The Dilemmas of Leadership – Pt 2

In the previous post, we looked at the subjectivity of the attributes desirous of a leader. The fact that there are multiple factors that determine what qualities a leader must possess as well as display, requires the leader to be highly mindful. A leader has to be mindful of not only the situation in the moment externally, but also the internal milieu. Mindfulness is an attribute that has at its core 3 key principles:

  1. Being present in the moment
  2. Purposeful attention
  3. Non-judgmental

Being present in the moment: The mind is a fickle entity. Our thoughts seldom dwell at one place. We oscillate between the past and the future. But this oscillation is generally not reflective. When reflective we tend to evaluate, analyze and learn. However, in most cases, these oscillations are weighed by feelings of regret or fear. We feel sorry for what has happened and fearful or anxious about what may occur in the future. When making decisions as a leader, it is necessary to be aware of the past as well as the impact of the decision in the future (to whatever best extent possible). If sufficient data is not available to determine, then we need to be aware of that too! Essentially, being in the present is not about becoming oblivious to the impacts of the past or the effects of the present on the future, It is about understanding the implications but appreciating that action occurs in the “now”. We cannot do anything in the past nor in the future. Everything that was done or is to be done, happened/will happen in the present. Therefore, while being aware of both the past and the future, a leader needs to act with full awareness of the present. What are the conditions that exist at this moment? How am I feeling about it right now? How are my feelings about the present, past and future influencing me at this moment? This essentially is what being intentionally aware is about.

Purposeful attention: Essentially it is about keeping the mind where the body is. In this day and age, we celebrate multi-tasking. As we sit in hours long zoom meeting, we tend to do multiple things simultaneously. It is essentially a way for our brain to conserve its energy resources. If we find something that is not relevant for us, we shut it out and look towards engaging in something that we feel is important. This challenge of determining how to distribute one’s attention is a significant one for a leader. After all, when you are leading a team or a company, there are multiple decisions that need to be made and a leader’s attention is required in all of these! Through delegation to trustworthy resources, some of these decision making processes can be offloaded or simplified indeed. But the final mark of approval will still come to the leader or eventually the ownership of the outcomes rests with him/her. Therefore, being attentive purposefully, towards varied aspects of a business is extremely crucial for decision making. One may not be so interested in marketing, or sales, or agile with technical concepts or bored to death listening to presentations on customer trends – but a leader cannot afford the luxury of being complacent towards topics that aren’t interesting enough to him/her. The way to ensure this purposeful attention means, we refrain from judging the happenings.

Non-judgmental: Typically when we hear the term non-judgmental, we immediately attribute it to non-evaluation. There is a subtle difference between evaluating and judging. It may seem that I am splitting hair here, but bear with me. Indian bitter gourd – Karela is an infamous dish. 8/10 people hate this dish. Evaluating the dish of Karela leads to a realization of its bitterness. Liking or disliking is being judgmental. In the context of people, a leader has to be mindful of how he/she makes the other person feel. Do the words we use, the way we use them make the other person feel judged? This immediately brings to mind the picture of someone being called “guilty”. Of course, people can be acquitted too, but the connotation of judging to determine the guilt of an individual paints a very strong picture of negative assessment. The same is true of how we judge our feelings – some feelings are good, and some feelings are not good. If I feel neglected, that is bad. If I feel loved, that is good. And with these labels, come the follow ups of “want”. We crave or start wanting more of one feeling – and to that extent, we start avoiding whatever makes us feel bad. This manifests in behaviors where we tend to procrastinate, avoid, or offload the actions.

Therefore, a leader is expected to set aside the personal biases, prejudices and preferences during moments of decision making and executing. But is this a straight forward process? We may deem mindfulness to be essential – but to be mindful, especially about one’s own innate feelings and biases, requires a highly evolved self-awareness. This begins by understanding our own values and beliefs. Let’s talk about that in the next post! 😀

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