By Belinda Coniglio, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program
What are the characteristics of effective leadership? – A question posed by Professor Mike Jenner, on the second weekend of the University of Sydney MBA’s world class Leadership Practice and Development unit. Influence, resilience, charisma, integrity, vision, honesty, communication, reliability, trust, energy, risk and inspiration were words used by me and my class mates to describe effective leadership qualities. Our initial list did not include a new trend that is distinguishing the success of leaders at the top end of town, the practice of mindfulness, which we would experience later that day.
Attributes of mindful leadership include ‘clarity, focus, creativity and compassion.’ The ultimate goal of mindfulness ‘is simply to give your attention fully to what you’re doing.’ According to the cover page article in Time Magazine (February 2014), mindfulness is gaining traction due to its common sense approach and scientific foundation; neuroplasticity that refers to our brain’s ability to adapt and rewire. Or as Goleman refers to it, the science of attention.
I recall the first Friday of the MBA, where I was confronted with countless scattered thoughts about my career direction and found myself less than present; my mind wandering, ‘was I in the right place and how I could apply my learning professionally?’ If only our mindfulness workshop had been held that first weekend! Guest presenter, Dr Martyn Newman, led a session on inner focus where we practiced a number of breathing techniques to clear our minds and centre our focus.
Learning ‘inner focus’, or self-management, and self-awareness demonstrated how mindfulness could help me to be totally engaged by learning to strengthen the mind muscle.
Mindfulness is more than de-stressing – it is a life changing approach that applies meditation (or sitting in silence), walking, practicing yoga, clean and mindful eating to improve engagement and performance; a shift in consciousness in business and consumer trends in transforming the approach of our leaders. By the end of the second weekend of the course I was aware of my progress in one month of my MBA and knew that by the end of the course, I too would be transformed.
 ‘The Mindful Revolution‘, Time Magazine.