As we know, the pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of life, and our work experience is no exception. The unprecedented millions of employees who left their jobs in 2021 is a stark marker of the dramatic impact COVID and its iterations have made.
One of the brighter lights to emerge among the chaos, illness and heartbreaking losses of the past two years is a long overdue and totally welcome, quasi-neoteric approach to leadership. I believe it’s one of our greatest opportunities.
So what’s new about leading in 2022, and how do we do it?
Well, the new part isn’t all that earth shattering. In fact, it’s based on a sound personal development principle and a closely related style of leadership that has seen a smattering of implementation over the past 20 years.
It’s the deliberate coupling of these complementary elements — and their fresh urgency — combined with the poignant reminders of life’s precious gifts and unpredictable fragility unleashed by the global crisis that have mandated leading differently.
In terms of the personal development principle, it’s a familiar concept: leading others effectively begins by leading ourselves. On one hand, this seems so obvious: it’s tough to manage, direct and inspire others if our own lives are a hot mess. Yet, this point has been trivialized and even blatantly flouted by more appointed and anointed leaders than one may think, But really:
As a leader, how can we expect our team to accept change if we resist it and have no plan for how to navigate it effectively?
Why should we expect our team to be on time, bring positive energy and collaborate if we’re habitually late, pessimistic and conjure up ideas on our own then dictate to others how they must be implemented?
Why would be expect respect from our staff if we show up scattered, unfocused and angry?
In terms of leadership style, the one I’m referring to that has this contemporary importance in our landscape is the concept of mindful leadership. The approach has been around for years but may have sounded too trendy, gimmicky or new agey for widespread adoption. But the time to embrace it has never been more opportune.
Mindful leadership involves being completely in the moment, focused and leading with minimal ego. Mindful leaders bring clarity, creativity and compassion to their communications and relationships and are willing to put the interests of others before themselves.
These types of leaders also are consistent in their approach, reactions and habits, and they’re completely present and aware vs unpredictable, distracted or multitasking. They’re calm and peaceful, which allows them to face situations without losing their temper, overreacting or saying something snarky. Mindful leaders are positive forces in their own lives, in their workplace and in their orbits.
How many of your past or current bosses have shown qualities of mindful leadership? When I teach about this topic, the conversation always gets loud and lively quickly, with everyone sharing wide-ranging examples of bosses who seem the opposite of mindful:
The bosses who shoot down ideas that counter their own.
The micromanagers who hover over staff to ensure projects are handled precisely as they would tackle them.
The bullies who keep information from staff and set them up to fail.
The bosses who show up late to work 90% of the time then stand waiting for staff to show up on time the 10% of the days they get it together and arrive early.
The narcissists who take input only from their like-minded favorites.
The fools who tell staff their ideas are too good and would probably make the company too successful.
The bosses who sit at a desk 5 feet away and send a terse email to their assistant.
Those who undermine or embarrass staff in front of their colleagues.
The moody bosses who have their teams walking on eggshells.
The forces at work during the pandemic have positioned employees to demand far better. The tide has turned, and lousy leadership won’t make the cut. Right now, employees have all kinds of choices they can make when it comes to where and how they work and for whom, and businesses and organizations need to present their A+ game to attract and retain the best, brightest and boldest.
It’s pretty easy to see how closely related leading one’s self well is with the principles of mindful leadership. Intentionally conflating the two and carefully cultivating the principles of mindful leadership to bolster our own self-leadership will allow the leaders of 2022 to become effective CEOs of themselves and incredible leaders of their organizations as well.
So how do we become mindful self-CEOs and leaders? By becoming familiar with the concept of mindfulness and discovering which of its tools most resonate with us.
Incorporating these activities into your daily routine will build your mindful qualities, and with continued practice you’ll see how your focus increases, stress reduces, your mood improves, your compassion and empathy swell, and your abilities to listen, learn, problem solve and create flourish.
The last two years brought remarkable change and new opportunity. The future will likely bring the same, so we should be better prepared now. Why not proactively meet the challenges head on, in the best position possible, as a 2022 mindful leader?