Mindful leadership is the way to go, say HR Indaba panellists


HR executives discussed mindfulness as a hallmark of authentic leadership at a thought-provoking session.

Portia Thokoane, CHRO at Dark Fibre Africa, kicked off the “Mind your mindfulness: The key to authentic leadership” session at the HR Indaba held on 18 October, by pointing out that when leaders prioritise their own emotional and physical wellbeing, they give their teams permission to do the same.

“This means getting clear on what your own definition of work-life balance is, and communicating this successfully, as well as encouraging positive self-care habits throughout the day,” she said. “Take regular laptop breaks and actively encourage team members to do the same.”

She shared about her experiences after losing her husband and how this affected her mental health, pointing out that workplace and job-related stress, as well as pressures from home can affect your feelings of vulnerability and boost anxiety. “Be committed to your wellbeing and advocate for your organisations to commit to a workplace that is built on trust and empathy,” she said. “As leaders, it’s how we demonstrate safe spaces for flexibility, clear boundaries and courageous conversations. This helps our teams bring their full selves to work.”

Avanthi Maharaj, market HR cluster lead at Google said her take on the matter was that mindful leadership is more about being true to yourself and the essence of who you are as a person. On a leadership level, it means making daily choices and actions that are aligned to your vision and values.

“Meditation has been proven to help with this, as the very basis of the practice is attention, and attention leads to awareness,” she said. “It’s pretty easy to think up how you would like to be as a leader, but as long as that idea is not backed up by a connection with who you truly are, it will be hard to become an authentic leader.”

Pamela Xaba, CHRO at Altron said she was more intrigued by mental health issues that HR professionals experience, and added that having small moments of self-introspection throughout the day is the authentic leader’s superpower. “Checking in with your breath, knowing how you feel in the moment, maybe before a team meeting or afterwards and where you can find gratitude throughout the day are all great places to start,” she advised.

Portia said mindful leadership teaches you to pay more attention to what is happening at the present moment, to recognise your feelings and emotions and keep them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful situations.

“When you are mindful, you’re aware of your presence and the ways you impact other people,” she concluded. “You’re able to both observe and participate in each moment, while recognising the implications of your actions for the longer term. And that prevents you from slipping into a life that pulls you away from your values.”

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