mindfulness practice, Abramson has learned to channel her energies into working smarter, not harder. This has helped her find balance and stability during her tremendous professional success as a leader. One could argue that Abramson is successful precisely because of her daily mindfulness practice.

Soledad O’Brien, Journalist and CEO, Starfish Media Group

As a journalist for CNN and other outlets, O’Brien has been widely recognized for her compassionate, grounded manner of getting to the bottom of people’s stories. As a leader, O’Brien devotes her time and energy to helping others make progress in the field of journalism. Through it all, she has depended on her mindfulness practice to maintain balance and the proper perspective.

O’Brien used to consider herself a “Type-A” personality — always running, driving, leading and reaching for more out of life. She never thought meditation or mindfulness could help her find better health and happiness. But a friend convinced her to give meditation a try, and she has been hooked ever since.

Meditation allows O’Brien to experience states of rest and relaxation, which have led to improved health and wellbeing. She says, “It can be a game-changer and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world.”

Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. It is the premiere online space where professionals congregate, network and promote their talents. The website is one of the most popular social-media platforms on the planet and is the go-to destination for people who want to enhance their professional lives. It is also run by an individual, Jeff Weiner, who takes mindfulness seriously.

Weiner meditates daily, using the popular Headspace app, which he sees as a game-changer. In fact, Weiner can be found frequently recommending the app to partners and employees. According to Weiner, “health, love and time” are key cornerstones for business success, and you cannot maximize any of those factors without being mindful of them.

Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company

Ford is probably the world’s best-known automaker. The company has been around since the invention of the automobile, and has innovated some of the most iconic developments in automotive history. But because the company has gone through so many different eras, it has not always been easy. In fact, the company nearly went bankrupt during the previous decade’s financial crisis.

Thankfully, Bill Ford was able to lean on his mindfulness practice to help him and his team see the company through to better times. The practice of meditation kept Ford going through its darkest days. It also helped Ford to make more kind and compassionate decisions. Today, the company has transformed once again into one of the world’s leading automakers, with impressive growth occurring particularly in the international market. This wouldn’t be happening without mindfulness!

Mindfulness — A Must-Have for Effective Leadership in 2019

My list of notable mindful leaders contains seven names you have probably heard before, but it could have gone on much longer. Mindfulness is not a wishy-washy concept — it is something today’s most successful leaders are integrating into their daily lives, inside and outside of the office. It allows for better decision making, greater levels of employee engagement and reductions in stress and strain.

If you are interested in learning more about how mindfulness can transform leadership in a positive fashion, I encourage you to stay tuned to this space and to contact me directly for more information at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or 1.855.871.3374.

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