The Mindful Leader

Virtually all C-level executives are smart. Cognitive intelligence alone, however, is not a good indicator of leadership effectiveness.

When was the last time you checked in on your leadership effectiveness?

I’m not just talking about the objective performance of your organization or department; I’m referring to the more subtle, subjective qualities that are often more difficult to measure.

Research by psychologist Daniel Goleman suggests that emotional intelligence is the differentiating factor in outperforming leaders. Think of emotional intelligence as your ability to relate to other people.

It makes sense when you think about it: Your ability to relate to others impacts how much influence you have on others, how well you manage relationships, and even how well you manage yourself.

Evaluating Your Leadership Effectiveness

So here’s an exercise, if you’re game.

Perform an informal evaluation of your organization or department.

But before you can do this, you need to step outside yourself and put on a different hat. Imagine that you’re an outside consultant or a perhaps stealth ninja—whatever works for you.

Adopt what’s called a Beginner’s Mind where you have no preconceived notions. Look on your organization with a fresh pair of eyes.

Now, what do you see?

Here are a few questions to assist you in your evaluation:

  • What is the overall level of trust among employees? High? Average? Low?
  • Can you observe open, honest dialogue in meetings and around the workplace?
  • Do you feel a sense of camaraderie? Do people look like they want to be where they are?
  • Do you have reason to believe that the executives and employees have a sense of purpose in their work—that what they do matters?
  • How much fear can you observe? Are people more open or walled-off? Are they collaborating with one another or are they mainly operating in silos?
  • Are individuals focused on supporting the actualization of organizational and departmental results? Or are they predominantly focused on climbing higher on the corporate food chain?
  • Do you get a sense that individuals show genuine care for one another, the organization, and the customers that give the business its existence?

All of these questions speak to mindful leadership. They each reveal a dimension of the organization’s overall health.

Assessing Leadership Performance

Now return to your role as a leader of the organization. How did you do?

If the results of this performance review weren’t stellar, fear not. The fact that you can be honest about that demonstrates another quality of effective leaders: humility.

There’s always significant room for improvement. What’s important is that we stay conscious of these factors and continuously find ways to develop our abilities.

Without conscious attention, these factors head toward the lowest common denominators, none of which support a thriving, collaborative, and profitable enterprise. Creating a truly inspired organization takes conscious effort.

Leading Toward a Common Vision

Your first objective is to look at what’s really there. Be radically honest with the human dynamics you observe.

But then see the potential: How can the way people communicate and exchange ideas in your organization be improved? How can you foster an environment where a group of talented humans, aligned to a set of shared values, work together toward a common vision?

After all, that’s the role of a visionary leader: To see what others don’t, and to guide the organization to a compelling vision. It always starts with vision.

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