Are you mindful enough to be a good leader?

by L&D28 Jun 2016
Mindfulness allows you to self-regulate your behaviour and get the best out of yourself, particularly under the pressure of leading a team, said Michael Bunting, founder of the leadership consultancy WorkSmart Australia and bestselling author of The Mindful Leader.

The organisational and people advisory firm Korn Ferry has asked questions to identify the blind spots in people’s leadership characteristics.

Korn Ferry found that on average poor-performing company professionals had 20% more blind spots than those working in financially strong companies.

Poor-performing company professionals were also 79% more likely to have low self-awareness than those at firms with strong rates of return.

“This tells us that self-awareness is very critical to being able to lead a team effectively because it creates self-regulation,” Bunting told L&D Professional.

“Mindfulness is the answer to the question: How do you cultivate self-awareness?”

Bunting often asks audiences if they agree self-awareness is the critical competence of leadership.

The result is that everybody agrees because the research is undeniable.

But he then asks a second question: “If I asked you to practice self-awareness right now, tell me what you would do?”

This time the audience always goes blank.

“They don’t actually know how to practice self-awareness on an absolutely pragmatic level. There is a massive gap in understanding,” said Bunting.

“The key elements that mindfulness practice produces are real self-regulation, real honesty, and the willingness to deeply listen and focus on problems properly.

“Mindfulness in a sense equals practical self-awareness.”

There is another interesting example from The Mindful Leader regarding Michael von der Geest, a senior executive and consultant with Ernst and Young in the UK.

Prior to that, von der Geest worked at Accenture and assessed people on their emotional intelligence.

“But it was only when someone actually taught him mindfulness that he finally understood it,” said Bunting.

Indeed, von der Geest said: "‘This is how you actually do emotional intelligence!"

“He said it was so ironic because he spent his career teaching and assessing it, yet he didn’t even know how to do it. Basically, it was all theoretical,” said Bunting.

“Mindfulness changes that theoretical into an absolute practical where you learn how to actually do it. That is why it’s extremely relevant for leadership.” 

Bunting also recently told L&D Professional about common mistakes which leaders can make, such as not having a vision and not repeating it enough.

Related stories:

How leaders can make mistakes (and how to avoid them)

How mindfulness reduces stress and boosts learning

Michael Bunting is the bestselling author of The Mindful Leader and A Practical Guide to Meditation, and co-author of Extraordinary Leadership in Australia and New Zealand. He runs leadership consultancy WorkSmart Australia, a certified B-Corp. For more information, visit