Stress can be a useful prompt to engage in critical thinking, noted the author, David Brendel, and is not something to retreat from through meditation.
In this one statement, David Brendel reveals his perspective and demonstrates how hard it is for contemporary business leaders to adapt to new information, new ways of thinking, and the new shift towards more mindful and human leadership.
Whenever I lecture, lead workshops or run retreats, many of the most hardened leaders roll their eyes and stop listening. Why would people who understand the value in being on the forefront of new thinking, immediately dismiss something that can ignite creativity, increase innovation and raise overall performance of both individuals and organizations? Because the idea of mindfulness, or kindness, or emotional intelligence in a leader runs counter to what they believe to be the way, the only way. So ingrained is their belief in autocratic, command and control leadership that it, as a leadership style, almost demands that they ridicule what is different. “I am in charge, I know what is right, I must rule,” are the mantras of this leader. This dominating attitude, they believe, is what allows them to make the hard decisions, and battle the stress, which is inevitable in organizations filled with individuals in a world that is ever-changing.
As Mr. Brendel states, stress is not something to retreat from, I agree, but notice how his phrasing is influenced by military command language, his use of the word retreat, a word that clearly, in his mind, equals weakness; yes let’s not dare retreat into anything, like possibility. How you think, is how you act, is how you are, and for those leaders refusing to consider alternative strategies to gain advantage and increase performance, their thinking is narrowly constructed and guided by the belief that their expertise dictates the only possible way forward.
The world today is interdependent, constantly changing, and thus it is naturally stressful. Stress will not go away by meditating, the act of meditation will not cleanse the office space of conflict, brought on by diversity, difference of opinion, and ever-demanding deadlines. Stress, because it is ever-present, is part of our environment. Meditation is not a retreat, but actually a focused awareness that sees stress for what it is, a reaction to external factors. Meditation is actually a proactive strategy to modify stress from potential performance barrier to performance opportunity.
Meditation allows someone to recognize and then respond instead of reacting to a situation, this is what you want in a leader, and what you should want in all your employees. When stress is seen, it can be transformed, and here I am in agreement with the author, as a way to stimulate critical thinking. But what he fails to see is that by meditating, calming the mind and refocusing it, the individual is better prepared to critically think and creatively problem solve. This is further elevated by utilization of the diversity that exists in most any organization.
When you combine diversity, with the ability to respond to stress instead of reacting to it, you take advantage of the situation, as opposed to battling the external force. Diversity allows for varied perspectives, meditation supports openness, when the mind is calm it is free to accept uniquely original solutions. The original seeing of the world creates preconditions for original decisions. These decisions are grounded, and thoughtful and can lead to previously unconsidered alternatives.
As stated by Konrad, in her article Leveraging Workplace Diversity in Organizations, a multicultural organization is argued to be more effective at innovation and problem solving. Teams of workers with different perspectives, backgrounds, beliefs, and viewpoints bring a greater variety of resources to decision-making discussions, and are able to generate superior and more creative solutions as a result. So when it is agreed that innovation, creative problem-solving and insightful decision-making are key characteristics that lead to competitive advantages, why would leaders and authors be so willing to dismiss a strategy that allows for access to these very things?
Because in their paradigm, authority rests in the one, and is grounded in autocracy, there is no room for difference in their organization. Homogeneity is embraced believing it leads to harmonious action, when in reality it creates groupthink, yes men, and stale strategies.
Leadership that embraces things like meditation, mindfulness, and vulnerability, considered weaknesses by many, and combines them with integrity and vision, will have the advantage in today’s thankfully chaotic, and stressful world.