The Mindful Leader – Staying Resilient, Collaborating and Thriving in Complexity

May 21, 2017 • LEADERSHIP, Coaching, Leadership Development

By Michael Chaskalson and Megan Reitz

Political and economic instability, climate change, globalisation, disruption, an unprecedented pace of change and overwhelming channels of communication – how can leaders stay focussed and make good decisions? Mindfulness can help. Research with a cohort of business leaders shows it enhances resilience, the capacity for collaboration and the ability to thrive in complex conditions – if they practice it regularly.


Leadership Today

There have never been times like this for organisational leaders. Whether we look at markets, systems, climate, politics or technology, unpredictable disruption is the new normal. On top of this, leaders are called on to manage a wider range of relational networks than ever before and the systems in which they function are deeply and unpredictably complex. Under these conditions they have to facilitate co-operation, idea generation and decision-making – across geographical boundaries and across differing viewpoints, both inside and outside their organisations – while somehow staying on top of vast flows of information from emails, messaging, calls and meetings. To cap all of that, they must also, by some means, maintain a healthy family and social life. 

In this maelstrom, leaders have to focus on their multiple tasks in hand while continuing to relate and work well with others.

To lead well today, to thrive in situations where it’s not possible to engineer or control outcomes, you have first of all to manage your own attention and your own emotional responses.

Successful leadership today depends on three key leadership capacities.

1. The capacity to collaborate with others.
2. The capacity for resilience.
The capacity to survive and thrive in complex contexts.

There is a growing consensus amongst management thinkers1 around these capacities, but to date there’s been no agreement on how one can best help executives to develop and sustain them. There has, until now, been little by way of researched evidence around the best method for doing this.

Our own recent research2 tells us that systematic mindfulness training and practice may offer a response.

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