A lightening speed of change, high expectations, changing priorities, and doing more with less in today’s organizations requires super human capabilities. If that is not complex enough, leaders have to manage a diversity of people and their expectations – let alone the emotions that could dominate in a high stress environment. If we are to manage other people’s emotions, we have to manage our own emotions first. This is self mastery. Self mastery is a balance between our cognitive skills, mental acuity and emotional intelligence – by far the last is the most challenging.
For most of us, this balance requires an inward gaze (know thyself) and a discipline for some internal work. Mindfulness is a way to get there.
Mindfulness does not mean getting rid of emotions, as that is not possible. It is to acknowledge and accept that emotions are feelings that arise when a need is met or not met; and sometimes, if we are unaware, our subconscious may drive decisions based on certain emotional biases.
Mindfulness does not mean getting rid of emotions, as that is not possible. It is to acknowledge and accept that emotions are feelings that arise when a need is met or not met; and sometimes, if we are unaware, our subconscious may drive decisions based on certain emotional biases. This is self preservation. Naturally, we will look after our own self interest first, before we think of others. As a leader, we cannot afford to indulge in this. Mindfulness brings the mental discipline to discern these biases, differentiate real threats from those superficial ones, so we can have the clarity necessary to think critically and make decisions.
I use a simple tool on a day-to-day basis to quiet my mind, which races along from thought to thought at 750 words per minute, mostly thinking about the past or plotting the future. I call it the 4 questions for clarity.
I take a deep breath and then ask these 4 questions to myself:
With this method, I gain personal mastery and better understand my own emotional triggers. I take control of those thoughts that may hinder my perception of others, which is important for better interpersonal relationships.
By practicing mindfulness, I have checked out my emotions so that I can be logical and rational.
By practicing mindfulness, I have checked out my emotions so that I can be logical and rational. I have got it to a level now where I just say “observing” at the heat of the moment to stop me from getting dragged into the dominant emotion that is being played out.
Through self mastery, I hope to move deliberately through the 5 levels to become an exemplary leader that inspires others to greatness.
About the author: Lalith Ananda Gunaratne is an avid student of human behaviour. His educational background covers diverse disciplines including Engineering, Marketing, Leadership and Responsible Business (CSR) and is complemented by his personal research and inquiry into the humanities covering religion, spirituality, psychology psychotherapy, biology, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience and history. Read more: Who is Lalith Gunaratne?
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The article was originally published on ASQ Ottawa Valley website in May 9, 2016.