Finding the Space to Lead

Jann Freed Leading Leave a Comment

If you are in the position to influence the lives of others, you are a leader.  This role is not just for bosses, managers, but for parents, coaches, pastors.  You probably fit into one or more of these roles and you know the busy-ness that accompanies being a leader.  And in this holiday season, we are even busier–if that is possible.

Being mindful sounds easy, but yet it can be difficult to practice mindfulness.  Finding the Space to Lead:  A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership by Janice Marturano is a helpful book to learn more about mindful leadership.  Marturano uses the word “space” to refer to the mental and emotional space.  She uses the Internet metaphor of “bandwidth” as another way to think of space as the capacity to “see, feel, hear, and reflect on what is in front of us and what is inside of us.  When we have that space, we can deal with even an urgent problem in a calm, creative, and humane way, rather than have an expedient reaction to the pressure.”

Marturano has found in her work with executives that people will often say they wish they had more “space.”  People want more breathing room so they can be clear and focused and have the time to listen and contemplate rather than react.  She defines a mindful leader as someone who “embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion in the service of others.”

Think of a person who you believe is an excellent leader.  

  • Why did this person come to mind?
  • What is it about this person’s leadership that made you think of her or him?
  • Would you consider this person to be a mindful leader?

How many days go by and you don’t even remember taking a breath?

How often do you say:  “I need a chance to catch my breath!”  or “I didn’t have a moment to breathe!”

The best way to start is to focus on the breath.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn in one of my favorite books Wherever You Go There You Are, the breath can be an “anchor line to tether you to the present moment and to guide you back when the mind wanders … Bringing awareness to our breathing, we remind ourselves that we are here now, so we might as well be fully awake for whatever is already happening.”

Exercise:  Take a deep breath in and notice the breath as it comes in and as it goes out, keeping your mind open for just this breath.  Don’t worry about getting somewhere, having anything happen, or doing anything.  Keep returning to the breath as the mind wanders.  Try this exercise for a few moments throughout the day.  

Breathing keeps us alive and I believe leaders should breathe life into people, program, projects.

As Caribou reminds us:  Life is short.  Stay awake for it.

Feel yourself breathing right now.