A common ritual for many at this time of year is mapping out important goals and resolutions. Our roles and responsibilities as leaders call for a strong level of energy and endurance, as well as the capacity to stay consistently focused and intentional. In SHAMBAUGH’s coaching practice, we work with leaders who strive to be productive and visionary, but also creative, innovative, authentic, and balanced. That’s because emotional stability is closely connected to all of the other leadership traits, and impacts the quality of our interactions with teams, colleagues, and everyone who depends on us.
It requires a healthy mindset to lead both within and with others. While IQ is important for effective leadership, you can’t neglect your emotional quotient (EQ), which correlates with your lifestyle, health, and wellness. Translated, leadership is not just about doing, but about being. It is critical to bring a high level of mindfulness to your leadership practice every day—for your own well-being and that of others.
The Science of Healthy Leaders
How can we integrate mindfulness into our leadership approach? The answer lies in neuroscience. Neuroscientists have been able to show, through the use of magnetic resonance images (MRIs), that mindfulness is associated with changes in gray matter in areas of the brain activated during learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, and perspective taking. This can change the way blood and oxygen flow through the brain, strengthening the neural circuits responsible for concentration and empathy, shrinking the amygdala (the area of the brain that controls the fear response), and enlarging the hippocampus (the area of the brain that controls memory).
SHAMBAUGH’s leadership programs and coaching reinforce a foundation for effective leadership that requires self-knowledge, self-awareness, and centeredness. That’s because research shows that the best leaders use some method of mindfulness to maintain their executive presence while managing a constant barrage of stimuli. You can influence your attitude, attention, and emotional resilience by managing the dynamics of your brain, which can have a major impact on leadership effectiveness.
So as the new year gets underway, if you find yourself feeling anxious, stressed, or out of balance, take the time to reset your mindset by trying a few of these techniques:
- • Meditate. It has been scientifically proven that just 25 minutes of practicing daily meditation/breathing techniques triggers significant improvements around the hippocampus, a major component of the brain instrumental for learning and memory, and associated with self-awareness, compassion, introspection, and stress reduction. So find time each day to pause and create a space for solo self-reflection, whether by breathing mindfully, taking a walk in nature, or just sitting quietly to clear your mind. Devoting time to meditation can help you gain a clearer perspective to deal more effectively with stress.
- • Have a purpose. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is big or small—in fact, it doesn’t really matter what your specific goal is. Studies indicate that people who feel a strong sense of purpose regardless of their mission not only enjoy life more, but also live longer. Having a definite purpose can help keep you focused on your true values and priorities. If you’re unclear about your purpose, reexamine your core values and ask yourself if you are living those fully. Values link directly to purpose and if misaligned can create stress, inner conflict, and self-doubt.
- • Exercise. Physical activity strengthens your immune system and helps you manage stress. Studies have revealed that people learn faster and remember better after working out. So get outside and run, bike, or take a walk. If you’re worried about sticking with it, schedule a meeting with a personal trainer to hold you accountable to your intentions.
- • Improve your emotional resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from failure, disappointment, and situations over which you have little control. To improve your emotional resilience, take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and getting outside in nature. Try to avoid getting stressed out over things you can’t control. Remember the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- • Do one thing at a time. Several studies indicate that multitasking and distraction are enemies of peak performance. Whether you’re talking on the phone, writing an email, or taking a walk, be present and block out distractions. This practice will allow you to be more intentional, calm, and centered and in turn can improve judgment, decision-making, and planning.
- • Get plenty of sleep. Working 24/7 is not a good idea if you value your health and want to be your best as a leader. We all need restorative sleep just as we need exercise. We live in an overstimulated world, and there are millions of Type A people who suffer from lack of sleep, which can lead to errors and failure to manage emotions, as well as to health problems like attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and memory loss. To sleep better, practice good sleep habits. Get plenty of exercise early in the day, and turn off the computer at least an hour before bed—the light and visual stimulation encourage wakefulness. Pamper yourself prior to sleep: take a hot shower or warm bath, and give yourself permission to turn off the lights to rejuvenate your mind and body.
You don’t have to make every change at once; start small and believe that you can create optimum balance by increasing your mindfulness little by little. Putting even a few of these techniques into practice will yield lifelong dividends starting today, including making you a better leader. So resolve this year to fill up your tank with the right ingredients to fuel your full leadership potential and ability.
If you are interested in executive coaching to create a plan for renewing your leadership effectiveness or building your leadership strategy for the best of 2015, please contact me and I’ll be happy to explore this option with you: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s integrated solutions and programs for both existing and current leader’s visit www.shambaughleadership.com. Accelerate the development and advancement of your women leaders and executives, visit our Women’s Leadership Programs
Rebecca Shambaugh is author of the best-selling books “It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor,” “Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton,” and “Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results”