Why Being a Mindful Leader Matters

A tutorial with JoAnn Jaffe, Founder and CEO of OG Yoga

As the world has become more "connected," people have become more disconnected with the present moment. There is always another goal, project, email, or initiative to start and it is easy to not be fully present to what is happening now. Ruminating in the past causes suffering, and thinking in the future causes anxiety. Being present brings peace, inner strength and joy -- all divine rights for human beings and critical conditions for leadership to flourish. Harvard Professor, William George said, “Mindfulness is a state of being fully present, aware of oneself and other people, and sensitive to one’s reactions to stressful situations. Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals”.

While Mr. George’s quote came from the 2013 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, we can easily find similar quotes from the Buddha. This describes the universal understanding of the value of being mindful as we lead. JoAnn Jaffe will speak to what mindfulness means for us as leaders. She will share a framework and strategy for incorporating mindfulness into our leadership practice including: how to embody and create an intention to be present, cultivating full focus for the task at hand, empathy, and profound listening for the person(s) with whom we are interacting, and, creating harmony and balance between strategic thinking and the "present moment."


Mindfulness is the act of openly and actively observing our moment-to-moment experience, and to do so with kindness. As we do this, we begin to understand our bodies and minds better and to not be so reactive in our daily life to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. With mindfulness, we develop a quality of attention that can be present no matter what is happening. This helps us to have more peace, ease, and balance in our lives. We start with awareness of our breathing, and later open our awareness more and more to all of our experiences, including, sounds, bodily sensations, emotions, thoughts, and mental states - becoming fully awake in our life.

  • Choose to build stress or bring joy
  • Quiet the mind, steady the heart, stay peaceful and clear in the midst of change


  • 5,000 years ago- Eight-Limbs of Yoga- Five devoted to mindfulness
  • Thich Nhat Hanh an influential and popular figure in Western mindfulness
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder - Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Oasis Institute for Mindfulness-Based Professional Education and Training


• Focus
• Clarity
• Creativity
• Compassion

WORKING WITH OUR THOUGHTS -Don’t believe everything you think!

1. Connecting with your breath and body

a. Breath in – breath out
b. Notice your body
c. Allow the thoughts to simply be
d. When you are lost in thought – return to the breath
d. The practice of breath in – breath out and returning our attention to our breath

2. Becoming Mindful

a. Notice the thought, feeling or sensation

b. Label the thought to acknowledge it (worried thought, judging, pleasure, sorrow)
c. Feel the mental event in your body (clenching in my stomach, heat in my face, tight jaw, etc.)

A Simple Mindfulness Meditation:

  • Sit comfortably on the floor on a cushion or on a chair.

  • Close your eyes and bring your attention into your body.

  • Notice any body sensations like heaviness, pressure, or contact with the floor.

  • See if you can feel your body breathing. Tune into the sensations of your

    breath in your abdomen, chest, or nostrils. Pick one of those three places and try to feel your breath as your abdomen or chest rises or falls, or as the air goes in and out of your nostrils.

  • When you notice your mind lost in thought, that’s normal. Don’t try to get rid of the thoughts. Just notice you’re thinking, relax, and then gently return your attention back to your breathing.

  • Notice if you tend to judge yourself. See you if you can simply notice your judging thoughts and label them as “judging”. Practice kindness and friendliness with yourself. Become the observer and practice self-inquiry.

  • Practice this daily for 5-15 minutes, gradually increasing, as it fits into your life.


With this practice you may feel all sorts of things, including sadness, anger, fear, or even numbness or nothing at all.

  • If you feel nothing whatsoever, just stay with the breath and self-inquiry of “what am I aware

    of” and don’t worry about having a specific experience. Notice what happens - you are planting


  • If you are feeling a difficult emotion as you practice, you can use the self-inquiry of mindfulness

    to explore the feeling in your body and heart.

  • Try to send loving kindness to the part of you that is having a difficult time.

  • http://www.self-compassion.org/ This site has all the latest research as well as the self-

    compassion test that you can take, among other resources.

    Thich Nhat Hanh

    “When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates in would be met with panic. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and steady it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”



    Mindfulness and the Brain: A Professional Training in the Science & Practice of Meditative Awareness
    Jack Kornfield, PhD and Daniel J. Siegel, MD

    Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership
    Janice Marturano, Founder and Executive Director, Institute for Mindful Leadership