Build Better Leaders with Mindfulness

Build Better Leaders with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


for leaders, the biggest benefit of mindfulness is its direct impact on the development of emotional intelligence.” – Monica Thakrar


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. There has been, however, little research attention to the effects of mindfulness on leadership.


In today’s Research News article “Mindful Leader Development: How Leaders Experience the Effects of Mindfulness Training on Leader Capabilities.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Rupprecht and colleagues recruited leaders in work environments who had completed a 12-week Workplace Mindfulness Training program 6 months to a year previously. They were questioned about their perceptions of the effectiveness of the program on themselves and their leadership with semi-structured interviews over the phone lasting about an hour. Responses were transcribed and subjected to qualitative thematic analysis.


The leaders’ responses indicated that the training helped them in mindfully managing tasks including focusing on single tasks, managing distractions particularly phone messages, and using breaks and transitions to meditate of become aware of their bodies. The training also helped them with caring for themselves including recognizing when they were tired and taking a break and sharing their feelings and state with others. It also helped them self-reflect and recognize how their state affects the people around them.


The leaders’ responses indicated that the training helped them become better leaders. It provided skills in relating to others, including deep listening, being less reactive to their ow emotions or emotions of others, being less judgmental, taking themselves less seriously, and being more responsive to the needs of their followers. The training also helped them to better adapt to changing situations, including acceptance of the changes and adaptively searching for solutions.


Finally, the leaders’ responses indicated that the effects that the training had on them spilled over to affect the organization and the processes used at work. It provided them with a new basis for communications with other team members. They began to include mindfulness practices in team meetings. This led to identification of long meeting as problematic and changing the structure of meetings.


These results are subjective and there weren’t any objective measures supplied to verify the reports. But the leaders’ responses were very encouraging and suggested that the Workplace Mindfulness Training program is very beneficial and affects a wide variety of work behaviors and attitudes. Although there were no measures of productivity changes, the nature of the effects of mindfulness training suggest that productivity would improve, burnout would be reduced, and work satisfaction would increase.


So, build better leaders with mindfulness.


“To become a mindful leader, you need to make this a daily introspective act. As you do so, you’ll worry less about day-to-day problems and focus on what is most important. As you become more mindful, you will be a more effective, successful and fulfilled leader.” – Bill George


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary


Rupprecht S, Falke P, Kohls N, Tamdjidi C, Wittmann M and Kersemaekers W (2019) Mindful Leader Development: How Leaders Experience the Effects of Mindfulness Training on Leader Capabilities. Front. Psychol. 10:1081. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01081


Mindfulness training is a novel method of leader development but contrary to its rising popularity, there is a scarcity of research investigating how mindfulness training may affect leader capabilities. To gain a better understanding of the potential of a new research field, qualitative research is advantageous. We sought to understand how senior leaders experience the impact of mindfulness training in their work lives and leadership ability. The sample comprised 13 leaders (n = 11 male) working in six organizations that completed a 10-week workplace mindfulness training (WMT). We conducted semi-structured interviews 6 to 12 months following course completion. We analyzed the data following thematic analysis steps and based on these findings, we devised a framework of the perceived impact of mindfulness training on self-leadership and leadership capabilities. We show that WMT exhibited impact on three self-leadership capacities: mindful task management, self-care and self-reflection and two leadership capacities: relating to others and adapting to change. Participants’ recounts additionally suggested effects may expand to the level of the team and the organization. We show that WMT may be a promising tool for self-directed leadership development and outline avenues for future research.


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