Leadership involves not just the decision to change but, more important, a commitment to evolve. It’s a state of being aware, awake, and alert. It’s about vigilance. Evolution is not random change. It is change with a specific trajectory in a particular direction. Events and opportunities appear as the direction unfolds. Evolution creates order.
Organizational transformation is evolutionary, and leaders can guide this evolution through their choices. Some choices are actually unconscious reactions, governed by unacknowledged assumptions or emotions. But as a leader exercises more personal mastery, the choices become more mindful. Mindful choices can steer an organization in a positive direction.
The more people are aware of an organization’s direction, the more they can align their own choices with that direction. Many decisions are made about diverse matters every day, and even the best-written memo isn’t enough to communicate the need to choose change over and over again. The fastest way to communicate this trajectory is for the leader to mindfully choose it and—before giving instructions or directives—live it personally. Great leaders master the evolutionary process in themselves first. To do so, they choose to become mindful.
This is especially true for leaders who seek to inspire organizational transformation. They can’t change everything with the flip of a switch. Instead, every day they make choices that guide the energy around them in a common direction. A list of actions can’t reorient a group of people into a new trajectory. In the evolutionary process, change is influenced by the way the leader leads.
In our work with leaders at TSI, we emphasize the fact that a person is free to choose positive change and a positive direction. In fact, one of TSI’s key contributions to organizational transformation is helping our clients discriminate between negative and positive change, and then choose mindfully. To make the best choices, leaders must be mindful—of ourselves, our relationships and our environment. And, we must cultivate mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not a task that can be completed or checked off on a “To Do” list. It cannot be acquired once and for all. Instead, we choose to be and to stay mindful. Mindfulness is a daily commitment that happens one decision at a time. To be mindful is to be aware, awake, and alert. A good example of being mindful is skiing down a mountainside at high speed. The skier is vigilant and responsive to the contours and obstacles in the environment. The success of the run relies on awareness as it heightens the ability to be awake and alert. There is a circularity of energy.
Mindfulness is a way of being especially alive. It is a state of being that we can choose again and again. We can cultivate our mindfulness over time. As it flourishes, we benefit more and more from its effect on the evolutionary trajectory of our lives—professionally and personally. We become better “life skiers,” progressing toward the double-diamond slopes with greater skill and relaxed confidence. Mindfulness tends to attract people. It builds and enriches a social network—the more mindful we are, the more confidence we exude. The development of mindfulness is a foundational element of personal mastery and part of the bedrock of transformational leadership.