“The Mindfulness Edge”: Effective Leadership is a Few Deep Breaths Away


"The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule" is a neuroscience-backed approach for leaders to a more mindful (and productive) day at work.

the mindfulness edge

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Mindfulness is often praised as an incredible tool for personal efficiency, but can it also improve your leadership? Matt Tenney and Dr. Tim Gard believe it can. In their book, “The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule,” Tenney and Gard argue bringing your attention back to where it belongs — your current activity — is the key. Mindfulness, they say, is the best way to sidestep the inherent biases of your brain in “default” mode.

What “The Mindfulness Edge” is About

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with mindfulness and meditation (or some form of it). You also know that multitasking isn’t good for you and your productivity. The purpose of “The Mindfulness Edge” is to show why and how you can begin to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life.

The book begins by explaining why you need mindfulness training in the first place. The human brain is pre-wired from experiences, culture, and biology to filter everything you see. As a result, you think and respond from what you believe, not often from what you see.

An example of this could be a leader who doesn’t like employees with red hair. Let’s say that the leader was bullied by someone with red hair in elementary school or was bullied because he or she has red hair. Because of this trauma, the leader may consciously or unconsciously respond differently to a job candidate or work partner with red hair. He or she may ignore, dismiss, belittle, or even flatter the person because of that bias.

The above example may be a little absurd, but it points to the problem of an unexamined mind. Leaders, despite their background and training, have the same flawed minds as everyone else. The difference is that a leader’s mental blind spots can bring serious harm to a company.

“The Mindfulness Edge” hopes to encourage leaders to recognize this tendency of the mind to linger in “default” mode (not really engaging in the present) and to begin training the mind to return to the present. Through mindfulness, leaders are able to take a step back and reflect “Am I seeing this situation as it is or as I think it is?”

The book’s authors both come to their topic from very unique perspectives.

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Tenney (@MattTenney1) is an author, consultant and speaker who learned about mindfulness in an ironic way, in a Marines prison. He was arrested for attempting to “hide” some government money. While in prison, he found books on monasticism and meditation and developed a rigorous mindfulness program.

Gard is a neuroscience researcher, speaker and author who studies the neurology behind activities such as mindfulness and yoga. He began mindfulness training in 1997 and never looked back. He is currently working with several research-based universities in Switzerland.

What Was Best About “The Mindfulness Edge”

The best part of “The Mindfulness Edge” is that:

  • It provides a stronger research base for some of the psychological biases mentioned in books like “Unquestioned Brilliance,”
  • It attempts to tie small actions in mindfulness (like brushing your teeth) to the larger actions of leadership, decision making and strategy.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

“The Mindfulness Edge” does an excellent job of explaining why the “default” mind and multi-tasking are modes we don’t want to stay “stuck” in. That being said, more emphasis should have been placed on sharing the real-life stories (not just summaries) of business leaders dealing with specific situations using mindfulness.

One other issue could be the amount of research. Normally research is a great thing but when presented as extended footnotes between chapters or long “Neuro Notes” within them, all this information can be a bit intimidating.

Why Read “The Mindfulness Edge”

“The Mindfulness Edge” is a potentially great resource for the leader (or even employee) who is open to the idea of mindfulness and meditation. But the book also examines how use of these techniques can  directly impact a business (something many meditation books don’t do!) The book also presents easy-to-understand conceptual models that help readers understand when their minds are “on default” or “engaged.” It clearly explains the filters through which many people see the world.

If you are a reader of books that challenge the “rational leader” mindset like “Unquestioned Brilliance” and wish instead to study mindfulness as a potential management technique, this book would be potentially helpful in understanding the “Why?” behind it all.

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Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

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