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Pick one – a pay raise for you or a pink slip for your boss (review of The Mind of a Leader)

mindThis review first ran in the Feb. 9 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Mind of the Leader

By Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter

Harvard Business Review Press

$39

A pay raise for you or a pink slip for your boss.

Which one would you choose?

Apparently, a third of us would pass on the bigger paycheque to instead wish our leaders well on their future endeavors.

That’s one of the key findings from research done by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacequeline Carter with the Potential Project.

They also report that only 13 per cent of the global workforce is engaged while 24 per cent is actively disengaged.

Yet in a McKinsey and Co. study, 77 per cent of leaders say they do a good job of engaging their people. That same study found that their people just aren’t feeling it, with 82 per cent saying their leaders are lousy at engagement. Basic human needs of finding meaning, purpose, connection and genuine happiness appear to be going unmet in too many workplaces.

So maybe the $46 billion spent annually on building better leaders needs to come with a money back guarantee.

If you’re a leader who wants a more engaged and productive workforce, Hougaard and Carter say it’s all in your head.

They recommend you focus on the three foundational and mutually reinforcing mental qualities of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion.

“Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion are universal languages that are understood by everyone. They are innate human qualities in which status and authority do not get in the way of true human connectedness.”

Mindfulness is about turning off our autopilot and intentionally managing our attention and thoughts. “You learn to hold your focus on what you choose.” Through focus and awareness, we develop better emotional resilience and lose our fight-or-flight instincts and our tendency to default to knee-jerk reactions.

Selflessness is a winning combination of humility, service to others and self-confidence. “With selflessness, trust increases because we have no secret agendas and followership strengthens because our selflessness sets free our people to be their best selves.” By comparison, a raging, unhealthy ego leaves you vulnerable to criticism, susceptible to manipulation, corrupts your behavior and values.

Compassion helps your people feel safe and connected. “When we as leaders value the happiness of our people, they feel appreciated. They feel respected. And this makes them feel truly connected and engaged. It’s no accident that organizations with more compassionate leaders have stronger connections between people, better collaboration, more trust, stronger commitment to the organization and lower turnover.”

Leaders who are mindful, selfless and compassionate can then lead by example and instill these foundational qualities in their people and across their organizations.

“Leading with mindfulness, selflessness and compassion makes you more human and less leader. It makes you more you and less your title. It peels off the layers of status that separate you from the people you lead,” say Hougaard and Carter.

“Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion make you truly human and enable you to create a more people-centred culture where your people see themselves and one another as humans rather than headcounts.”

And instead of wanting you to get a pink slip, your employees will give you extra effort, respect and loyalty.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books since 1999.

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