The Mindful Leader

  • Time Frame: 2.5 or 3 hours
  • Suggested number of participants: 10-18
  • Materials needed: note cards, blank paper
  • Room Setup: one big circle of chairs, tables on perimeter for writing as needed
Download the Curriculum

Navigating and addressing complex issues requires empathy, connection and practices that help us connect to the present moment and in turn, the future. In this Boreas workshop, you will learn practical tools to become a more effective and present leader. Find your focus, clarity and develop practices to convert stress into fuel for your dreams, goals and ambitions.

What does mindfulness have to with leadership?

How does one practice mindfulness?

How can mindfulness help us develop self-awareness & empathy

How can stress be a source of self-knowledge and connection with others?

How does reflective practice facilitate leadership?

Facilitator outcome:     Participants will be able to:
1. Introduce connection between inner skills (self-awareness, empathy, resilience) and leadership Identify valuable inner skills that are important for leadership, and their relationship to mindfulness practice
2. Lead basic mindfulness exercises to introduce meditation-based skills, breath awareness, body scan. Practice basic meditation skills, understand fundamentals of those skills.
3. Lead awareness of stress & adversity exercises and reflections. Learn comfort with stressful experiences, and learn reflective processing of adverse experiences.
4. Lead mindful listening exercise Experience deep listening and empathy from both sides, experience intentional connection.
5. Facilitate Personal Leadership Reflection exercises. Reflect on connection between personal experiences, and motivations for meaningful work, impact on others.
6. Provide students with follow-up materials. Practice mindful awareness, communication, and reflection going forward.

Workshop Materials


    Sample Agenda

    1:00 – 1:30 Introductions, Opening Reflections, Conceptual Layout

    • Your name, major, cultural background, experiences living in other cultures, etc.
    • On cards: Why are you here? What are you hoping to get out of the workshop?
    • Describe agenda
    1:30 – 2:15 Fundamental Mindful Practices

    • Basic breath awareness
    • Conceptual discussion of inner leadership skills
    • Body Scan
    • Stressful moment awareness
    2:15– 2:30 Break
    2:30-3:00 Science of Empathy and Mindful Listening

    • Neuroscience of empathy
    • Mindful Listening Exercise
    3:00-3:45 Adversity, Meaning & Leadership Reflection

    • Written reflection on life adversity
    • Share in small groups
    • Written reflection on connection between work/research/impact goals and personal experiences
    3:45-4:00 Q&A, Ongoing practice

    • Allow students to ask questions
    • Provide guide for ongoing practice

    Pre-Workshop Email
    We recommend sending out the pre-workshop email one-week before and a short follow-up two days before the workshop. This workshop does not require any pre-work before the workshop, but you could include a link to a TED Talk to help prime students for the workshop experience.

    Hello Mindful Leaders,

    A reminder about tomorrow’s workshop, and a short note about what we’ll be doing:

    In all of my work practicing mindfulness with those who lead, one theme is ubiquitous: lack of time do to busyness.

    Sound familiar?

    What is typically lost in this serial busyness is space for meaningful connection, reflection, and recovery from everyday stress.

    The irony is that self awareness, empathy, and resilience, the very things we don’t have time to deliberately practice, are consistently identified as crucial for effective leadership.

    One three-hour get-together is not likely to fix this, but what I can promise you tomorrow is three hours where you will have no obligation to perform, to problem solve, or to impress.

    Starting at 1pm, we are going to unplug from our devices and calendars, connect with ourselves and our peers, and explore what it means to lead change in a world full of other busy people.

    You need only bring an open mind and your full presence.

    I’m looking forward to it myself.

    – Justin

    Example of post-workshop email:

    Hello again Mindful Leaders

    First, thank you again for your openness and commitment yesterday. Those practices can make people a little uncomfortable, and do not always go that smoothly. It was a pleasure to facilitate.   
    Some specific recs given some of yesterday’s questions:
    For those most interested in everyday work/life application: 
    – Search Inside Yourself: a light read and lots of practical knowledge.
    – Finding the Space to Lead:  More office/leadership focused, but equally practical and readable. 
    For those who are hoping to improve their regular daily practices, (one of the most common request I get), I highly recommend The Power of Habit. This is not at all about meditation, but about how habit formation itself, and endlessly useful.
    For those interested in the underlying science, or being able to talk about it publicly, I would start with Emotional Life of Your Brain, or Buddha’s Brain. 
    For guided exercises, there are several apps, of which headspace seems to be crowd favorite. Our own center here at the U also has free recordings.
    A little Googling will get you much more.
    If you’re feeling adventurous and want dive in deep, this is where I started
    If you have questions about any of the above, or just questions you didn’t get to ask yesterday, please feel free to reach out. 
    Good luck,
    [ Name ]
    Click here for example of post-survey.

    Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging191(1), 36-43.

    Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic medicine65(4), 564-570.

    Good, D. J., Lyddy, C. J., Glomb, T. M., Bono, J. E., Brown, K. W., Duffy, M. K., … & Lazar, S. W. (2016). Contemplating mindfulness at work: An integrative review. Journal of management42(1), 114-142.

    Smith, B. W., Ortiz, J. A., Steffen, L. E., Tooley, E. M., Wiggins, K. T., Yeater, E. A., … & Bernard, M. L. (2011). Mindfulness is associated with fewer PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, physical symptoms, and alcohol problems in urban firefighters. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology79(5), 613.

    Hafenbrack, A. C., Kinias, Z., & Barsade, S. G. (2014). Debiasing the mind through meditation: Mindfulness and the sunk-cost bias. Psychological science25(2), 369-376.


    UofMN Center for Sprituality & Healing
    The University of Minnesota own center is a national leader in mindfulness-based research and offers many courses and resources for U-affiliated people.
    One of the simplest and most popular apps for getting started with your own daily mindfulness practice


    UofMN Center for Sprituality & Healing
    The University of Minnesota own center is a national leader in mindfulness-based research and offers many courses and resources for U-affiliated people.

    Institute for Mindful Leadership
    Founded by former General Mills legal counsel, Janice Marturano, the institute offers many retreats and resources for those looking to bring mindful skills into the workplace.

    One of the simplest and most popular apps for getting started with your own daily mindfulness practice

    Dr. Rick Hanson
    Articles, meditations, and other resources on the neuroscience of well-being and happiness.

    Center for Investigating Healthy Minds
    The University Wisconsin Research Center led by Dr. Richard Davidson has numerous resources and is on the lead edge of applied mindfulness and the neuroscience of health and wellness.

    Attending Boreas workshops has allowed me to learn and implement several valuable leadership tools in an increasingly connected world and how to present myself in a professional manner on paper, online, and in person.

    Melany Dunne