What Is Mindful Leadership? (Plus Characteristics)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective leaders can benefit an organisation, as they can motivate and inspire an employee to contribute more effectively to the organisation's goals. There are several styles of leadership, each with its advantages and challenges, and one that many leaders chose to adopt is mindful leadership. If you're considering leadership techniques, it may be worth learning about this style to apply to your own team. In this article, we describe what mindful leadership is, discuss its benefits, explain the differences between mindful leadership and other leadership styles and outline the steps you can follow to become a more mindful leader.

What is mindful leadership?

Mindful leadership is a style of leadership that involves focusing on principles of mindfulness and empathy. A mindful leader uses their compassion and open-mindedness to connect with their colleagues or employees and understand any issues they might have.

Mindful leaders may also attempt to strengthen their personal relationships with employees to gain a clearer idea of each team member's working style. By forming a bond, a mindful leader can help nurture employees in a way that benefits them and the organisation. For example, a mindful leader who discovers that an employee is experiencing some personal issues can offer guidance in resolving these. As a result, the employee may become more efficient in performing their duties after overcoming these challenges.

Related: 10 Leadership Role Examples (With Functions of Leadership)

Benefits of mindful leadership

Mindful leadership is possibly a more popular leadership style because of the benefits it can bring to both leaders and team members. If you're considering whether to try to become a more mindful leader, gaining familiarity with the benefits of this approach can help you make a better-informed decision. Here are some of the key advantages of mindful leadership:

  • Increased morale: When mindful leaders manage employees, the latter are more likely to feel that their opinions and voices matter. This can be helpful in reassuring them that the organisation values them and their contribution, which may result in increased morale levels.

  • Better working relationships: Mindful leaders can use their compassion and empathy to understand the issues that their colleagues or employees may experience in the workplace. By addressing these areas and allowing staff to share their challenges without repercussions, mindful leaders can build better working relationships with their colleagues or employees.

  • Higher productivity: Employees who feel that leaders value their contribution may have more loyalty to their supervisors and be more willing to increase their effort at work to help leaders achieve their business objectives. This can result in higher levels of productivity among a mindful leader's support staff.

  • Lower stress: Mindful leaders often practise mindfulness in their personal lives and in the way they approach challenges and unfamiliar issues at work. This can help them negotiate demanding situations in a calm and collected manner.

Related: How to Improve Leadership Skills: Guideline and Tips

Mindful leadership vs. other leadership styles

If you're considering becoming a more mindful leader, you might wonder about the differences between mindful leadership and other leadership styles. Here are some ways in which mindful leaders may differ from leaders who adopt other styles:

Mindful leadership vs. transactional leadership

Transactional leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on rewards and sanctions. Unlike mindful leaders, transactional leaders may not focus on empathy and compassion in the workplace and are unlikely to attempt to forge strong relationships with employees. Instead, transactional leaders treat their dealings with employees as transactions, offering rewards for strong performance and penalties for oversights.

While mindful leaders are able to foster positive working environments, employees who work for transactional leaders may experience more uncertainty at work. Even so, transactional leadership can be useful for creating a meritocratic working environment where leaders reward employees according to their merits. Companies in fast-paced industries, where there may be high costs for employee oversights, may also value transactional leaders over mindful leaders.

Mindful leadership vs. charismatic leadership

Mindful leaders tend to take a more personalised approach when managing employees. They may choose to interact with them more and build stronger personal relationships. In contrast, charismatic leaders tend to manage staff in a more autocratic manner, achieving positive results by inspiring support staff with their charismatic approach. A charismatic leader typically has a vision or goal for their team, and they focus mainly on ensuring that staff keep working towards this. Both types of leaders tend to have strong interpersonal communication skills.

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Mindful leadership vs. servant leadership

Servant leadership is a similar leadership style to mindful leadership. Both styles focus on leaders who adopt a more approachable persona in their interactions with staff. Mindful leaders use their compassion and humility to understand their colleagues' or employees' perspectives better. In contrast, servant leaders embody a philosophy of service to other employees in an organisation. For example, servant leaders may focus on building conducive working environments where employees can thrive. Through this leadership style, they aim to gain respect from staff and cultivate a strong sense of belonging within the organisation.

How to become a mindful leader

Here are some steps that you can follow to become a more mindful leader:

1. Strengthen your emotional intelligence

An important tactic for becoming a mindful leader is to use emotional intelligence. This refers not only to your awareness of how your actions may affect others emotionally and psychologically but also to your ability to discern how others are feeling. Cultivating strong emotional intelligence as a leader can help you identify employees who may have issues at work and require support to perform to the best of their ability. This can enable you to discover any underlying cause, for which you can then provide guidance.

Related: What's Empathy in Leadership? (Plus Importance and Steps)

2. Develop interpersonal communication skills

Interpersonal communication skills are also important when communicating with staff in a more mindful way. Apart from enabling you to communicate clearly, good interpersonal communication skills can also help you build strong relationships with support staff. When speaking with others in the workplace, pay attention to your non-verbal communication cues, such as body language, posture and facial expressions. By focusing more attentively on what the other party is saying, you may also learn to become a more active listener.

Related: Leader vs Manager: 8 Key Differences Between Both Roles

3. Be attentive when interacting with others

When interacting with others in the workplace, a mindful leader is also attentive. Thus, if you want to become more mindful, it's useful to remind yourself to focus more during workplace interactions. If you find yourself becoming distracted while interacting with colleagues, try to actively remind yourself to engage in the conversation.

What characteristics does a mindful leader have?

Knowing the common characteristics of a mindful leader can help you identify potential areas for personal development. Some of the characteristics that a mindful leader might have include the following:

  • Compassion: Mindful leaders can use their compassion to empathise with their colleagues or employees and try to approach workplace issues or assignments from their perspective. This can help them learn to understand situations from a different point of view.

  • Availability: Mindful leaders understand the importance of being available for staff members. When employees experience issues with their work, they're more likely to appreciate a leader who's present and to whom they can turn for guidance and advice.

  • Humility: Humility is a valuable characteristic that a mindful leader can have. This quality enables a mindful leader to remain approachable to employees and helps to promote their management style as inclusive and respectful.

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