Business meditation
Ideas for Leaders #005

Mindfulness and Meditation for Leadership Development

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Key Concept

Meditation and mindfulness can play a positive role in leadership development, and should therefore be considered as an important component in learning and training initiatives. In the absence of mindfulness such initiatives lose impact in areas such as stress management, decision-making and risk taking.

Idea Summary

The authors set out to review the impact that meditation practices have made in management education and leadership development. Many organizations and businesses now consider it as a legitimate practice, and it is increasingly being recognised as important in developing the type of cognitive capacities required of knowledge workers in the modern economy.

They cite research by, for example, Isaacs (2010), which has already given mindfulness a place in management education, business, leadership and learning, noting that it has a crucial role to play in enhancing our capacity to lead in contexts of uncertainty and change.

As such, they sought to develop a better understanding of the value of meditative practice for employees in particular, and created three groups of people as follows:

  • Group 1 were asked to meditate (using a prescribed technique) for 45 days, and also undertake various other activities, such as psychometric tests whilst keeping a journal;
  • Group 2 were asked to take out 30 minutes each day for 45 days, and undertake an activity they are not used to doing, such as walking, knitting, etc.; and
  • Group 3 were the control group.

Their results found that 90 per cent of the participants in Group 1 noted feeling calm, relaxed, refreshed and having clearer thoughts and different perspectives at the end of the 45-day period. By comparison, only 52 per cent of Group 2 noted beneficial value from their self-chosen, non-meditation activities.

Business Application

These findings provide a strong backing for meditation to be taken more seriously in the context of management learning and training, not so much in the context of religion, mysticism and contemplative traditions, but as a practical tool for personal development. Though the authors acknowledge these are only preliminary findings, nevertheless they suggest a significantly upwards shift in general levels of satisfaction for individuals who commit to a period of meditation.

In particular, meditation may be helpful to those that grapple with the considerable stress of providing sound and sustainable leadership.

They anticipate that their findings will improve public perception of meditative practices, and will help to support the collective endeavour by faculty and consultants at Ashridge Business School toward developing meditation-related offerings for clients.

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Idea conceived

  • 2011

Idea posted

  • January 2013

DOI number



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