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date: 26 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

Organizational mindfulness refers to an organization’s collective disposition toward learning and supports its ongoing quest for effective and reliable performance. Descended from Buddhist thought, mindfulness draws attention to a leader’s awareness of the moment and subsequent decision-making and is informed by in-the-moment observation and attentiveness. This Eastern perspective suggests that as leaders work to craft informed responses to the demands before them, mindfulness places them in a position to maximize learning in real-time and respond to challenges from a place of equanimity. Complemented by the Eastern perspective, Western perspectives concerning organizational mindfulness have focused on the development of practices designed to increase highly reliable leadership performance. In this conception, mindful leadership is focused on potential threats to organizational performance and leadership effort is oriented toward eliminating or minimizing negative impact. Furthermore, mindful leaders seek robust and complex interpretations of organizational threat, embracing a heightened sensitivity to the link between organizational processes and outcome. Finally, Western notions of mindful leadership suggest that resiliency, a tenacious commitment to learning from failure, and deference to expertise rather than formal authority are hallmarks of mindful practice. In this way, mindful leaders orient their work toward organizational and cultural change evident in a collective attention that orients the work of its members. To do so requires that a leader’s attention be oriented toward deeply developed explanations of activities within the organizational school setting, including opportunities for formative, substantive data use and on-the-ground real time orientation to communal learning. In turn, mindful practice sets the stage for school leaders to engage the school community in becoming active partners in communal knowledge creation with the intent of improving classroom practice, student learning, and well-being.

Keywords: mindfulness, high-reliability organizations, school leadership, school performance, school culture

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