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The Hot Seat: How mindfulness helps leaders stay ahead of the curve

The Peak speaks to Jochen Reb, associate professor of organisational behaviour and human resources at the SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business.

In a time of rapid change, slow down and practise mindfulness. This may seem counter-intuitive but it is exactly what Jochen Reb, associate professor of organisational behaviour and human resources at the SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business, advocates. Instead of scrambling to react, mindfulness is a tool leaders can harness to earn some perspective during calamities like the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This can help leaders gain equanimity and calmness, resulting in clear thinking rather than feelings of being overwhelmed that can cause one to become more narrow-minded,” says the founding director of SMU’s Mindfulness Initiative that studies the impact of this practice on organisations.

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The initiative has found that in companies where mindfulness is practised, staff are less stressed and have more trust in their leaders. Indeed, inspiring confidence is a key trait of a successful leader and is related to the ability to possess a clear vision while under fire.

Reb says it is never too late to start incorporating simple practices such as taking a mindful minute at the beginning of a meeting to focus on breathing and to set an intention. This helps increase one’s focus. At the organisational level, goals are important. “Companies should be clear about the purpose of the practice. For instance, the goal could be related to stress reduction, teamwork or decision making – something useful for employees,” he says.

Ultimately, it is crucial to be mindful of human relations in a time of social distancing. “The interpersonal aspect is particularly important now. Develop relations with colleagues, employees and contacts by paying attention to them – they will appreciate it.”

(Related: Ho Ren Yung: Mindfulness and empathy in this day and age)