New research shows mindfulness has a powerful impact on leadership capability

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Just 10 minutes of mindfulness practice a day can have a significant impact on leader’s ability to be more resilient, collaborative and equipped to lead in complex times. This is one of the key findings of the world’s first wait-list control* research study to look specifically at whether mindfulness can help leaders become more effective in their roles.

'The Mindful Leader', published today by Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School, charts the experiences of a group of 57 senior business leaders who attended a series of workshops, where they were introduced to the concept of a more mindful approach to leadership and taught mindfulness practices.

Outside of the workshops, participants were encouraged to get into the habit of practicing daily meditation, as well as incorporating more informal mindfulness practices - such as mindful eating, walking and breathing exercises - into their daily lives. Researchers followed the trials and tribulations of the leaders as they attempted to shift to a more mindful approach, assessing their progress through a variety of psychometric and feedback instruments.

The study showed that mindfulness training and sustained practice led to statistically significant improvements in the leaders’ capacities for resilience, collaboration and leading in complexity; three vital capacities for leading in the 21st Century. Through developing an ability to respond rather than react in the moment participants were able to improve skills such as their ability to focus, adapt, empathise, examine alternative perspectives and regulate their emotions.   

The clear message to emerge, however, was that mindfulness training is not enough alone to achieve these improvements in performance.  Formal, sustained practice, together with support from work colleagues and partners, is key to achieving long term benefits. 

“The message is clear.  If you want the benefits, you have to put the time into practice - although getting into a daily discipline can be real challenge for hard-pressed managers who are already juggling a myriad of tasks,” says report co-author Megan Reitz, Associate Professor of Leadership and Dialogue at Ashridge Business School.  

Being ‘too busy” to carve out the time for meditation and ‘beating yourself up’ for not doing it were among the barriers to practice most commonly cited by managers.  However, those who were able to persist and give themselves time and permission to step back from the pressure saw enormous benefits in their work and personal lives, from just a small investment of time.  

Just like becoming fitter, becoming more mindful involves some kind of training.  That means you have to practice.  Giving up ten minutes a day, which equates to just one per cent of your waking hours, is a small price to pay for the improvements that are on offer,” says Megan Reitz.

  1. A full copy of 'The Mindful Leader:  Developing the capacity for resilience and collaboration in complex times through mindfulness practice’, is now available for download
  2. Report co-author Megan Reitz is available for interview. Some of the leaders who participated in the research are also willing to talk about their experiences.  If you would like to arrange interviews with either Megan or participants, please contact Erika Lucas, Erika.lucas@ashridge.hult.edu, Tel: 0778 777 3986
  3. * This was the world’s first study of a multisession mindful leader program, which included a wait-list control group. Half of the participants received their training immediately and the other half received it later, but we measured key characteristics in both groups at the same times. By comparing the two groups’ results, we were able to discover what the effect of training really was.
kim hollamby