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Mindfulness in Leadership: Does Being Mindful Enhance Leaders’ Business Success?

Part of the On Thinking book series (ONTHINKING)

Abstract

Is mindfulness – being open, present, and receptive to what is happening from one moment to the next without cognitively evaluating a given state or situation – an omnipresent capacity that can significantly contribute to enhancing leadership performance – or is it a context dependent potential? In this treatise, leadership as a general ability is understood as an anthropological constant as opposed to the prevalence of specific differences in leadership styles found in different cultures or contexts. This chapter advocates that mindfulness can be particularly helpful for leaders and executives as it may enhance leadership as a general ability. We outline a rationale for how and why mindfulness may increase the capacity to lead as well as act as a role model, discuss intercultural aspects related to mindfulness and leadership, and address potential restrictions. The proposition that mindfulness, if properly understood and brought into application, may be a useful tool for enhancing the personal and business success of leaders is developed in four subsections: (1) An epitome of what leadership is and what leaders are supposed to do in their professional role as an implicit criterion for assessing the potential benefits of mindfulness. (2) A definition of what is frequently understood by mindfulness and the changes in psychophysiological parameters that go along with regular mindfulness training, as reported by some empirical findings. This includes an analysis of what can be regarded as fact rather than fiction in the context of mindfulness. (3) A discussion of the potential benefits of mindfulness for leaders based on a general model of what leadership constitutes, as worked-out in the first section. (4) A caveat that takes into account some conceptual and practical pitfalls, to which one may easily fall prey, so as to prevent misunderstandings and misbehavior related to mindfulness. The final section summarizes the above mentioned sections with the conclusion that mindfulness can indeed be helpful but that both research and practical work remain to be done.

Keywords

  • Intercultural
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Mindfulness

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Notes

  1. 1.

    As most executives are also leaders (the opposite not always being true), in this treatise we use the term “executive” synonymously for “leader”.

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Sauer, S., Kohls, N. (2011). Mindfulness in Leadership: Does Being Mindful Enhance Leaders’ Business Success?. In: Han, S., Pöppel, E. (eds) Culture and Neural Frames of Cognition and Communication. On Thinking. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-15423-2_17

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