Mindfulness Matters in Leadership
- Maria GuajardoMaria GuajardoSoka University
Mindfulness and leadership come together as a model for arriving at solutions in the field of education. Two approaches, Eastern and Western, present perspectives on mindfulness that are distinct, however both aim towards the same goal of enhancing awareness. Originating in the East, mindfulness is at the core of Buddhist philosophy and includes enhanced attention and an attentiveness to the present. Conversely, the Western approach to mindfulness gained traction in the 1970s in the field of cognitive and social psychology. Within the field of education in the United States, mindfulness has contributed, primarily in the classroom, as an activity to foster better classroom management and improved focus on learning. Mindfulness has also been applied to mindful learning, aimed at revealing enhanced approaches to learning.
Along a similar vein, applications of mindfulness in the leadership field, encourage the approach of focused attention to individual leadership development, problem-solving, and self-reflection. Resonant leadership and authentic leadership are two of the primary leadership models that include the strategy of mindfulness. Moving beyond the individual perceptions of mindfulness in leadership development, a more collaborative approach of mindfulness has emerged, where social change emerges from interdependence and mutuality amongst a number of individuals. Whether at the individual or collective level, mindfulness is impacted by cultural influences. Educational leaders are tasked with leading ethnically diverse learning communities by necessity, as demographics change and ethnic minority populations become minority majority populations. Thus, awareness of one’s cultural mindset, both limitations and strengths, can contribute to one’s leadership abilities. Mindfulness, when directed inward, can paradoxically enhance one’s ability to better understand others and to breakthrough stereotypes. This perspective could foreseeably foster cultural competence and greater levels of cultural integration, but as a function of greater self-awareness. Thus, mindfulness and leadership, as a creative combination of self and other, come together as a promising model of leadership for educators. Whether integrated as a necessary element of existing leadership theories, or identified as an important process of reflection in leadership development, mindfulness opens a pathway to greater insight and awareness. Aspects of mindfulness can therefore contribute to leadership, in particular, at the intersection of these elements relative to culture.