The Leadership Phenomenon

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In our work with organizations, we’ve noticed that when the leader develops their mindfulness skills, their team also becomes more mindful. Sometimes this improvement is because the leader encourages them to practice and incorporates mindfulness into their daily interactions. Other times, positive changes in the team come from the leader making changes in their behavior, which in turn impact their team members. In other words, the team leader is a powerful influencer in the well-being and job satisfaction of their team members.

A recent study demonstrated that what we’re seeing is that mindful communication is the mechanism for positive change in teams. The researchers stated that mindfulness in communication is composed of three components (Parker et al., 2015):

  1. Being present and paying attention in conversations

  2. Being open and non-judgmental of what the employee is saying

  3. Being calm and non-reactive in your emotions

Researchers state that leaders who are present, accepting, and calm in their communications signal that they are open to different views and opinions. They are often perceived to be humble and authentic, not chasing recognition or rewards (Arendt et al., 2019; Verdorfer, 2016). These researchers also concluded that mindfulness is not just for personal well-being and resilience but may also have positive effects on interpersonal skills and communication (Arendt et al., 2019). The researchers caution, however, that if the leader tries to “fake” these techniques to manage impressions, or for selfish or unhealthy goals, employees will recognize it and it will backfire for the leader (Reb et al., 2018).

What this study reminds me is that all of us, not just leaders, are often more concerned with what we are going to say than what others have to say to us. This study points out that the real power in communication is the skill to be present, open, and calm in listening to others. Learning to mindfully listen is a skill, and like all skills, it takes practice to improve. To help you on this journey, we have many exercises in our program to improve listening skills. Below is an example of one of those exercises. We hope that you’ll take just a few minutes to listen to this exercise and then commit to practice it with someone you trust and who will give you feedback.


Arendt, J. F., Verdorfer, A. P., & Kugler, K. G. (2019). Mindfulness and Leadership: Communication as a Behavioral Correlate of Leader Mindfulness and Its Effect on Follower Satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00667

Reb, J., Chaturvedi, S., Narayanan, J., and Kudesia, R. S. (2018). Leader mindfulness and employee performance: a sequential mediation model of LMX quality, interpersonal justice, and employee stress. J. Bus. Ethics 1–19. doi: 10.1007/s10551-018-3927-x

Verdorfer, A. (2016). Examining mindfulness and its relations to humility, motivation to lead, and actual servant leadership behaviors. Mindfulness 7, 950–961. doi: 10.1007/s12671-016-0534-8