Exploring the relationship of mindfulness to leadership and workwell-being

The purpose of the research project was to understand how mindfulness affects leader wellbeing, subordinate wellbeing, the leader subordinate relationship and subordinate performance. 

Mindfulness has been shown to be positively related to vitality, life satisfaction, and the quality of interpersonal relationships. Practicing mindfulness lowers stress, enhances concentration, and helps dealing with change, anxiety or depression. It develops brain acitivity, lowers stress hormone levels, enhances resilience and thus builds both work well-being and performance. 

To test these hypothesis, 130 middle managers were randomly assigned to an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training or to a waitlist control group. Data was collected before and after the intervention. Participants completed pre- and post-intervention surveys of their job demands and resources and associated outcomes. 

It was anticipated that mindfulness training would act as a resource for managers and predicted this would correspond with lower stress and burnout and higher engagement. Reflecting this conception, it was also expected that mindfulness training results in increased ability to detach from work after working hours.

The research was conducted during 2016–2017 in four large Finnish organizations, representing retail trade, consulting services, banking and finance, and health care.

All results were beneficial for individual managers

Results showed that mindfulness training correlated with lower stress and burnout and an increased ability to detach from work after working hours.

Middle managers live in the middle of organizations, caught between imperatives for strategic change and the daily grind of getting things done. This can saddle middle managers with excessive job demands without the necessary resources for recovery.

Mindfulness appears to help become less caught up in these job demands, and instead recover and recharge. Doing so leaves individuals less stressed and burned out.

Mindfulness training reduced the level of strain that middle managers experience in response to the job demands they face. In other words, rather than directly reducing job demands, mindfulness diminished the stain experienced by these demands such that they no longer had as strong negative effects.

These results support the view that mindfulness training can be effective, even as professional development delivered to busy working environments in diverse organizational contexts.

While managers may not always be able to change their context, mindfulness training gives them a practical way to change how they relate to their context, in a way that facilitates greater recovery from job demands.

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