Leadership in general is a lonely position and leadership in education is no different. Senior leadership is fraught with obstacles and, like never before, educational leadership is teetering on a tight rope trying to balance the needs of the children with the needs of the staff and then government throws in an unexpected detour!
Take a few minutes to watch this video.
Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Apple, Intel and Starbucks, to name a few, are advocates of mindfulness in the workplace and leadership. Successful leaders, like Evan Williams (Twitter co-founder) and William Ford (of Ford Motor Company), praise the benefit of mindfulness.
Janice Marturano, one of the pioneers in bringing mindfulness to corporations defines Mindful Leadership: “A mindful leader is someone who embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others.”
What is Focus?
Focus is the ability to stay present to what must be done right now and in this moment. You can’t be distracted by a wandering mind. It is the ability to identify that the mind is wandering and ensure that it comes back to the here and now.
The jumping of thoughts from the conversation you had first thing in the morning with the care taker, to the email that popped in your email a half hour ago about a meeting you have to attend next week, to the difficult conversation you will have to have with a parent at the end of the day, to… It is never ending and before you know it, the meeting you are currently sitting in has come to an end and you are really not sure what has been said.
What is Clarity?
Clarity is your ability to see things for what they are and with full awareness of the emotions we are having and not allowing those emotions to biases our decisions.
Experiences make us who we are; they shape our emotions, good or bad. We can react to situations, logical or not, because of these experiences. I personally do not like the use of standardised test to judge the teaching and learning of a school. It evokes very strong emotions and frequently gets me into a rant. However, I also know I must find clarity of those emotions or I could make some bad decisions that would be detrimental to the school.
What is Curiosity?
Curiosity is the ability to stay open-minded by truly listening to all viewpoints and ideas and not automatically making a default decision. We cannot just assume that what we have done before is right for this moment in time.
If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got!
Sure, you may have been doing parents evening in a certain way since the dawn of man. The outline of the event was developed before technology became easily available and mothers seldom worked outside of the home. But, is this still effective? Do others have ideas? Listen and consider the possibilities.
What is Compassion?
Compassion is the ability to care for others, see different perspectives and make right decisions and take right actions for a person’s well-being.
As leaders, we can get caught up in our own thoughts and emotions. Sometimes things are not black and white. Being a compassionate leader is a humane thing to do. How YOU see things or would react to things is not the same as what another person may see or react. Surrounding yourself with other viewpoints allows you to gain a better perspective and better leader.
It can also mean being NICE!
How can I become a more mindful leader?
- Take a minute and breathe! Throughout the day, when you feel yourself becoming stress, uptight or upset, take a minute to centre yourself and breathe.
- One Minute Meditation
- Sit or stand comfortably
- Bring your attention to your breath
- Breathe naturally and count each inhale
- Focus your attention to your nostrils and notice the inhale and exhale of air
- Continue to count each breath until you reach one minute. This is roughly 15 breaths.
- Check In! Be fully present where you are listening to a member of your team, working on a strategic plan, having a meeting or preparing for a presentation. Take a breath and be in the moment; be present!
- Guided Meditation– Just 5 -15 minutes a day can start to train the mind to become calmer and gain greater focus and clarity. I like doing this first thing on a morning while the house is still quiet. However, others enjoy doing meditation at lunch time or on an evening just before going to sleep. You can find many guided meditations on Youtube for free. Here are a few:
- Guided Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief- https://youtu.be/Fpiw2hH-dlc
- 5 Minute Guided Meditation for Anxiety- https://youtu.be/MR57rug8NsM
- 5 Minute Miracle Guided Meditation- https://youtu.be/utfw-rJUvy4
- Positive Thinking Meditation- https://youtu.be/o0EQEiecSxs
- Ocean Escape- Guided Relaxation and Visualisation Meditation- https://youtu.be/vaHJ7WjKTaE
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation- https://youtu.be/PYsuvRNZfxE
- Sleep Meditations- These are longer and are to be listened to once you are in bed and ready to sleep.
- Mindfulness Development- We have all trained to do the job we do, particularly in education, with most of us having a variety of degrees and years of education. So, it does make sense that we may also want to train in developing our own mindfulness.
- Apps for phones and tablets-Calm and Headspace offer free beginners sections on their apps that include daily meditations of various lengths and reminders for you to meditate.
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programmes– These are usually online for 8 weeks or a two day weekend residential. There is a systematic learning of the scientific evidence of mindfulness as well as development of practice. There can be various costs involved with these programmes. However, there is a FREE 8 week online MBSR programme at http://palousemindfulness.com.
- Practise Gratitude– It seems like common sense, but consider how you can be a compassionate leader.
- Listen- Listening to what everyone has to say. That doesn’t mean that you will have to go with the consensus. It means that you get to hear and see different perspectives. This MAY change your decision or it MAY NOT. However, people will feel valued regarding to what they have to say.
- Do unto others what you would want them to do unto you.- Sure, you are the leader. But, how do you want to be treated? Can you treat them in the same way?
- Do fun or quirky things to show your appreciation! I personally enjoy doing a Lucky Dip Christmas Card Give Away at Christmas and an Easter Egg Hunt with prizes for Easter. It is the silly things that can make the greatest impact.
- Celebrate #PositivePostItDay- Find out more here: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/positivepostitday/
So, how in these stressful times, can Mindful Leadership make a difference?
- It improves mental focus and mindful wandering.
- It extends our attention span.
- It discourages black and white thinking.
- It assists in staying organised, managing time and setting priorities.
- It lifts us from a constant, low level of panic and guilt.
- It lowers wear and tear on our bodies.
- It toughens immunity.
- It improves mood and emotional stability.
- It builds self-monitoring capacity.
You may be saying you just don’t have time for mindfulness. My question is to consider this; can you afford NOT to develop your mindfulness?