The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is [competent] if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.
William James, The Principles of Psychology, 1890
I once heard the great Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh say, ‘When we are well, our wellness spills onto others. And when we are unwell, that too spills onto others. Be well.' The behaviour of leaders has an enormous impact on those they lead, and the more senior they are the greater the impact. Leadership is both a privilege and a burden. It is incumbent on leaders to be well and to lead from a centre of wellness and non-reactivity. Leaders set the tone for the whole team or organisation: when they are calm, confident, open and relaxed, the team is more likely to feel the same. Likewise, when they are stressed, fearful and closed, it breeds the same emotions among team members.
In later chapters we will cover the integrated mindful practices that support specific leadership development challenges. But before we get into the subtleties of this transformational practice, we'll start with some basics so we can build from the ground up.
I usually start mindfulness foundation training by asking leaders an open-ended question: ‘What state are you in when you are at your best as a leader?' The answers are remarkably consistent: Physically, they ...