“Search Inside Yourself” Mindful Leadership Program

After the 2-day live Search Inside Yourself program, I would define mindful
leadership as the ability to 1) sense and understand the feelings of oneself as well as others; 2) act and speak with compassion of the motivations and goals of others and 3) lead a meaningful life. The road map used to guide the program is a very helpful visualization highlighting that a number of components build on each other and eventually lead toward mindful leadership. From bottom up, the components are: mindfulness, self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and leadership. Mindfulness and self-awareness are the essential skills that lead to self-management and further, empathy. The first day was focus on building this foundation and fostering good attention to our body and feelings to prevent us from operating on “autopilot”. Only when we can attend to ourselves can we attend to other people as well.

I was particularly inspired by the ‘motivation’ module on the second day: there was a journaling activity to explore our core values and a 5-year vision activity. The prior draws core values from people I admire, which is incredibly helpful for identifying my core values to have them guide me through difficult conversations and conflicts with a clear, good intention. The second one is identical to the Zingerman’s visioning activity I participated in earlier; this time, it was very interesting to hear about the different areas of focus in the vision from people from various stages of life. For example, while my vision was primarily focused on how I navigate the workspace and professional life, an older lady I talked to was pondering “what does being alive mean to me?”. Most importantly, I got to experience the power of the emotional intelligence of a community. I was genuinely encouraged to care about myself and to explore all the best that I’ve got in my future. If this is not mindful leadership, I do not know what is.The ‘meaning’ in a meaningful life, which I named earlier, is not complete without bringing a meaning to other people’s life.

Throughout the program we practiced a number of types of listening: mindful listening, where we pay our full attention to the speaker without responding; and later, generous listening, where we pay attention to the speaker while also asking guiding questions that explores the speaker’s story and feelings more. This is such an importance skill to be reinforced again and again—it gives the speaker the deserved respect and makes the speaker feel important. It is the key to ‘leading with compassion’, a newer idea to me raised in the program. When handling a challenging conversation, the idea encourages us to consider the narrative of both ourselves and the other side, in terms of content (what happened?), feeling and identity (am I a good person?). Then, with these considerations, aim to solve the problem at hand rather than pushing away responsibilities. A mindful leader is therefore personable rather than perceived as on the top of hierarchy and unapproachable.

By: Ariel Huang

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