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The article Leadership in Uncertainty: The Mindfulness Solution by Elizabeth King and Richard Badham offers suggestions to improve mindfulness in the organizations we run and work for. The journal begins by offering reasons why mindfulness is needed more than ever in our organizations. They explain that new and higher forms of thinking are necessary to combat the ever-increasing changes in our world. The world is changing rapidly and becoming more “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA)” and mindfulness can be used to empower leaders to better handle these changes.

Most leaders and workers feel overwhelmed by the fast rate of change and uncertainty in our modern world. This stress not only impacts the individual but the health and security of the organization as well. In fact, the cost of workplace stress has a cost ranging anywhere between $221 million to $1.87 billion a year. Work environments can suffer tremendously when leaders are not working to improve mindfulness in their organizations. It is imperative that leaders develop their skills to handle uncertainty and complexities, and mindfulness is one solution to handle these difficulties.

Mindfulness and meditation are scientifically proven to improve neuro-plasticity. This means that we can change the structure of our brain and improve our mental capabilities! Mindfulness is “a solution to the problems and anxieties that surround rapid and disruptive change, digital distraction, stress, and burnout.”

Mindfulness can be understood using four different perspectives: individual, collective, instrumental, and substantive. Individual mindfulness attends to a person’s immediate experience and helps to improve awareness and emotional regulation, while collective mindfulness has a greater emphasis on group interdependence and cooperation. The instrumental perspective deals with how mindfulness improves a person and an organization’s performance, while substantive places value on the reflection of the purpose of mindfulness within an individual and the collective group or organization.

It is recognized that within a mindfulness practice there are two components at play. The first deals with the inner mindfulness experience which has a focus on awareness, attention, and acceptance. During our practice, we must become aware of our bodies, our breath, and the environment. We must focus our attention on these things and have an accepting view of our personal mindfulness practice. The second component at work during mindfulness is the outer experience of mindfulness which deals with the experiences we are focused on and pay attention to while practicing mindfulness. This relates to incongruity, impermanence, and identification. Through mindfulness practices, we can begin to understand and accept that our experiences on earth can be disappointing and ambiguous. We can gain appreciation and acceptance that all things are impermanent. Finally, we can begin to understand how our self-centered nature impacts our view of the world and the people in it; through mindfulness, we can learn to move past self-centeredness and take other people’s views to heart.

Many organizations are beginning to see the benefit of practicing mindfulness with leaders and their employees, yet they often only focus on individual mindfulness which “enhances the leaders’ capacity for being aware of, attentive to and accepting of experience.” This research proposes a focus on individual wisdom, collective mindfulness, and collective wisdom along with individual mindfulness as being the key to lasting improvements within the organization. Individual wisdom can help leaders address toxic behaviors and cultures within organizations by placing attention on fostering collaboration, open communication, and resilience. To increase one’s individual wisdom, check out the offering from Mindfulness+ which will help leaders gain an understanding of disadvantaged groups and an awareness of ethical concerns using a mindfulness approach. Collective mindfulness is also needed within organizations, as it helps the group manage changes, difficulties, or failures. Leaders and their employees or volunteers must all be aware of these changes and work to improve them. Improving collective mindfulness is shown to “enhance well-being, organizational health, effectiveness, and sustainability.” Check out this article with tips for improving collective mindfulness. Collective wisdom addresses the inequality and unethical behaviors that are common in many organizations. Leaders of organizations must consider ways to improve the economic, social, and political conditions needed to ensure we all collectively thrive. To have collective wisdom in our organizations means we have “a sense of higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture.”

Taking these steps to expand our mindfulness practices can have a lasting positive effect on the organizations we lead and work for!

King, E., & Badham, R. (2018). Leadership in uncertainty: the mindfulness solution. Organizational Dynamics, 1-15. doi: 10.1016/j.orgdyn.2018.08.005