What is mindfulness?
At the simplest level, being mindful means knowing what you're doing (and thinking and feeling)
in the present moment. For example, when you set your car keys down, you know where you
are setting your car keys down, and therefore can find them again! It's helpful to remember
where we put the car keys, but mindfulness is especially helpful in stressful situations. For
example, how many of us know clearly when we are acting defensive by resisting listening to
someone telling us how our actions are negatively affecting them, or by saying harsh things
that we will later regret? Mindfulness practice helps us know clearly what is happening, and how we are
reacting to what is happening, as it is happening - so that we might choose a skillful response
instead of reacting mindlessly.
Which forms of mindfulness are being studied, and do I need to have a formal mindfulness
practice to participate?
Because mindfulness is a naturally occurring skill, and can also be cultivated and developed
via a wide range of techniques and practices, the study seeks to include leaders with a wide
range of experience with mindfulness, and some leaders without any explicit mindfulness practice.
If you take the initial survey (accessible by clicking "Ready to Participate" on the left sidebar),
you will be asked to indicate if you practice mindfulness formally, informally, or not at all.
Why conduct a study of mindfulness and leadership?
Because leadership is exceptionally difficult and challenging, and previous research suggests
that mindfulness could be very helpful as a tool for developing social and emotional skills
for working with the challenges of leadership.
For example, leaders are often expected to provide the solutions to complex vexing problems.
But as a leader you know that people see problems very differently, making it difficult to
facilitate a common understanding and plan for working effectively toward a solution.
In the process, you often become a "lightning rod" for conflicts, and unproductive
negativity and dissent, while simultaneously getting inaccurate information because many
people are hesitant to tell the boss what they really think - or because we may be too
defensive to hear painful information. These dynamics often put you as the
leader in the most stressful role: wanting to appear strong and decisive, while
figuring out how to get everyone communicating responsibly and working together effectively,
and while you also may be confused about what the problems are and how to fix them.
Previous research has shown mindfulness to be helpful for working with these kinds of intense
inner and relational stresses. This study investigates whether leaders who are more
(or less) mindful, with and without a formal practice, have any particular characteristics
related to personality and/or social and emotional intelligence; and which of those
characteristics they think have been the most important for their effectiveness as leaders.
For leaders who practice mindfulness, the study also explores
how you think your mindfulness practice has helped you in your inner life and outer
relationships as a leader.
If mindfulness is the primary research interest, why include leaders who don't practice
For two reasons: 1) because mindfulness is a naturally occurring skill on which people vary,
and it may be that
the natural ability to be mindful is important for effective leadership, and 2) there
may be other factors that are as important - or more important - than mindfulness in helping
leaders be effective in handling difficult feelings and situations.
What would be required of me if I decide to participate, and how much time would it
Your participation would happen via a series of steps estimated to take a total of 2 hours.
For more information, please see the
If I'm not currently working in a leadership position, can I still participate?
Yes! If you have recently changed jobs, retired, or are between jobs, but have worked in a position
that more-or-less meets the study
the past 2-3 years, please complete the initial participants survey by clicking on the link
on the left sidebar. If it has been more than 3 years but you are still interested in
participating, feel free to
How and when would I receive information about my individual results? How and when would
I receive information about the study results?
Information about your individual results can be received in two different ways.
First, I will provide you with a summary report of your results interpreted in the context of
the general findings of the study. For example, if the study results show higher levels of
mindfulness to be associated with lower levels of anxiety in leaders, my report will provide
information about how your self-reported levels of mindfulness and anxiety compare with the
study group as a whole, and how your results compare with potentially interesting sub-groups
(e.g., those who practice the same form of mindfulness as you, or leaders with the same
number of years of leadership experience as you). This report will be prepared and sent
after the completion of the study, most likely in the fall of 2008.
Second, you will have completed two well established assessment instruments (one on
personality and one on social and emotional skills) as part of your participation in the
study. The publishers of these instruments provide one or more optional reports of your
results interpreted in the context of the general results of thousands of other individuals who
have completed these instruments. If you would like to receive the publishers' reports
interpreting your results, you will have the option to request one or more of those reports
through me, for a fee, when you complete the instruments. Detailed information about
the optional reports, what they cover, and their respective costs, will be provided with the
information I send to you about how to complete the instruments. These reports will usually be
sent to you within 2 weeks of when your completed instruments are received.
Finally, I will prepare an executive summary of the overall findings of the study. You can
expect to receive this at the same time as my summary of your results in the fall of 2008. If you wish to receive
further information, you can request notification via email of any publications
that result from the study and how you can obtain copies.
How is mindfulness practiced?
Mindfulness is practiced by focusing your full attention on whatever is happening in
the moment with clarity and acceptance.
Many people learn mindfulness through a variety of meditation techniques,
but it can also be learned on one's own through precise, accurate attention
to ALL of one's experiences -
physical sensations and perceptions, thoughts, and emotions - as they occur moment-by-moment.
Mindful attention is especially important with experiences we find
difficult or unpleasant. Mindfulness increases our ability to see what is actually happening,
and more importantly, our reactions to what is happening, clearly, and therefore to
work more skillfully with the inevitable difficulties of life.
Although mindfulness can be enhanced with practice, it is a natural skill that we all possess
and have all experienced many times in our lives. Sometimes it occurs spontaneously
during special moments of joy, or in a situation of unexpected grief or surprise.
Consciously practicing mindfulness enhances perception and awareness over time because
undivided attention makes mindful moments seem fuller, richer, clearer, more vibrant or piercing,
more poignant and alive.
What benefits of mindfulness have been proven by research?
Over the past 30 years, psychologists have developed secular methods for teaching mindfulness,
and research has shown that mindfulness helps people manage and reduce difficult thoughts and
feelings in many contexts: anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain, intense emotional
reactivity, and stress-related physical conditions such as psoriasis and eating disorders.
Researchers have also studied
mindfulness as a way to enhance wellness via improved cognitive functioning, and the
development of acceptance, presence, and compassion. This study takes a "wellness" approach
by looking for associations between mindfulness and a number of normal personality and
social/emotional characteristics that leaders think have been important for their
For more information, see the
How do you think mindfulness might benefit leaders?
When mindfulness is strong, we can respond to difficulties in a less reactive, more conscious
manner. For example, with mindfulness we can see our habitual emotional reactions in
the heat of the moment when
something "pushes our buttons" and we feel intense fear or anger. Rather than react with
fear and anger, mindfulness makes it possible to feel those feelings without getting lost in
them or acting them out, so we can choose an appropriate response rather than react in an
automatic and often counterproductive way.
Mindfulness also helps us see how we often relate to people or situations based on our thoughts
and feelings about them rather than who they really are or what is actually happening right then.
With practice, mindful awareness can help us generate insight into
reactions, our patterns of thought and interpretation, and our motivations.
Mindfulness practice develops awareness, acceptance, and
insight, which supports the ability to respond
with greater wisdom, clarity, and compassion in any situation.
As a well-known meditation teacher
puts it: "It's not what's happening that's important, it's how you're relating to what's happening that's important"
Where did Mindfulness Practice Come From?
Mindfulness practice was first taught in India by the Buddha, a title that means "awakened
one." He was a prince in a small kingdom in what is now Nepal during the 6th century B.C.E.
Moved by the suffering he saw, he renounced his privileged life around age 30 and spent the
next 50 years learning, and then teaching, how to eliminate our experience of suffering by
developing our capacity for wisdom and compassion. All schools of Buddhism teach mindfulness
practices as a way to develop wisdom and compassion.
What is the symbol in the upper right corner of the website, and what does it represent?
The symbol on the banner is called an "endless knot" and comes from the Tibetan Buddhist
tradition. We thought it was a fitting symbol for this study for two reasons. First,
leadership involves the ability to cope effectively with an endless series of complex,
interconnected knotty problems! Second, in the Tibetan tradition, the endless knot signifies
the interdependence of all beings, thereby encouraging us to think about the impact of our
actions on others. It represents developing wisdom and
compassion, and manifesting that in wise behavior - that is, in actions that most benefit
and least harm ourselves and others.