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The power of stillness in leadership

Stillness means “to be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude – exterior and interior – on command” (Ryan Holiday, 2019).

The job of a leader is not to react on a gut feeling or be pre-occupied with the first impression we form about an issue. No, as leaders we need to be strong enough to resist thinking that is too easy. Because if the leader can’t take the time to develop a clear sense of the bigger picture, who will? If the leader isn’t thinking through all the way to the end, who is? When problems arise, we need to connect to a strong alternative solution to becoming agitated and nervous and take decisions mindfully and level-headed.

The importance of stillness in leadership was anticipated in China more than two thousand five hundred years ago. Already then Laozi wrote that the leader who is centered and grounded can work with erratic people and critical group situations without harm. Being centered means having the ability to recover one’s balance, even in the midst of a storm.

Researcher Deborah Rowland (2017) writes on the importance of mindful leadership stating that the inner state of leaders critically influences successful change. Stillness enables more effective action when we lead from our whole selves. Rowland identified four inner capacities that can be honed through building in stillness into our routines:

· The ability to stay non-judgmentally present and not be distracted

· The capacity to choose how to respond to experience, and not impulsively react to it

· An empathic capacity to be able to tune into systemic dynamics

· A capacity to acknowledge discomfort as being necessary for change and transition

Stillness and mindfulness means centering yourself and focusing on completing one particular objective. It means being present in the moment, without allowing yourself to become distracted by anything internal or external. It means putting doubts and other negative thoughts out of your mind and confronting a problem with all the skills and expertise you have accumulated.

The mindfulness approach to the trials and tribulations of life has been reported to reduce stress, become more resilient and help overcome burnout and anxiety. Stress, anxiety, and burnout are known to contribute to decreased productivity, something you definitely cannot afford on your way to being a successful leader. What the power of stillness and mindfulness invites you to do is to cast aside doubts, make your mind a quiet and confident place, and solve your problems with the fullest mental clarity you can muster. It doesn’t come easy, and you need to keep on working at it every day.

If you want to work with me to explore how you might find more inner peace, contentment and stillness as a leader, feel free to contact me.

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