This is part 2 of an 8-part series focusing on Marc Lesser’s latest book, Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader. If you missed part 1, check it out here.
Practice 1: Love the Work
I initially discounted the value and importance of Love the Work. When Lesser asked us which of the practices we would make a priority for our thoughts throughout the day, it was not high on my list.
But then he asked us to identify three people we believe truly love their work and the values they held which make them stand out in our minds. This exercise was harder than it sounds, but pulling apart the values of love we see in others helped to identify our own. It’s much easier to talk about others than ourselves of course.
When Lesser is talking about Loving the Work he frames the discussion this way:
“While there are many kinds and definitions of love, I’d like to focus on four qualities or practices that make up love. In Buddhism, these teachings are known as the four immeasurables, since it is said that, as you practice them, each of these elements and the four together will continue to grow beyond what can be measured.”
These four qualities are:
- Loving kindness – The practice of caring for others
- Compassion – Feeling another’s pain, understanding others, and desiring to help others
- Joy – A deep sense of happiness that is not dependent on conditions
- Equanimity – The practice of letting go of self-concern, of cultivating acceptance and composure
The values I shared about my three people revolved around the joy and equanimity I saw in their everyday work. They seemed to find find happiness in the growth of others and relished in even some of the most basic and repetitive tasks.
Those basic and repetitive tasks make up our lives. Whether those tasks take place at work or home, for the most part they are pretty predictable. And it is in these routine tasks where we find the space for what Lesser is referring to as “The Work” – cultivating mindfulness.
During the workday I routinely make decisions, coach my team, and attend meetings. Occasionally I get to speak in front of large audiences and create new systems, but those tasks are not the norm. At home I mow the lawn, walk the dog, and help my partner lead the day-to-day processes of a busy family of four (ie. get my sons to brush their teeth, take them to practice, and pay bills.) Occasionally we take a vacation or attend an awesome concert, but we can’t rely on those rare big ticket events to find the love.
If the work is cultivating mindfulness and that is the work we should love, then what are we doing when we are cultivating mindfulness. We are not speaking in front of a thousand people, going on vacation, or jumping in a mosh pit at a Green Day concert. It’s when we are at home or at our places of work doing the day-to-day, choosing to love the routine, choosing to love the reality because that is where we can grow into the leaders our families and teams deserve.
It’s not easy to embrace and fully engage with the routine. We think that other people’s lives are more exciting than our own because for the most part we only see their social media posts. Nobody posts pictures of the routine tasks. We may still be telling ourselves stories about some other life out there we might be living.
But, one does not cultivate mindfulness by posting a staged Instagram shot from one’s weekend in Sedona or reminiscing about our past. We become mindful leaders by leaning into and learning to love the routine because we trust it will bring more of the four immeasurables mentioned above to our lives and the lives of those around us. Mindfulness is the secret lining we find when we are fully present – no matter the activity.
I’ll end this post with Lesser’s definition of leadership as it will set us up nicely for next week’s post. But before we end, please take a moment to sign up for my email list so you get part 3 of this 8-part series in your inbox as soon as it’s published next week.
Finally, Lesser breaks down leadership in this particular context into essentially three things:
- Think – leaders use intelligence to plan, envision, problem solve, focus, and see from a multitude of perspectives.
- Listen – they care about others and collaborate with others to execute a shared vision, which means being open, vulnerable, and curious.
- Hold Space – they try to be fully present, clear, emotionally open, and credible; they influence the culture by creating positive norms around storytelling, flexibility, and accountability.
Let’s spend some time thinking about these three actions over the next week as we move into the second practice of a mindful leader in part 3 of this series – Do the Work.
Thoughts to share? Jump into the comments below.
See you next week.