Our Presence Creates Our Impact: Using Mindfulness to Optimize Leadership and Culture


Anese CavanaughBy Anese Cavanaugh 

I spoke at a leadership conference this past weekend. It was packed with tons of great content, speakers, business leaders, and humans all converging to create more impact in the world, live fully engaged lives, show up well, and create cultures of meaning and authenticity.


You Are Your Presence


My topic? Your Presence Is Your Impact. While many people tend to think that the doing is what creates the most impact, I’ve found in my work with executives and their organizations that the being, the intention underneath that doing, and their level of presence, self-awareness, and mindfulness is what actually creates higher leverage and more effective and sustainable outcomes. In a world driven by “busy” and getting stuff done, it can be counterintuitive to stop, breathe, and realize that our presence may be the most powerful place to begin from. Not only does presence impact decision-making and inner peace making, it also has tremendous impact on other people. People respond to how we show up, how present we are, and ultimately how intentional we are. This is where leadership starts.


Many Types of Presence


Traditionally, we may think of presence in terms of executive presence or stage presence, or possibly even as presence in meditation and mindfulness. I consider presence all of these, and then I dig in even more holistically; physical presence, mental presence, energetic presence, intuitive presence, presence in the moment, presence to the truth and reality of one’s life and organizational state, presence to oneself, and the level of mindfulness in everything one does. Putting all of these different types of presence together is what ultimately supports and infuses the actions, behaviors, and decisions we make in our lives and organizations. This culmination of presence is also what makes the biggest impact on the people we lead and the culture we create.

Mindfulness (or a lack of mindfulness) is where culture creation starts.


Mindfulness in culture.


People often look to leadership or to their organization to create the culture, but really – everyone is the culture. We emanate the culture. We set the tone. The more mindful and intentional we can be about how we’re showing up and what tone we’re creating with our presence, our regard for others, and our decisions and actions, the more possible it is to create a culture that people WANT to be a part of, versus have to.

In my work with business leaders and organizations, I see mindfulness being the place to “start from” when setting intentions and making big decisions. It’s also the place to “come back to” when things go off the rails.

Mindfulness can encompass anything:

  • Your general state of presence in this moment
  • Your intentions for how you wish to show up
  • What emotional impact you want to create as a leader
  • What agreements are needed for honest and productive meetings
  • How your company aligns with its core values
  • The outcomes you want to create with your team

Mindfulness can be as complex as holding the container for the kind of culture you want to create, or as simple as being intentional about who should attend meetings, how time is being used, and how and where people are invited to step into greater levels of leadership and purpose.

The impact of this mindfulness is that people work together better. Collaboration becomes more conscious and intentional. Time spent gossiping and focusing on the wrong things decreases. Connection becomes more present and meaningful. More gets done. And it’s not because you’re doing more. It’s because you’re mindful and intentional about how you want to show up and what you’re creating. With our continuously accelerated pace, it is often not about slowing down or reducing our commitments (though in some cases it maybe), it’s more often about being present enough to know what to say “yes” and “no” to in the first place. And then knowing how to most powerfully and effectively navigate all we have to step into.


The Impact of Mindfulness On Your Culture


I see mindfulness playing out in our culture with the types of relationships we engage in, the boundaries we set, what we say “yes” and “no” to, even in on-boarding and exiting talent. The greater the level of mindfulness and intention, the cleaner and more powerful the leadership; the better the person shows up, the more effective the action.

I’ve found that leadership without mindfulness is not only a humongous lost opportunity at its worst it is an expensive assault on people, resources, and energy.

The greater our level of mindfulness, the more intentional our presence and outcomes, and the greater our chances of creating our intended impact while leaving ourselves and others inspired, energized, and committed to showing up as the culture we want to create.

About the Author: Anese Cavanaugh is the creator of the IEP Method®, author of Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization That Thrives, and an impact and collaboration advisor and thinking partner to leaders and organizations in the design, service, and innovation spaces. Follow her @AneseCavanaugh. Learn more at www.AneseCavanaugh.com 

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