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Leadership 101: Part 9 – Blueprint to Develop Your Leadership Skills

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. - Edith Wharton


In this chapter, we list ways that you can develop your leadership skills through two fundamental abilities, which are mindfulness and courage. 


Practice mindfulness 


According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is: “Being able to pay direct and open attention to what one is doing at the moment one is doing it, in a non-judgmental conscious way.” Mindfulness is also an invitation to get out of the autopilot responses, reactions, and habits that push us towards movements of impatience, lack of listening, or even indifference towards others. 


A leader is not a perfect or heroic being, but by the charisma and self-confidence he exudes, one wants to be like him. The qualities of a good leader are recognized in his vision of the future and his pursuit of excellence. Credible and with integrity while having a deep respect for others, he has developed his emotional intelligence and knows how to prove flexibility and open-mindedness. You can feel all the authenticity in him. Mindfulness brings added skills that function as a catalyst for the leader and allow him to quickly get people into a collaborative mode while stimulating their creativity. 


Inspired by Ellen Choi and Michael Rouse, here are four characteristics that distinguish Mindfulness Leaders and allow them to have an impact on the effectiveness of their teams: 


Their vigilance and attention: Contrary to persistent belief, entire mere presence does not make you calm or amorphous. On the contrary, it allows you to develop a quality of alertness and an unparalleled ability to focus. 


While having a precise vision of the aims to be achieved, open attention in the present moment allows one to seize opportunities as they arise and to adjust the focus when necessary. 


Self-awareness: Self-awareness allows the leader to develop an awareness of his physical, mental, and emotional state. He learns to recognize what is going on inside him. 


Self-regulation: Self-regulation supplies control to achieve one’s goals. By developing the ability to keep focus and attention in a particular direction for a specific period, productivity and performance are increased while reducing mental fatigue and the risk of errors. 


Transcendence of self to understand the other: Self-transcendence is the ability to consider the needs of others and to choose the course of action that reflects the best interests of a larger group of people. This ability to make proper and informed choices is essential to ensure the sustainability of the business, and it promotes positive and satisfying relationships with the team and the organization. 


Here are two activities to help you practice mindfulness and become a better leader. 


Exercise 1: Breathing Consciously 


Regularly during the day, take short breaks between tasks, and take a few seconds to breathe. You everything in even 5 seconds and concentrate only on your breathing. 


When you practice mindfulness breathing, you forget what you are doing and what you will do next, focusing only on your breath. You are just seeing the air coming in and watching the air goes out. You feel your belly inflation with attitude and then deflation. You visualize the path of the air when you inhale and exhale. And as soon as you become aware that you are giving energy to a thought, smile and slowly return to your breathing. Try it now. 


Stop reading and take a few conscious breaths. Or just one. Stop what you were doing and take a deep breath in and out. Put your attention on it, not only your lungs breathing, but your whole body. Every cell in your body stops and enjoys that breath. 


Practice this exercise, and you will soon realize that you are more mindful of your breath throughout the day. 


Exercise 2: Walking with awareness 


During You can also practice mindfulness by walking during a walk, a stroll, or even at homely present during your walk. It does not matter where you go. It does not matter where you come from, either. Observe every step and how they feel. 


Every step is a destination. With each step, you can try to feel the sensation of your foot touching the ground. First, you will feel the heel touching the ground, then the rest of the foot. You can also slow your walk to be present with each step. Try to function as if you were hugging the ground with each step. Be as gentle as possible with every step on the floor. 


Everything can become an exercise in mindfulness. Every action of daily life can be transformed into mindfulness meditation if it is lived fully. Every task in everyday life can be mindfulness training: whether it is gardening, washing dishes, or driving a car. Whatever the situation, it is simply a matter of being more attentive to what we are doing and devoting our full attention to it. Living life with a clear conscience is merely living life, and it will help you become a great leader and, mostly, an inspiring leader. 


Practice Courage  


We all need a strong leader who knows how to make tough decisions, protect others, and stay the course in tough times. 


A good leader does not give up at the first difficulty met: the leader accepts failures as tests and knows that the path to the goal is not a long calm river. In the face of adversity, the leader must sharpen up, show even more determination to reach the plan, and must have learned from the leader’s mistakes. 


You know it as well as I do: before committing ourselves to someone, we always wait to see their courage, their determination, their perseverance. A group of people will be much more willing to show courage if their leader sets an example. But how does one become courageous? Here are  


Step 1: Admit That You Are Afraid 


Being brave does not mean that you are not afraid; it means you can move forward no matter how scared you are. If you push your emotions away, they will only get stronger. It would help if you recognized that fear is present. Find your fears consciously. You do not have to tell anyone else, just yourself. 


Step 2: Accept Your Fear 


Your emotions are normal and neutral. It is the feeling that we are attached to the emotion that becomes good or bad. You will not help yourself by judging yourself on this emotion, and you will not become braver. Reading stories of people who have faced their fears can be helpful. It can help you understand that you are not alone in your fear and help you to accept that fear more quickly. 


Step 3: See Your Fears 


Take the role of the observer and see your emotion. We are afraid when we perceive a situation as being wrong. Some fears are legitimate, but others are very irrational. Observe your fear and decide if it is logical or something you can move forward with. 


Step 4: Be Vulnerable 


Accept everything as a risk. Try not to see things as failures or successes but as experiences from which you can learn. Uncertainty is the source of fears. You can learn to tolerate risk by working it out daily. 


Step 5: Surrender 


Certain things in life cannot be controlled, such as the future. There is no way that you could know the lot with certainty. Let go of the need to control the outcome and live in the present moment. Remember that you cannot prevent the development of a situation. You can only control what you do. Instead, focus on your actions, not the results. 


Step 6: Find an Inspiration 


Find a role model, and it could be someone you know or a famous leader. If they are close to you or accessible, ask them how they faced their fears. Try to copy the behavior of someone who has faced adversity. And do not forget, you can always ask for help. Others can be a significant source of courage when they hold our hands during something scary. 


Step 7: Be Resilient 


Resilience is the ability to face adversity and, in some ways, a form of courage. Courage needs resistance in the face of a frightening or painful situation. Work on your ability not to become a victim and find new ways to approach a problem or situation. It would help if you dealt with it. Courageous people look at the situation and find a way to approach it rather than trying to ignore the problem. Things are not always going to be easy. Resilient people understand this and get up after they fall. 


Step 8: Nothing Is Perfect. 


It is often believed that perfectionism is the same as ambition. The desire for perfection manages fear paralysis. We may be paralyzed by fear and stop all efforts to achieve our goals. This prevents us from experiencing loss or failure, which is impossible in life? The quest for perfection can make you so hard on yourself. Focus on the process rather than the outcome. 


Step 9: Try Something Difficult 


You might feel more confident in achieving something you found insurmountable. Think of this challenge as an opportunity to gain experience; remember can take the time you want to know. Find ways to set goals and challenge yourself. Courage is not always visible. Sometimes having courage means standing up and trying again. 


Step 10: Train Yourself to Be Conscious 


Practice conscious, non-judgmental acceptance techniques (like the one above) to help you accept negative and positive emotions. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to examine your fears and give you more courage. 


Step 11: Create a Plan 


It is easy to get scared when you do not know what to do. Consider the possible obstacles that could stand in your way. Consider all the obstacles you might face and create a plan of action. Suddenly, your fear of the unknown will be irrelevant since you have a plan and know how it will move forward. 


In the next chapter, we will explore what can lead you from being a good leader to a great one! 

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