Why Mindful Leadership?
Today's school leaders are working more than ever before. A typical school leader puts in an average of 10-12 hours a day! With increased accountability and focus on the leader’s role in a school, it’s no secret that leaders today require a specific skill set that involves being able to manage overseeing multiple areas – like curriculum and instruction, discipline, and building management. Leaders are expected to clearly communicate the goal(s) for improving the organization, possess positive presuppositions about staff and students, and have enough emotional capacity to handle their own feelings, employees, parents, and probably a couple hundred students’ emotional states simultaneously.
Pretty soon the weight of these responsibilities can start infiltrating every domain of a leader’s daily life, effecting productivity, leadership impact, and personal and professional relationships. Let’s face it, even when they're home – they are often not present. Leaders are facilitating their 3 p.m. faculty meeting while in the shower at 5 a.m., practicing coaching conversations while getting dressed, and mentally walking the school hallways or classrooms while commuting to work.
The constant barrage of “must do’s,” “need to do’s,” and “should do’s” flood their presence and the guilty feeling of not doing enough seeps through into family time too. Instead of watching their children play outside, they are thinking and worried about the child that was in their office that afternoon. In essence, they are on autopilot.
Since we know the brain can not multitask, how do leaders keep their mind fueled for the everyday demands while taking care of themselves physically and emotionally? How do they ensure every conversation has them fully present? The answer lies in the term, “Mindfulness.”
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a balance between art and science. Merriam Webster defines mindfulness as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. In this article from Edutopia, Elena Aguilar lists the top three traits education leaders must possess in today’s world.
She asserts effective leaders must:
be a visionary that is clear about what he/she believes in
be a community builder that knows teaming is the most effective way to solve problems
possess high emotional intelligence--that is the ability to understand and manage own emotions and recognize, understand and manage the emotions of others
Practicing mindfulness benefits emotional intelligence and emotional regulation. Various mindfulness practices encourage the brain to recognize the connection of the body, breath, and mind allowing us to be fully present, to be self aware, and to show compassion.
Being a mindful leader means more than meditating on a pillow for five minutes a day in a quiet room (You don’t even have to do that to be mindful!). Being mindful means that a leader is aware of the connectedness between networks of people and can operate and make decisions from a non-judgmental appreciative lens versus a deficit mindset.
Our understanding of the world around us is continuously evolving; our understanding of what it takes to be a good leader is no different. Today, through research we know that effective leadership requires self-knowledge, self-awareness, and emotional presence. To be an effective leader amidst the barrage of stimuli, it is critical to have some method to maintain health, well-being, and emotional presence. It requires being intentional about adopting and modeling the impactful strategies behind mindfulness, networking in front of those you lead and consciously choosing to be in the moment whether at school or at home.
Harvard Business School Professor and leadership expert Bill George believes that,
“Leaders that lack self-awareness also often lack the ability to self-regulate. Some leaders exhibit high levels of self-control and self-discipline in normal times. When they are under pressure or feel vulnerable, they revert to their worst traits, such as emotional outbursts or excessive use of power and control. Others move in the opposite direction, feeling immobilized or withdrawing just when their leadership is needed most.”
Consistency is key. Being able to maintain calm and focused even in a storm of events and competing priorities lies at the heart of effective mindful leadership.
How mindful of a leader are you?
Curious about becoming a more mindful leader and how mindfulness can impact your classroom with student centered systems? Check out www.mindfueled.com.
Director of Professional Learning, The Core Collaborative
Sarah Stevens lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children. She is currently the Director of Professional Learning for The Core Collaborative assisting districts across the United States and the TCC team in creating a synergy of systems to empower those who matter most- the students.
Sarah's passion is in system thinking and partnering with adults to create a connected environment where students needs come first and learning together makes an impact.