5 Things We Learned Hosting the Mindful Leadership Summit

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How do you foster the advancement of mindfulness and compassion in the workplace?  The benefits can be immeasurable, as many people learned this weekend at the sixth annual Mindful Leadership Summit. The summit kicked off in downtown Washington, DC at the Grand Hyatt with a diverse array of speakers and attendees.  Hundreds of attendees came from all over the world for the experience and the chance to learn about workplace leadership and community. 

The four-day summit, held November 14th-17th, started with a day-long unconference, two days packed full of talks and practice sessions, and then ended with a full day of deep diving workshops. Beginning with an unconference meant that participants drove the whole day themselves, with roundtable discussions and attendee-led practices. People connected with new colleagues and friends and the sharing of ideas led to innovative solutions as they tackled big issues facing not just the mindfulness community but the world.  

Friday and Saturday were full of keynotes, case studies, the latest sciences, 30-minute experiential practice sessions, and talks from thought leaders. Attendees found new practical tactics and strategies to apply, discovered new forms of mindfulness and had a chance to experience them while discovering the latest science and insights from thought leaders. On top of that, Sunday attendees had the option to sign up for 2 half-day workshops with their favorite experts and instructors. 

- Mindful Leader Team 

5 Things that Pleasantly Surprised Me: Some of my quick reflections 48 hours after the summit 

By Mo Edjlali

Mindful Leaders, I thought it would be fun to share some quick reflections. We are all still recovering from the effort, but at the same time something really amazing happened and I am eager to share it with everyone - if you know anyone that attended the Summit you probably have been hearing a great bit of buzz. This was the best Summit we’ve put on and every year its a challenge to outdo ourselves from the previous year. This year, in particular, we practically reinvited the whole summit experience. I was not sure what to expect, here are some things that pleasantly surprised us.  

  1. Community, community, community -  Our Unconference & Unretreats are by far one of the hardest things to get folks excited about. Thursday was the least attended day of the Summit though it was for many the most engaging and valuable. When there is no stage, no speakers, and all the practices, discussions and presentations are attendee driven, something special happens. We have never attempted to create an intimate unconference experience for a large audience and we succeeded.  
  2. Content trumps celebrity -  Keynotes. We took a big risk this year and decided to feature Keynotes with speakers that a majority of our audience had not heard of before. We thought these folks were Keynote worthy - not because of their celebrity but because of the value in what they had to share. Repeatedly, folks were buzzing about Anil and his mind-melting neuroscience talk (watch Anil debate Deepak here), Pilar and the call for healthy deviance, Marvin and Susan, the real deal of Mindful Leadership and creating a mindful culture in action, and our incredible debate panel, Candy, David, Rich and Barnaby - all of which left our attendees moved and provoked. 
  3. The desire for diversity in thought - Often at mindfulness related events for workplace and leadership, there is an echo-chamber effect where the same five people are talking about the same things year after year. We decided it was time to expand the conversation and include folks who provided alternative perspectives, from Langarien Mindfulness, looking at the organizational behavioral science, trama informed mindfulness, effortless mindfulness, somatic movement, breath work and more. 
  4. Our community’s trust in us - We had a number of unknown speakers, including some case studies from folks sharing their work for the first time. We brought you new practices and ideas. People asked, what the heck is an unconference? And, why did they have a woman who was the lead plaintiff against mindfulness in schools speak on the main stage? You trusted us, and judging from the buzz at the summit, although there were moments people were disturbed and provoked by, they loved it. They liked being challenged, liked thinking critically, and liked having an intellectual conversation. 
  5. The power of debate. This was the most exciting thing we discovered. Internally, we have been talking about and sharing with other leaders the need for more open and transparent debate. If we create an atmosphere where debate is encouraged it will only benefit us in furthering our collective mission. It will help improve our stance and harden our points… and better engage and pull into the conversation the very folks that we are most excited about including. Unfortunately, there is hardly any debate happening and when it is it almost comically lacks substance. Not here... And not in this debate.

2 comments

I agree with everything written here. MLS was an amazing, nurturing community experience.

BTW, there seems to be a broken hyperlink here, "watch Anil debate Deepak here" Is this it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jruw6ysgVMs

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Thanks Tony!  Link fixed now - great seeing you at the Summit.

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