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Why Do Leaders Need to Be Both Powerful and Mindful

July 31, 2017


What do the below leaders have in common?

  • Bill Gates, philanthropist and former Microsoft CEO

  • Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa who changed the world’s view on apartheid

  • Warren Buffett, possibly the greatest stock investor of all time

  • Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize winner for her leading role in ending the 14-year civil war in Liberia


They all have mindful power!


They’re extraordinarily mindful and powerful. They have mindful power – the combined effect of being personally powerful and extraordinarily mindful. It’s what we need in leaders of businesses, governments and families. It’s also how most people want to lead their lives.


We all know history is full of powerful leaders who weren’t mindful, such as Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan and Richard Nixon. These leaders possessed great power but little mindfulness.


For leaders, mindfulness is developing a deep awareness of everyone and everything they affect. It’s the actions that create the greatest good for all. Let’s explore the aforementioned leaders who’ve demonstrated vast mindful power.


Examples of leaders with mindful power!

  1. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda use their billions of dollars to help solve some of the world’s most critical problems. For example, they provide matching funds to organizations committed to helping Third World countries develop clean water. Clean water is a personal and community health and economic game changer.

  2. Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest political examples of mindful power in history. He basically changed how the world viewed apartheid! To do this, he had to master his emotions; he was an angry and potentially violent leader in his younger years. But during his 27 years of imprisonment for leading the antiapartheid movement in South Africa, he gained control of his mind and became immensely mindful by meditating daily. When Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, he had the opportunity to retaliate against his captors and oppressors, but he instead chose to create peace, equality and racial integration.

  3. Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest people in America, has successfully challenged many of the world’s richest individuals to donate the majority of their fortune to charitable organizations. The scores of billionaires who’ve committed are listed on Buffett’s website, The Giving Pledge. Buffett is organizing the redistribution of billions of dollars of wealth globally to help solve some of the world’s most critical problems.

  4. Leymah Gbowee, the Nobel Peace Prize winner for her profoundly mindful role in ending the Liberian civil war, may be the most mindful. She’s certainly the most courageous of our examples. If you ever feel you can’t make a difference because you lack the authority or resources, read about how Gbowee and a group of seven other women, with a combined financing of $10, stopped two warring armies in their tracks. She’s one of the most inspiring leaders in my Fearless Leaders book.


What kind of leader do you want to be?

Recent electroencephalogram (EEG) brain research suggests that people who gain positional power (power over others), or even perceive that they have more positional power, often become less empathetic and mindful. The early research in this area suggests that the typical brain response to an increase in positional power for many people is a decrease in empathy and mindfulness (the concept of power corrupts is true for most people). The exception to this typical response is with people who are already very mindful, instead of becoming less empathetic mindful with an increase in positional power, they become more empathetic and mindful!  


Many great companies, including Google and LinkedIn, are bringing in mindful experts to teach their employees how to be more mindful.


As you develop more personal and/or positional power, it’s critical to consciously work on cultivating mindfulness. Would you rather be a powerful leader lacking mindfulness, such as Adolf Hitler, or one with great mindfulness, such as Warren Buffett or Leymah Gbowee?


Mindful power can create more courage, confidence, magnetic presence and inner peace, and it’s what we all want in a leader.


TC North, Ph.D. is co-author of the best selling leadership book on Amazon, Fearless Leaders, a high-performance executive coach, Huff Post blogger and leadership speaker. Since 1988, he has helped business leaders to become high performers who create high-performing organizations that have extraordinary profitability -- and that people love to work for. Two of his companies have been transformed from having flat revenue to becoming members of the prestigious Inc. 5000 fastest growing private companies in America. You may contact Dr. North by email or call 303-665-8920 to learn more.  




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