Healthy Systems <-> Human Wellbeing
Human wellbeing and systems health are interdependent: the success of one depends on and supports the other. For example, healthy family systems are more likely to produce healthy individuals, and healthy individuals tend to spend time in well-functioning friend and family systems. Similarly, healthy organizations tend to retain employees with high levels of wellbeing, and healthy individuals tend to gravitate toward and stay with healthy organizations.
Therefore, if I want to assess my overall wellbeing as an individual to find clues as to how to improve my health, I need to look at my 1) individual practices, 2) how I manage my relationships, and 3) how my systems are functioning. If I want to assess the health of a professional organization, I will get the most useful information if I look at individual employee practices, how those employees manage relationships with each other, and how they relate to the organization as a whole.
About Mindful Leadership and Mindful Growth
I developed the ML|MG Model model based on my own research on effective leadership in health and human services combined with extensive scientific and personal research in mindfulness and human wellbeing. The ML|MG Model incorporates all HS Ideas (see menu tab) and information from HS Learning Modules.
I define leadership as “any action for change”. This definition creates space for anybody to lead from any position, in any context, and for any purpose. Therefore, leadership roles do not have to be confined to the top of an organizational chart, or even, more generally, to professional settings. I can use leadership whenever and wherever a change is needed.
Mindful Leadership refers to purposeful, principle-driven actions I take to improve myself, my relationships, and the systems to which I belong. A system is any group of people with a shared identity. Membership in the group is stable, and the people in the group interact with each other. My systems could include my family group, friend group, workplace, religious or spiritual group, or hobby group. I also have “nested” systems, in which one smaller group is part of a larger group, as a nuclear family is part of an extended family.
Mindful Leadership enables Mindful Growth, which refers to the positive changes that naturally take place in myself, my relationships, and my systems when I am mindful – growth that is in line with my principles and that does not outstrip my resources.
I am continuing to develop the ML|MG Model and Assessments with the aim that they can be used by any person or group in any context. All human beings have the same basic needs and aspirations for growth, and every system – whether personal or professional – can benefit from the same research-based guidelines for systems health. The ML|MG is an invitation and guide, grounded in scientific research and my personal experience, to practice effective leadership in all areas of life and make positive change in all systems using concepts and practices.
The Mindful Leadership|Mindful Growth Model
Leadership is about growth and change, and the most effective leadership is the kind that creates the most positive, sustainable change while ensuring that everybody’s needs are met. Mindful Leadership is about using mindfulness to enable Mindful Growth and purposeful change, both for myself and my environment.
The HS Mindful Leadership Model has three parts: Individual Mindful Leadership, Relational Mindful Leadership, and Systems Mindful Leadership.
Individual Mindful Leadership
Self Worth is the core of Individual Mindful Leadership (IML). A strong sense of Self Worth makes it possible for me to effectively practice each of the other elements of IML. To change and grow as a leader, I must believe that I am worth the resources needed to fuel my growth.
Self Care provides the energy and resources that help me sustain my Self Worth. When I practice effective Self Care, I can identify my needs and set the priorities and boundaries that get my needs met. Ideally, I meet my own needs before I address my own or other’s wants.
Mindfulness, the practice of being aware of myself and my environment in the present moment, is the responsive, purposeful, and adaptive interface between me and my environment. Mindfulness helps me filter my thoughts and the stimuli from my environment, so I can release whatever is not important. Mindfulness also creates awareness around my needs so I can be more effective with Self Care.
My Principles create a dynamic, interactive boundary with the world. Having specific Principles to which I can refer when I am uncomfortable and/or not sure of what to do next keeps my behavior consistent and ensures that I am on the best path for me. As I actively apply my Principles to various situations, I receive feedback from my environment, which informs my growth. My principles remain fairly stable, but how I apply them changes as I learn and grow.
When I am practicing all the elements of Individual Mindful Leadership (IML), Mindful Growth happens. Self Worth provides the motivation, Self Care provides the energy, Mindfulness provides the knowledge and awareness, and my Principles provide the direction.
I am currently developing a self-study program for the Individual ML|MG that includes an assessment and several HS tools and worksheets. Download a draft outline of the self-study program and/or pilot the assessment.
Relational Mindful Leadership
Individual Mindful Leadership (IML) is the foundation for Relational Mindful Leadership (RML). The components of IML work together to enable me to create positive, sustainable change in myself while ensuring that my needs are met. Strong IML practices enable me to practice RML, even if others cannot.
Unconditional Respect for others creates a containing space for Relational Boundaries and Empowering Practices. Unconditional Respect means that I treat other people equally because they are human beings; with the same kindness, care, and respect that I (ideally) give to myself, regardless of where they come from or their position in a system or in society. When I treat others with Unconditional Respect, I am grounded in the belief that everybody is doing the best they can with what they have and what they know (HS Healthy Systems Principle #1). It means respecting my own and others’ boundaries, making space for inclusion, and being thoughtful about how I communicate with and about others.
I use Relational Boundaries to protect and maintain my Principles (see the IML Model), my priorities, and my wellbeing. My Relational Boundaries are ideally strong and flexible, and informed by my IML practices and the current requirements of my environment. I use respectful communication to inform others of my boundaries and reinforce them when necessary.
When I am in a relationship with somebody who is also practicing Unconditional Respect while maintaining strong and consistent Relational Boundaries, our relationship holds space for Empowering Practices, which include transparency, honesty, authenticity, resource sharing, respecting others’ autonomy, and creating space for others to learn and grow. Empowering Practices require mental and emotional strength, so strong IML practices are required so that I do not burn myself out..
Systems Mindful Leadership
Individual Mindful Leadership (IML) and Relational Mindful Leadership (RML), the foundational components of Systems Mindful Leadership (SML), work together with SML to create positive, sustainable change in a system in a safe, nurturing environment. When I have strong IML and RML practices, I can practice SML, even if others in the system cannot.
Psychological & Physical Safety (PPS) involves the collective creation of a culture in which everybody feels safe to talk about uncomfortable feelings and experiences (including conflict). PPS specifically requires Unconditional Respect, a component of RML. It also requires clear, transparent decision-making and communication throughout the system. PPS is greatly aided by agreed-upon operating principles and/or a code of conduct that is applied consistently and equally to everybody in the system.
Member Well-Being & Growth (MWBG), the seat of burnout and turnover (for professional organizations) and burnout and withdrawal (for personal systems) prevention and repair, first requires that the physical and mental health needs of all system members are normalized and accepted. MWBG involves creating systems that a) enable individuals to maintain their health and b) facilitate members’ autonomy and growth.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) involves the complete normalization and acceptance of diversity of 1a) physical aspects (i.e. race, gender, disability) and 1b) experience and skill level; and the normalization of 2) behavior (i.e. clothing choices, communication style, approach to problem-solving). When we think about behavior, “normalization” does not mean we have to accept or condone. It only means that I do not condemn people for their behavior and that I do create space for people to grow and change. DEI also means that I am conscious about making sure everybody feels included in any decision-making that directly affects their person.
Mission & Vision Alignment (MVA) requires first that the system creates a common understanding of the mission and vision of the system, both conceptually and in terms of practical application. MVA can be summarized with the statement “the best way forward moves us towards what we want, not away from what we fear (HS Healthy Systems Principles #2)”. When there is MVA, boundaries are created around projects and activities so that systems energy is not spent on work that does not reflect the mission and vision.
Community Embedding (CE) is the process of creating strong and varied relationships between the system and individuals and systems in the surrounding physical community, as well as with systems with shared interests. These relationships create both energy and information exchange, as well as stability and sustainability for the system. The energy and information exchange provide the knowledge and resources that enable the system to remain flexible and adaptable to its environment.