Improve Leadership with Mindfulness

Improve Leadership with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Truth be told, most of the discussions we have with others aren’t really mindful. Mindful discussion means shedding attention and awareness on our words — it’s rarely what we do, as our ego is consistently involved.” – Elyane Youssef


Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for not only to productivity in the workplace but also to our psychological and physical health. Mindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace and they have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. This, in turn, improves productivity and the well-being of the employees. As a result, many businesses have incorporated mindfulness practices into the workday.


Mindfulness may also help to promote leadership in the workplace. It can potentially do so by enhancing emotion regulation, making the individual better able to recognize, experience, and adaptively respond to their emotions, and making the leader better able to listen to and to understand the needs and emotion of the workers they lead and to communicate effectively. There has been, however, little research attention to the effects of mindfulness on leadership and the ability of the leader to communicate.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Leadership: Communication as a Behavioral Correlate of Leader Mindfulness and Its Effect on Follower Satisfaction.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Arendt and colleagues recruited leaders and followers online from a variety of industries in Germany. Leaders completed an online measure of mindfulness. Their followers completed online measures of satisfaction with leader, follower satisfaction with leader’s communication, and follower’s perception of leader’s mindfulness in communications.


They found that the higher the leader’s mindfulness the higher the satisfaction with leader, follower satisfaction with leader’s communication, and follower’s perception of leader’s mindfulness in communications. A mediation analysis revealed that leader mindfulness was associated with higher follower’s perception of leader’s mindfulness in communications which, in turn, was associated with higher satisfaction with leader and follower satisfaction with leader’s communication.


These are interesting results but are correlative, so no definitive conclusions can be reached regarding causation. But the results suggest that mindfulness is an important characteristic for leaders in industry. When the leader is mindful, the followers find the leader’s communications mindful and when these communications are mindful they are associated with better overall satisfaction with the leader and the leader’s communication. These results, similar to prior research, suggest that mindfulness is important in the work environment, promoting well-being and productivity. This further suggests that “right communications” is important for leadership.


So, improve leadership with mindfulness.


When you are talking mindfully, you are conscious of the words you choose. You think before you speak and make a conscious decision to use your best communication in a respectful manner, even if it is a difficult situation. You are also mindful of your intention and aware of expectations that may or may not be met. When there is a situation that needs to be addressed, being mindful can produce a better outcome and prevent the communication from getting out of control.” – Melinda Fouts


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary


Arendt JFW, Pircher Verdorfer A and Kugler KG (2019) Mindfulness and Leadership: Communication as a Behavioral Correlate of Leader Mindfulness and Its Effect on Follower Satisfaction. Front. Psychol. 10:667. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00667


In recent years, the construct of mindfulness has gained growing attention in psychological research. However, little is known about the effects of mindfulness on interpersonal interactions and social relationships at work. Addressing this gap, the purpose of this study was to investigate the role of mindfulness in leader–follower relationships. Building on prior research, we hypothesize that leaders’ mindfulness is reflected in a specific communication style (“mindfulness in communication”), which is positively related to followers’ satisfaction with their leaders. We used nested survey data from 34 leaders and 98 followers from various organizations and tested mediation hypotheses using hierarchical linear modeling. Our hypotheses were confirmed by our data in that leaders’ self-reported mindfulness showed a positive relationship with several aspects of followers’ satisfaction. This relationship was fully mediated by leaders’ mindfulness in communication as perceived by their followers. Our findings emphasize the potential value of mindfulness in workplace settings. They provide empirical evidence for a positive link between leaders’ dispositional mindfulness and the wellbeing of their followers, indicating that mindfulness is not solely an individual resource but also fosters interpersonal skills. By examining leaders’ mindfulness in communication as an explanatory process, we created additional clarification about how leaders’ mindfulness relates to followers’ perceptions, offering a promising starting point for measuring behavioral correlates of leader mindfulness.


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