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June 4, 2014

Meditation: The Surprising Leadership Skill

Business

Jeff Cochran

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The modern business environment is fast paced and high stress. However, there is a new practice that is becoming increasingly popular with top companies and competitive business schools that can cut stress, improve focus, and make you a more effective leader. What is this new habit transforming the corporate world? It isn’t a new habit at all, but rather a timeless practice derived from eastern traditions – mindfulness or meditation. Mindfulness and meditation offer a variety of benefits for business leaders, helping improve focus, energize leadership, and even improve physical health by reducing the deleterious effects of work-related stress.

More Mindful = Less Stress

One of the primary reasons that meditation and mindfulness are being introduced into business environments is that they are valuable for reducing both physical and emotional stress. In part, this reduced stress is a factor of setting aside time to clear away all thoughts of work, but there are other factors at play here as well. For example, one common factor in meditation and mindfulness practices includes control of the breath. Taking just a few deep breaths and focusing on that process can ease the effects of mental strain and interpersonal conflict. Other meditation activities, such as guided meditations or progressive muscle relaxation work to guide your body through a series of states or scenes that are intended to relieve stress.

Get Some Perspective 

As a business leader, one of the most valuable skills that meditation and mindfulness can hone is the ability to take the perspective of others. Business leaders who practice these skills find they are more open-minded and more empathetic. Being able to fully take on the perspective of another can help professionals to lead their team towards the best decisions, reduce intra-group tensions, and come to an informed consensus. Businesspersons who are only able to see a problem from their point of view work at a disadvantage to those who can mindfully embrace a range of viewpoints.

Time for a Change 

Perhaps the real common denominator for all businesses today is that the world is changing rapidly. The constant turnover and shifting balance of the business arena can be unsettling and a major challenge for some to meet. Those who practice meditation and mindfulness have been found to be better able to adapt to this rapid pace of change. In part, this is a feature of radical acceptance – leaders with mindfulness experience are able to accept that the world is one way in one moment and another way in the next moment. When things change, these flexible leaders are there to change with them, keeping adaptive corporations ahead of the curve.

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