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LEADERSHIP


MINDFULNESS: WHY BEING PRESENT CAN MAKE YOU A BETTER MANAGER


MINDFULNESS IS A POPULAR MANTRA THESE DAYS. THERE ARE DOZENS OF BOOKS ON HOW TO PRACTICE IT IN ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE, FROM EATING TO RELATIONSHIPS TO EDUCATION. FOR GRETCHEN STEIDLE, PRACTICING MINDFULNESS CHANGED HER APPROACH TO HER WORK IN THE NONPROFIT SECTOR. SHE HAS WRITTEN A BOOK CALLED LEADING FROM WITHIN: CONSCIOUS SOCIAL CHANGE AND MINDFULNESS FOR SOCIAL INNOVATION, WHICH LOOKS AT HOW ORGANIZATIONS AND COMPANIES CAN BENEFIT WHEN LEADERS INVEST IN MINDFULNESS AND BRING IT TO THE WORKFORCE. STEIDLE, WHO RUNS GLOBAL GRASSROOTS, SPOKE TO KNOWLEDGE@ WHARTON ABOUT THE TRANSFORMATIONAL PROCESS OF MINDFULNESS. FOLLOWING IS AN EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE CONVERSATION.


Knowledge@Wharton: Tell us about how you started to see this link between mindfulness and other areas of our society?


Gretchen Steidle: I started off on a path that began in the investment banking arena, and I was very much in the business realm. I was very focused on ambition and leading a life that was relatively stressful. I recognized a need for my own personal stress management tool, which is when I first found mindfulness. But it wasn’t until a career change into the social impact realm, where I was working more in issues related to genocide and war and social change in impoverished countries, that I started recognizing mindfulness needed to be a tool integrated into the way that we see social change unfolding. There are plenty of people in the social sector who have brilliant ideas for social change, but they are often delivered in ways that are not attuned to the needs of the people they are serving. We’re just as good in that sector as in the finance and business sector of getting burned out and overly stressed, and that distorts the way in which we see how we can effectively


44 | DOMmagazine.com | mar 2018


implement our work. There is much greater innovation that can happen if we’re coming at it from a place of deeper self-awareness around how change actually unfolds.


Knowledge@Wharton: Do you believe that mindfulness can be transformational?


Steidle: Absolutely. Mindfulness goes so much further beyond the benefits to the self. Those benefits that science is increasingly defining for us make us better leaders and better change agents, so we’re going to run more effective organizations, we’re going to diagnose problems within and outside our institutions more effectively and with deeper understanding, and we’re going to build relationships and create solutions that are going to be longer, more sustainable and more impactful in the long term.


“Mindfulness goes so much further beyond the benefits to the self.”


Knowledge@Wharton: Mindfulness certainly isn’t a new concept. Why is it getting so much attention right now?


Steidle: Science is catching up with what these traditions have known for centuries — that mindfulness is a way of training your brain. Mindfulness is simply paying attention on purpose, in the present moment. That can mean paying attention to whatever is going on inside of you, like recognizing you’re getting frustrated at something that is unfolding in front of you, and what is happening around you, like actually seeing and hearing the circumstances that you are facing in your external environment. The more that we pay attention to


that, the more that we are exercising our brain and changing the structure and the functioning of it. That brings us certain benefits. We become less reactive. We are able to regulate our emotions better. We have the ability to disengage our automatic ways of responding. We use more insight and a deeper understanding of ourselves and others in the way that we make decisions.


It has plenty of positive benefits to


your physiology as well. Decreased stress, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, increased immune functioning — all of these things make us better capable of building relationships. We can express ourselves


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