Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion are keys to successful leadership in the attention economy of today. This is Rasmus Hougaard’s conclusion after interviews with hundreds of C-level executives from leading global companies. 

Originally from Denmark, Rasmus Hougaard was a researcher in organizational development before founding the organization Potential Project. Today he teaches mindfulness all over the world and has previously published the book One second ahead about mindfulness at work.

A new leadership for our times
After Rasmus Hougaard and his colleague Jacqueline Carter asked themselves what kind of leadership was needed in our times they launched an extensive research project. It took them hundreds of interviews with executives from companies like Accenture and McKinsey in cooperation with Harvard Business Review to reach the conclusions they present in their newly released book The mind of the leader.

According to Hougaard and Carter, leaders need these three qualities to be successful today:

  • Mindfulness helps us stay focused and present in spite of all the distractions that constantly fight for our attention.
  • Selflessness counteracts the otherwise normal development when we are promoted to leaders – our ego grows! Selflessness means leaving our own ego ”at the door” and instead lead towards the greater purpose.
  • Compassion builds trust and security that our brains need to perform. It gives us and our colleagues a sense of having each other’s backs.

If we practice these qualities we will become better at them. Our brains are plastic and we become good at what we often do, just like in sports training.

These three qualities build cultures that evolve around people rather than profits. Still, profits are crucial for businesses to survive and prosper. So will mindfulness, selflessness and compassion really drive results? According to Rasmus Hougaard the answer is yes and to prove it he tells the story about Marriott Hotel. When other businesses laid off employees during the great depression of the 1920’s, Marriott chose to do the opposite instead and take extra good care of their workforce. Their philosophy was, and is, that ”if we take care of our associates, they will take care of our guest, and our guests will come back”. This was the right decision in the long term and today Marriott is one of the world’s largest hotel chains.

Mindfulness equips us for the attention economy
We live in an attention economy today, where distractions are constantly threatening to steal our focus. Rasmus Hougaard describes how we experience the concept PAID: pressure, always on, information overload and distractions. Mindfulness is a way to handle this challenge and to master our own focus.

Read more about Rasmus Hougaard, his book and the organization Potential Project here.

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