Lecturer Unlocks Three Keys to Mindful Leadership

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Those in positions of leadership need to “step back” from the craziness of the day and “turn up the volume on what their purpose is as a person and to lead from that,” Michael Ross, president of Mainstream Leadership Network, said Wednesday.

Ross was the keynote speaker at a Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber breakfast program, part of the organization’s Leadership Series, at the Holiday Inn Boardman. The breakfast was sponsored by Kent State University at Trumbull and Ohio Living.

“As leaders, our greatest present to our team is to be here in the moment and to give all of yourself in the moment,” Ross said.

Being mindful can be a challenge for anyone, he acknowledged, given the tasks facing leaders personally, plus the demands for attention from the people they lead, the business’ money issues and family.

Being mindful is about “making sure that you’re constantly focused on your vision for your life, your purpose for your life, and you live out of that,” he said.

“It’s very difficult for people to do that because their minds are built for survival,” he continued. “Your mind will constantly take you off course and try to send you in different directions to mitigate risk, to mitigate anything that’s going to keep you from being protected. Our essence is always calling us to be more, so that’s risky.”

The three keys to mindful leadership, Ross said, are having a vision, engaging the battle of head versus heart, and discipline.

Most leaders don’t have a clear vision for themselves or for their organization, he said. Sharing that vision also is a vital part of being a mindful leader, “because you’re focusing on what matters most,” he noted.

“Your team has to know where you’re going. If you want to galvanize your team, if you really want to bring everybody together, you’ve got to be clear about where you’re going and they’ve got to know it,” he said. “It’s got to be compelling. … If your vision isn’t a little bit crazy, it’s not big enough.”

Speaking on the second key, Ross noted that the mind is “built for survival” and will always act to mitigate risk. “It’s going to try to get you out of any adverse situation,” he said.

“The heart wants what is best for you,” he said. “It desires freedom above all.”

Addressing the third, Ross advocated keeping a journal, adding that he is a “big believer” in meditation and prayer. “The world is always going to be tossing stuff at you, so I quiet the world,” he said.

For Ross, learning the need to be mindful came in a “very hard, very visceral way,” he recalled.

During his time in the Navy, Ross was determined to set himself apart by showing up early, staying late and “always doing more.” While in boot camp, he encountered Jake, “a guy from the Bronx” whom he was later stationed with. Jake “had the hardest life that I ever heard of” but “had the best outlook I ever saw,” Ross recalled.

“He was such a fun-loving guy but he had a big vision and a big dream for his life. He used to talk about how he was going to use his time in the Navy to go back and help people like himself,” he said. “I didn’t have a vision. I just wanted to impress those who were above me.”

Ross’ outlook changed when Jake died from an accident while they were stationed in Japan. After that, Ross “went into a spiral” and spent weeks contemplating life’s meaning and asking himself questions, and thought of Jake’s vision to serve others.

“It was at that point in my life that I began to live with purpose because I saw how fragile and short life is,” he said. “Then it became so visceral when I no longer was so focused on the day-to-day, and then had a disciplined structure to remind me of the vision and the values that I was trying to live by versus all the other stuff I thought mattered.”

An audience of about 40 attended the breakfast meeting.

Linda McPhail, owner of A Time to Dance in Niles, said she found Ross’ lecture fascinating.

“He brought a different focus to my approach, and he also confirmed that I’m doing the right thing,” she said.

John Russell, vice president of L. Calvin Jones in Canfield, said his key takeaway was to “step back and have a clear vision of where you’re going.”

Pictured: Michael Ross, president of Mainstream Leadership Network, spoke Wednesday at a Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber seminar on mindful leadership.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.