Improve the Effect of the Match of Leader Follower Optimism with Mindfulness

Improve the Effect of the Match of Leader Follower Optimism with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Mindful leadership can alter the tone of the work environment in subtle and overt ways, making it a potential agent of positive change in organizations.” – Erika Garms


Most organizations are hierarchical. Groups of individuals are directed by a leader and groups of leaders are directed by another leader, etc. The leader sets the goals and strategy and directs the followers in the pursuit of these goals. In order for the leader to be effective the followers must execute his/her directives. This is best accomplished when the leader and follower both believe in the strategy.  Little is known, however regarding the factors that influence the sharing of optimism that the strategy will be effective.


Mindfulness has been shown to influence the mental health of workers and improve their work engagement and satisfaction with work as well as preventing the burnout of leaders. It is possible that one of the effects of mindfulness that mediates its influence on work engagement is by working to align the strategic optimism of the leader and followers.


In today’s Research News article “) Mindfulness – The Missing Link in the Relationship Between Leader–Follower Strategic Optimism (Mis)match and Work Engagement.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Bunjak and colleagues recruited adult full-time employees online and had them complete an online questionnaire. They measured strategic optimism of leaders with questions like “He/she goes into these situations expecting the worst, even though he/she knows he/she will probably do OK” and followers with questions like “I go into these situations expecting the worst, even though I know I will probably do OK.” They also measured mindfulness, how long the leader and follower worked together, and work engagement.


They found that the higher the level of the followers’ mindfulness the greater was their level of work engagement and the lower the levels of strategic optimism both by the leader and the follower. Hence mindfulness appears to be associated with better engagement in work but less optimism that the strategies employed will work. Additionally, they measured the degree to which the leaders’ and the followers’ strategic optimism matched; either both high or both low. They found that the greater the match of the leaders’ and the followers’ strategic optimism the greater the work engagement and that this effect was mediated by mindfulness. In addition, they found that when there was a match in strategic optimism it was associated with higher mindfulness levels which, in turn, was associated with greater work engagement.


These are interesting results but they are correlational, so no conclusions about causation are warranted. But, nevertheless, they suggest that the more the leaders and the followers are on the same page regarding the probable success of the strategy the more they’re engaged on working on the project and this appear to be mediated by mindfulness. It is also interesting that with high degrees of mindfulness there is less optimism about the success of the work strategy. This may suggest that the more accurate and perceptive the individual is of the realities of the situation the less they believe in the eventual success of the projects goal. Mindfulness may simply make them more realistic. But that realism also is associated with greater engagement in the work itself. Mindfulness itself may make for greater engagement in the present moment activities, work engagement.


So, improve the effect of the match of leader follower optimism with mindfulness.


Large companies, such as Google, Aetna and General Mills, have been implementing large-scale mindfulness programs over the past few years. Thousands of employees have gone through their programs with data now showing that there is a definite impact on leadership skills by practicing mindfulness, such as: Increase in productivity, Increase in decision-making, Increase in listening, and Reduction in stress levels.” Monica Thakrar


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Bunjak A and Černe M (2018) Mindfulness – The Missing Link in the Relationship Between Leader–Follower Strategic Optimism (Mis)match and Work Engagement. Front. Psychol.9:2444. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02444


Assuming a followership perspective and building on implicit leadership theory, this study examines the mediating role of followers’ mindfulness in the relationship between leader–follower strategic optimism (mis)match and work engagement. Specifically, we propose that a discrepancy between the respective levels of leaders’ and followers’ strategic optimism correlates with low levels of mindfulness and work engagement. A field study of 291 working professionals, using polynomial regression and response surface analysis, supports the (mis)match hypotheses. The results demonstrate that followers’ mindfulness mediates the relationship between leaders’ and followers’ matching levels of strategic optimism (whether at high-high and low-low leader-follower strategic optimism conditions) and work engagement. These findings have important implications for training and the extent to which interventions based on personal resources, such as strategic optimism and therefore mindfulness, foster higher work engagement.


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