FCM Member Nancy Natilson attended a three-day conference on Mindful Leadership in Washington, DC in November 2016. Her interest stemmed specifically from her current role as Director of FCM’s Mindfulness Institute. Following is Nancy’s summary of her experience at the summit.
How meaningful to be part of a gathering of 800 people from 27 countries who came together to explore what it means to be a mindful leader and how being a mindful leader can make the world a better place! I stayed an extra day to take the workshop, “Search Inside Yourself” created at Google to bring mindfulness and emotional intelligence to the workplace, to improve collaboration, engagement, well-being, resilience, and effectiveness.
What makes leadership mindful? One of the co-founders of this third annual event stated, “Mindful leadership is leadership in service to others with compassion and authenticity.” Other definitions included: the ability to connect with others and skillfully initiate and guide change; and interaction (emotional loyalty) instead of transaction (material loyalty).
Characteristics of mindful leadership included: listening more than speaking; questioning more than answering; creating space for others to speak and act; opening your heart and your mind; and making people feel special and loved. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said and forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Deep sharing and deep listening are basic values of mindful leadership; how fortunate that we have the opportunity to practice this method of connecting and understanding so often at FCM.
The presenters ranged from creative entrepreneurs to Ivy League neuroscientists; most had authored one or more books; only a handful stated they were committed Buddhist practitioners. I felt a deep connection with one speaker, Marc Lesser, who used the Dharma to explain the principles/values of mindful leadership. He was one of the co-founders of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, and had spent many years practicing Buddhism at the San Francisco Zen Center, including managing the kitchen at the Tassajara Center. His experience of introducing mindfulness into the corporate world was very inspiring. Also, the Chief Mindfulness Officer at Aetna Insurance shared with us how he converted a conference room into a mindfulness center at Aetna’s headquarters and supported the creation of a culture of self-awareness and well-being because the CEO practiced yoga and meditation to successfully manage pain after a serious ski accident.
What would the world be like if people acted selflessly and with compassion and authenticity? if leaders emerged from openheartedness and the aspiration to benefit others? if we were all present and awake? This is possible, and it begins with each of us! Being mindful is the most authentic and effective leadership style to show others how to be peaceful, loving, and happy.