212019Apr

Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc Lesser. Novato, CA: New World Library. Copyright 2019.

Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc LesserMindfulness has been credited with improving well-being, physical and mental health, and numerous books and programs are available to help people learn this practice. Applying the principles of mindfulness to work, family, relationships and other aspects of life has become a common theme. Therefore it was no surprise to see “Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader” on the new book shelf at the library.

Mindfulness is defined as the psychological process of bringing your attention to the present moment, so that the mind is fully attending to what is presently happening. Mindfulness is developed through meditation, although there are many forms of meditation that incorporate and help develop this positive attribute.

Marc Lesser has a solid background in Zen meditation and business, and this book is his short and sweet introduction to applying techniques of mindfulness to the challenges of leadership. As head cook at the Tassajara Zen Center in San Francisco for 10 years, Lesser had the opportunity to learn how to apply mindfulness to a hectic convention center kitchen. The goal of staff at Tassajara included more that turning out a wonderful meal. Staff also worked to embody the seven practices Lesser outlines in this book: Love the work, do the work, don’t be an expert, connect to your pain, connect to the pain of others, depend on others and finally, keep making it simpler.

After leaving Tassajara, Lesser worked in several other industries before starting a program at Google called “Search Inside Yourself”. This business-oriented mindfulness training was the impetus for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, founded in 2012 in order to promulgate these practices to other business leaders. This book was born of his experiences at the Institute and shares the lessons learned by CEOs through that training with a wider audience.

Interspersed with exercises to help readers clarify these practices and learn the fundamentals of mindfulness, this book is both an introduction for beginners and a title to be referred throughout one’s journey in mindfulness and leadership. Learning to recognize our “nervous ape, imaginative ape, and empathetic ape” (as the author describes our emotional responses to fear, acquisitiveness and the desire to connect) is the goal. The benefits of meditation – transforming stress from something toxic to something motivating, increasing empathy and compassion, increasing focus and the ability to see things from different perspectives – are all significant factors in becoming a mindful leader.

The section on meetings is a bite sized primer on using mindfulness in the workplace to further organizational goals. Determining the overall purpose of the meeting and organizing it with that goal in mind is a key part of using mindfulness to bring employees together in service of a common goal. Learning that the real purpose of a leader is to help staff become the best employee they can possibly be is the overarching message of the book, and Lesser leads readers to that goal with grace and brevity.

Recommended for anyone in a leadership position in any aspect of .their life.

Deana Cunningham is the Branch Manager at May Memorial Library. She can be reached at dcunningham@alamancelibraries.org.