6 Essential Books on Mindful Leadership
By the Mindful Leader Team
Part of being a good leader is knowing when to listen to others. The same is true for becoming a mindful leader. While reading isn’t the only way to learn about mindful leadership, it can be a huge help to see what others have experienced before you. We’ve compiled a list of ten mindful leadership books from experts in the field to help you build your own path to success. For each book we've included a summary, the rating on Goodreads (the world's largest book review site), and why we think it's worth reading. Books are listed in order of their average GoodReads ratings which do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mindful Leader.
Author: Joe Burton
Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars (56 ratings)
Summary: Mindfulness, emotional intelligence and resilience are the "must have skills" for modern leaders--yet many professionals are too stressed to know where to start. Creating Mindful Leaders provides deep insights and easy practices based in neuroscience, brain training and positive psychology to help professionals thrive in the "age of disruption."
Why you might like it: Burton lived the busy grind of the leadership life. Like many, he didn’t think much of mindfulness until he was incredibly stressed and needed to make a change. His book is filled with practical advice from someone who has lived what he is recommending and is full of hands-on practices and tips.
2. Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results
Author: Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter
Goodreads rating: 3.95 out of 5 stars (456 ratings)
Summary: Most leaders think they're effective at motivating their employees, but study after study shows that employees are more disengaged and uninspired than ever. The solution lies not in more management training or fun off-sites but in looking within--into the mind of the leader. Based on their years-long research and practice, Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter of the Potential Project, have conclusively found that three qualities stand out as being foundational for leaders today: mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion--what they call the MSC Leadership Mind, the ideal mind of the leader.
Why you might like it: Hougaard and Carter, of The Potential Project believe that good leadership skills, including mindfulness, compassion, and selflessness, are not innate and can be learned. They provide an evidence-based explanation of and guide to their system.
Author: Janice Marturano
Goodreads rating: 3.92 out of 5 stars (316 ratings)
Summary: The complexity and relentless pace of our world places exceptional demands on leaders today. They work incredibly hard and yet feel that they are not meeting their own expectations of excellence. They feel disconnected from their own values and overburdened. By the thousands, they seek out books on leadership skills, time management, and “getting things done,” but the techniques these volumes offer, useful as they are, don't often don't speak to the leader's fundamental sense that something is missing.
Why you might like it: This is a good way to introduce mindfulness into your life for those in the corporate sector. Consider this a user’s manual to mindful leadership in the workplace.
Author: Maria Gonzalez
Goodreads rating: 3.61 out of 5 stars (135 ratings)
Summary: If you thought leading a team or organization meant simply creating and implementing a financial plan, delegating responsibility, and watching the bottom line, well, you're only partly right. True leadership comes from within, a place of deep calm and focus, that allows you to respond to any situation as it arises. In Mindful Leadership, you'll learn how to draw on those inner reserves through Mindfulness Meditation, a tool you can use to achieve focus and clarity, reduce stress, and develop the presence of mind to meet any number of challenges.
Why you might like it: Gonzalez includes many practical mindfulness strategies to implement. This book may be better suited for those in leadership at large organizations or founders, as those are the leaders she has more experience with.
5. Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader: Lessons from Google, Search Inside Yourself, and a Zen Monastery Kitchen
Author: Marc Lesser
Goodreads rating: 3.94 out of 5 stars (150 ratings)
Summary: The practices outlined here make that kind of synergy not just a goal but an achievable reality.
Why you might like it: Lesser argues that mindful leadership, mindful work, and mindful living are all interconnected. In Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader, he offers a holistic view of what mindfulness can be. This book is an important reminder that you don’t shut your brain off when you leave work and that the mindful practices you do can benefit you in all areas of your life.
6. The Mindful Leader: 7 Practices for Transforming Your Leadership, Your Organisation and Your Life
Author: Michael Bunting
Goodreads rating: 3.78 out of 5 stars (97 ratings)
Summary: Mindful leadership is a hot topic - but it's not as simple as "when you become mindful, great leadership will spontaneously happen." This book serves as both mindfulness training and leadership training, clarifying the parallel while guiding you through the many points of intersection.
Why you might like it: Bunting provides mindfulness practices with a practical perspective, with specific contexts for using them. Drawing from psychology and neuroscience to compliment leadership theory, his book stands on solid ground for building an effective and mindful leadership style.
Additional books on mindfulness that relate to leadership:
Author: Oren Jay Sofer
Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars (1,347 ratings)
Summary: Communication is hard. Here's a proven method that makes it not only considerably easier, but also much more effective for people on both sides of the conversation. Oren Sofer's method for effective communication is a unique combination of mindfulness with the modality called nonviolent communication (NVC), a method popular since the 1960s that is based on the belief that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and resort to violence or behavior that harms others only when they don't recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs.
Why you might like it: Effective communication is a must-have for any mindful leader’s toolkit. Read Say What You Mean for ways to avoid turning conversations into competitions or a vicious cycle of accusations and defenses. Sofer’s book is a guide to new ways to communicate, not a manual, and it includes practices so you can learn which of the techniques are most effective for you and your leadership style.
Author: Jon Kabat-Zinn
Goodreads Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars (42,552 ratings)
Summary: In this book, the author maps out a simple path for cultivating mindfulness in one's own life. It speaks both to those coming to meditation for the first time and to longtime practitioners, anyone who cares deeply about reclaiming the richness of his or her moments.
Why you might like it: This book wasn’t written for leaders or the corporate sector, unlike many of the others on this list. However, there is a reason that Kabat-Zinn is known as the father of secular mindfulness. This book is an excellent introduction to mindfulness itself. If you are interested in becoming a mindful leader, you must have a foundation of mindfulness to build your leadership on. This book will help you get there.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works
Author: Dan Harris
Goodreads rating: 3.92 out of 5 stars (95,521 ratings)
Summary: After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.
Why you might like it: Harris is another author who has lived what he’s talking about. This book is more his personal story than a how-to guide for becoming a mindful leader. If you’re on the fence or looking for the perspective of a skeptic before you commit to a mindfulness or meditation practice, Harris is your guy. This is also helpful for those who feel the need to confront their ego.
Which of these books have inspired you? Are there any essential reads that we missed? Please share in the comments below.