Managing mindfully is increasingly on the curriculum as business schools explore unusual approaches to leadership
Encouraging reflection is not a new discipline in executive education. More than a quarter of a century ago, Canadian academic Henry Mintzberg helped launch the International Masters Program for Managers (IMPM) at five universities around the world. The one-year course, which takes executives to Japan, Brazil, India, Canada and the UK, seeks to refocus business education around five mindsets, including the “reflective mindset”, taught at Lancaster University. Executives visit local Quakers to appreciate an alternative sense of self and learn their style of decision-making and management.
Walking, poetry and canoeing are also part of the experience. “We think of mindfulness and reflection as more of a social and collaborative practice, rather than some kind of meditative, stepping out of the world,” explains Martin Brigham, IMPM academic director and associate professor at Lancaster University Management School. “Many executives make decisions in an unthinking way, like we change gears in a car. Reflection is a way of making you think about your thinking rather than just thoughtlessly doing whatever you’ve done in the past. The four most important words in business? ‘What do you think?’” Mindfulness is coming back to who you are, changing yourself before trying to change others Phra Anil Sakya Brigham cites one alumnus, Abbas Gedi Gullet, who ran refugee camps for the Red Cross in Kenya. After completing the programme, he persuaded the organisation to invest in a different kind of accommodation — luxury hotels — and plough profits back into the charity. “Through reflection, he was able to flip the mindset,” says Brigham. “Managers like to fix things, but sometimes they also have to challenge the philosophy on which their actions are based.”
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