How Mindfulness Can Benefit Leaders, Their Followers, and Make for More Profitable Business

Key Points:

  1. Mindfulness is positively correlated with many highly sought health and wellness indicators.
  2. Mindfulness is similarly correlated with highly sought and highly effective leadership styles like transformational leadership, authentic leadership, and with specific leader behaviours like less leader abuse.
  3. Organizations would do well to implement demonstrably effective evidence-based mindfulness training as it’s both cost effective and long-lasting.

Leaders play a critical role in organizations, and their behavior and decisions can have a significant impact on the wellbeing and performance of their followers. Mindfulness, the ability to be aware of and non-judgementally attentive to one’s own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, has been increasingly recognized as a relevant and beneficial factor for organizations and the people that comprise them.

About the Evidence Behind Leadership and Mindfulness

Yuyang Zhou, Hock-Peng Sin, and Chen Wang (2021) conducted a meta-analysis of 53 independent samples and 8,134 leaders to review the research behind leader mindfulness. They investigated the importance of leader trait mindfulness and mindfulness interventions targeting leaders and presented evidence of what promotes leader mindfulness as well as the various consequences that having a mindful leader may potentially elicit.

Correlates of Leader Mindfulness

The results of Yuyang and colleagues suggest that leader trait mindfulness is significantly related to both leaders’ and followers’ wellbeing. More specifically, having a leader with higher trait mindfulness is likely to be tied to small to moderate reductions in anxiety, depression, stress, and decreased emotional exhaustion as well as increased job satisfaction among both the leader and the followers of said leader. The results also indicated that mindfulness interventions were effective in achieving moderate reductions in leader stress levels. However, this meta-analysis fails to support the malleability of leader trait mindfulness through mindfulness intervention despite there being a large body of existing meta-analytic research showing that specific mindfulness practices are generally effective in yielding changes to things like attentive awareness, inhibition, and executive control (Verhaeghen, 2021) and in people’s trait mindfulness generally speaking (Quaglia, Braun, Freeman, McDaniel, & Brown, 2016). The meta-analytic research does suggest that the specific mindfulness-based practice tends to make a meaningful difference in its results. So, organizations and practitioners would likely be best served by the practices showing high quality evidence of success for the specific outcomes they’re looking to achieve. An expert may be able to help direct you to the specific practices that best suit the outcomes that you’re trying to achieve.

In addition, organizations will be thrilled to read that leader mindfulness also seems to be positively linked to improvements in followers’ job performance. Not just the performance that people perform as explicitly outlined by their specific job duties (in-role performance), but also the type of performance that people offer in support of their colleagues and the organization as a whole when they go the extra mile (known as extra-role performance) and more generally speaking (overall job performance).

Mindfulness may also be impacting how people lead (or vice versa) as leader trait mindfulness seems to be correlated positively with transformational leadership, authentic leadership, and higher quality relationships between leaders and their followers. It’s also correlated negatively with a leader’s tendency to be abusive and lash out to followers. Thereby arguing in favor of not only more effective leadership practices, but also more legally sound and defensible ones as well.

Take-aways for you and your practice!

Recommendations for organizations and those that lead them:

• Organizations would do well to apply these findings by implementing mindfulness training for their leaders (and other organizational members). This could include having leaders attend mindfulness workshops and seminars, providing mindfulness resources for leaders to use on their own, and/or having leaders practice mindfulness activities in the workplace.

• Organizations can use the research findings to inform their leadership development and selection processes, as well as their team-building initiatives, by focusing on traits associated with leader mindfulness.

• Organizations can use the research findings to inform their policies and procedures, such as those related to stress management, to ensure that their leaders are better equipped to handle the demands of their roles.

• Organizations can also implement and measure the effectiveness of internal mindfulness interventions on improving their own stress-levels and in their own job performance as well as among their followers.

• Individual leaders and managers can take advantage of these research findings by visibly implementing mindfulness training and practices into their work culture.

• Leaders can role-model and encourage their employees to engaged in evidence-based mindfulness practice, such as through mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindful meditation, mindful breathing exercises, and mindful activities (like yoga and mindful walking) to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing.

Recommendations to non-leaders within organizations:

Other people within the organization, regardless of leader status, can make use of these findings by…

• Practicing mindfulness themselves and encouraging their leaders to do the same.

• Suggest to their leaders that they use evidence-based mindfulness-based interventions to help to reduce stress, increase job satisfaction organization-wide

• Inform leaders that mindfulness may even have additional unforeseen positive impacts on leadership style and behaviour.

• Advocate that their organizations invest resources into mindfulness training for all employees (not just existing leaders), as this can help to create a more mindful and productive workplace overall.

Tips for Your Mindfulness Practice…

If you want to start practicing mindfulness, here are some minimum recommendations to experience its positive effects:

Set aside some time: carve out some time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes, to practice mindfulness. Start with just 5-10 minutes and gradually increase the time as you feel more comfortable.

Find a quiet place: choose a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted.

Pay attention to your breath: focus on your breath and notice the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body. You can count your breaths or simply observe them.

Notice your thoughts: when your mind wanders, simply notice your thoughts without judging them or trying to change them. Gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Practice regularly: commit to practicing mindfulness regularly, ideally every day. It may take time to see the benefits, so be patient and consistent.

Use good resources: Consider using a guided mindfulness app or audio recording to help you get started and stay on track.

Be patient and compassionate with yourself: Mindfulness is a skill that takes time and practice to develop.

Remember, mindfulness is a skill that can be developed with practice. It’s not about achieving a certain state of mind, but rather about learning to be present and aware in the moment. With time and practice, you may start to notice positive changes in your mood, stress levels, and overall wellbeing. But also remember that mindfulness is a personal practice, and what works best for one person may not work for another. It’s important to use evidence to guide your decisions, but also to experiment and find the techniques and strategies that work best for you.

Trustworthiness score:

The trustworthiness of the study is moderate (80%). This means there is a 20% chance that alternative explanations for the effect found are possible.

Learn how we critically appraise studies to assign them a Trustworthiness Score.

We aim to provide you only the best available scientific evidence to inform your decisions.

Did you like this evidence summary? Share it with your network by clicking on the buttons below!

Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter to receive the most trustworthy scientific research summarized in less than 1000 words!


Quaglia, J. T., Braun, S. E., Freeman, S. P., McDaniel, M. A., & Brown, K. W. (2016). Meta-analytic evidence for effects of mindfulness training on dimensions of self-reported dispositional mindfulness. Psychological Assessment, 28(7), 803–818.

Verhaeghen, P. Mindfulness as Attention Training: Meta-Analyses on the Links Between Attention Performance and Mindfulness Interventions, Long-Term Meditation Practice, and Trait Mindfulness. Mindfulness 12, 564–581 (2021).

Zhou, Y., Sin, H.-P., & Wang, C. (2021). An examination of the antecedents and consequences of leader mindfulness: A meta-analysis. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2021(1), 15726.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.