The Mind of the Leader How to lead yourself, your people and your organisation for extraordinary results
“Leadership today is about unlearning management andJavier Pladevall, CEO of Audi Volkswagen, Spain
relearning being human”
What’s your purpose?
We may all recognise our need to contribute positively to the world, but it is one thing to realise it and another to act on it.
Based on extensive research, including assessments of more than 35,000 leaders and interviews with 250 C-level executives, the authors of The Mind of the Leader have concluded that organisations aren’t meeting employees’ basic human needs of finding meaning, connection and genuine happiness in their work. Leadership consultants Hougaard and Carter say this seeming lack of good leadership is not because of a lack of effort – organisations annually invest $46 billion on leadership development programmes, so what is going wrong?
Many leadership programmes will focus on strategy, people management and finance, but the authors argue that leadership needs to start with you. By first understanding how your mind works, you will understand others more effectively, allowing you to tap into people’s intrinsic motivations and sense of purpose. While workplace initiatives like funky offices or free food can be great, they are short-term solutions. The effects will wear off as people begin to take the treats for granted. Internal drivers – like meaningful engagement, connectedness and feeling valued – will engage employees on the deeper level needed for long-term commitment and productivity. Steven Worrall, managing director of Microsoft Australia says, “Successful leaders in the future will be the ones who can facilitate true happiness for their people.”
The authors believe there are three foundations to successful leadership: Mindfulness; Selflessness; and Compassion, which they call MSC leadership. Mindfulness can start with simply sitting comfortably for ten minutes, focusing your full attention on your breath and neutrally observing any thoughts that arise. Because the MSC approach should begin inwardly and then project outward to your people and your organisation, the book is split into three parts with practical exercises for each section, accompanied by an app. Insight into the three elements includes:
Mindfulness helps you hold focus on what you choose:
- It refers to both a practice and state of mind. The more you practice it, the more it becomes your state of mind
- It is about generating greater mental effectiveness, so that you can realise more of your potential on both a professional and personal level
- It’s about paying attention, in the present moment, with a calm, focused and clear mind
If you can master mindfulness, personal health and happiness benefits are widely researched. On an organisational level, Singapore Management University’s research into the authors’ own Potential Project mindful leadership programmes for Carlsberg and If Insurance showed significant improvements in focus, awareness, memory, job performance and job satisfaction, from just 10 minutes of practice a day.
Selflessness combines strong self-confidence with a humble intention to be of service:
- It is the wisdom of getting out of your own way, the way of your people, and the way of your organisation to unleash the natural flow of energy that people bring to work
- It won’t mean you become a pushover – selflessness has to be combined with self-confidence
- It means we are not attached to an inflated, important sense of self – we have a very real view of how little we actually matter
Nokia’s fall from industry leadership was due to the fact the CEO had fallen in love with Nokia’s past successes, and not that Nokia’s engineers and developers didn’t have good ideas or recognise shifts in demand. He declared that the iPhone would never be more than a niche product and carried on producing phones in the same way until sales had fallen into market insignificance
Compassion is the quality of having positive intention for others:
- It is different from empathy
- Compassion allows us to be rational and see the bigger picture by putting ourselves in others shoes for a moment, noticing the pain, and then seeing if you can help address their challenges
- Compassion is not about giving in to other people – it requires courage and strength to sometimes have difficult conversations or make tough decisions
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner describes empathy when it is taking on the suffering of others and you both lose. He has made compassion his core leadership principle, while applying the philosophy of ‘Wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness, compassion without wisdom is folly’.
Mindful, selfless, compassionate leadership needs to starts in the mind of the leader. It can make you more human, and less leader. It peels off the layers of status that separate you from the people you lead, making you more you, and less your title. It starts with you.
About the authors
Rasmus Hougaard is the founder and managing director of Potential Project, a global provider of leadership and organisational effectiveness solutions based on training the mind, operating in 20 countries with clients from Google, Nike, Accenture and GE. Rasmus has practiced and taught mindfulness for more than two decades.
Jacqueline Carter is an international partner and North American director for Potential Project. She has over twenty years experience working with organisations around the globe to enhance effectiveness and improve performance. Her clients include Cisco, Accenture, LVMH, and the Royal Bank of Canada. She holds a master’s degree in organisational behaviour. Together, they are the authors of One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness.
“In the Mind of the Leader Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter are providing a clear pathway for creating ‘people first’ organisations. It calls for leaders to be humans first: to be mindful, selfless, and compassionate and in doing so, to develop the qualities that enable engagement, fulfilment and meaning – which leads to greater business success.”
Arne Sorenson, President and CIO, Marriott International
“In The Mind of the Leader, Hougaard and Carter draw on years of research to show that the traditional, top-down style of leadership doesn’t work anymore. The successful leaders of the future will be human-centered, focused as much on growth and the bottom line as on creating a flourishing and sustainable culture. This book is a manual of success for leaders in any industry.”
Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO, Thrive Global
“The Mind of the Leader has captured some of the essentials of leadership in the twenty-first century: being mindful, selfless, and compassionate. With these, we are better able to engage our people and we bring more value to our clients.”
Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company
Author: Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter