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Cultivating leadership presence

Training our minds builds focus, clarity, creativity and compassion

By Andrea Bodie
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today's world is fast-paced and unrelenting, and things change at the speed of internet seconds. Being connected most of the time is an expectation for many.

"Leading and influencing in today's world is incredibly exciting and difficult. We're asked to do more with less. The old playbook doesn't work anymore and we don't have the time or space to create a new one," says Janice Marturano, Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.

Research shows that people identify that they are only able to be fully attentive in meetings, conference calls and presentations 30 per cent of the time. Ditto for being fully attentive to a conversation.

What does that mean? "Think about how much of our days we spend speaking with people on calls, in presentations and meetings . . . and yet we're not really there," says Marturano. "Presence is felt. When we're not fully present for someone, they can feel it."

It's what Marturano calls an environment of partial attention, where we aren't able to fully attend to anything.

Mindful leadership training focuses on cultivating leadership presence involving the practice of mindfulness: intentionally paying attention in the moment, non-judgementally. It also builds four foundational capabilities: focus, clarity, creativity and compassion.

After mindfulness leadership training, ability to attend to conversations and in meetings increased to 75 per cent. When a person's mind goes off or gets distracted, thanks to the practice of mindfulness, they are able to bring their mind back and redirect it more quickly.

Along with connecting with yourself, you also better connect with others and the community. "It's a felt sense. When you're in the presence of someone who is leading with excellence, you're feeling their leadership presence," she says. "When you are leading or influencing with excellence, there are two things that are consistent about how you go through your life: you have an ability to connect and skilfully initiate change."

One key question can help bring us back to the present moment and make decisions mindfully: "What's called for now?"

"Not what we always do, not what we did last year. What's called for, right now?" asks Marturano. "We can begin to notice when we're living on auto pilot, when we're reacting instead of responding."

That allows us the opportunity to make choices that are responsive, rather than snap decisions in reaction to something.

"With presence, we increase our ability to let things go, which leaves more space for compassion and innovation," says Marturano.

But the real gift is in realizing that the capacity you need to cultivate awareness and presence in this moment is right within you.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we began to develop our internal, innate mindfulness capacity to come back to the present? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have that restfulness of being fully aware and fully awake in this moment?" she asks. "It's right here for us."