Lyfegen’s CEO, Girisha Fernando, gives first-hand insights into what it means to be a “Mindful Leader” and how the COVID19 pandemic has impacted his leadership style.
Admit it, you clicked on this blog post because the question itself raises endless questions. What is mindful leadership? Is it really possible to be a mindful leader in a high-paced (stressful and sleepless) startup environment? Now add the physiological stress of a pandemic to the equation.
Recently I came across one of the live lectures of Simon Sinek (if you don’t know him, google him), focusing on the topic of “mindful meditation for focused leadership”. I was pleasantly surprised to see that mindfulness and mindful leadership is gaining well-deserved attention in the workplace. Before I dive into how I live by this leadership style at Lyfegen, let’s quickly dive into what it means:
What is Mindful Leadership (without writing a Wikipedia essay)?
Mindful leadership is leading while being aware in the present, focusing (in our case) on the road to success rather than success itself, all while interacting humbly within the team and with customers.
When confronted with challenges, a mindful leader will focus on action rather than control, remaining as agile and calm as possible. After all, you cannot always control the output but can influence how the team gets to it.
Example: It unexpectedly starts raining. A controlling leader will focus on the unforeseen rain and how the team failed to get sunshine (despite it not having necessarily been in their power), micromanaging every consequent step.
A mindful leader will stay calm, gearing up on raincoats & boots for his team, enabling and helping them to adapt their strategy in order to reach sunshine.
While this is a rather simplistic way of looking at mindful leadership, you get the overall idea and how this encourages a high confidence, creative, agile, and cooperative environment.
Mindful Leadership at Lyfegen
I am by no means an expert in mindful leadership and have made my share of mistakes. My Buddhist family background has taught me a lot about mindfulness, incorporating meditation into my daily routine.
However, one would think that practicing mindful leadership is harder in a high-paced start-up environment. I disagree: it is exactly in such an environment that, despite the 14+ hour workdays, one needs to stay present. Focus on the now and continuously fine-tune how to “reach the sunshine”, learning from mistakes on the way.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Switzerland hard in March, our team was faced with various challenges in terms of business and speed of implementation. However, team-work was not one of them and for that, I greatly attribute this leadership style.
We took every day as it came and continued, even digitally, to work together like an orchestra in perfect harmony. When comparing to the analogy above, COVID-19 was a true thunderstorm and at the same time, it gave light to a rainbow of opportunities.
My 5 key takeaways for becoming a more mindful leader:
- Focus on the now: optimize how your team works together. The goal will follow as a direct result.
- Focus on the essential: if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority. As a leader, make sure everyone is working towards the same milestones along the road rather than mainly focusing on the goal.
- Always remain humble: treat others the way you expect them to treat you (unfortunately a lot of people in other companies know this but don’t live by it).
- Never be afraid to fail. Let go of fear to unlock maximum potential.
- Always take a moment, as a leader, for self-reflection & calm. At Lyfegen, we have a little room in our office with some bean-bags where anyone can retreat and meditate during the day. If you don’t find me at my desk, this is where you’ll find me.