Leader Mindfulness: Well-Being Throughout the Organization

  • Anouk DecuypereEmail author
  • Mieke Audenaert
  • Adelien Decramer
Living reference work entry


Mindfulness has become quite popular. Both in scientific research and within regular media, the attention for the beneficial effects of mindfulness has increased. In the business world, claims on the effectiveness of mindfulness for well-being, focus, and performance are thrown around rather carelessly. In recent years, organizations are also providing more mindfulness courses for their employees. In the academic world, research on mindfulness in general, as well as on the effect of mindfulness in organizations, is on the rise. As a reaction to the increased “hype”, some scientists are concerned about overstatements on the effectiveness of “McMindfulness”, and the lack of ethical framework surrounding the application of mindfulness in both treatment settings and organizations. Therefore, it is important to remain critical and to develop a nuanced view on the effectiveness and use of mindfulness for both leaders and their employees in organizations. In this review chapter, we provide an overview on the research on leader mindfulness and the possible working mechanisms, after which we formulate some critical remarks and give practical evidence-based advice on the application of mindfulness in organizations. Although mindfulness seems to have beneficial effects on leader and employee well-being, our goal is to provide a nuanced view of the up-to-date research on leader mindfulness, to support future research, theory building, and practical applications in the work place.


  1. Agokei RC (2013) The moderating effect of mindfulness on the link between self- efficacy and transformational leadership among National Youth Service Corps in Oyo State Nigeria. J Sociol, Psychol Anthropol Pract 5(2):20–32Google Scholar
  2. Arkes HR, Blumer C (1985) The psychology of sunk cost. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 35(1):124–140. Scholar
  3. Avolio BJ, Bass BM, Jung DI (1999) Re-examining the components of transformational and transactional leadership using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. J Occup Organ Psychol 72:441–462.
  4. Baer RA, Smith GT, Lykins E, Button D, Krietemeyer J, Sauer S, … Williams JMG (2008) Construct validity of the five facet mindfulness questionnaire in meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment 15(3): 329–342.
  5. Bailleur P (2017) Trauma in organisaties. Herkennen, aanpakken, voorkomen. Lannoo Campus, TieltGoogle Scholar
  6. Bandura A (1982) Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. Am Psychol 37(2):122–147. Scholar
  7. Barnhofer T, Duggan DS, Griffith JW (2011) Dispositional mindfulness moderates the relation between neuroticism and depressive symptoms. Personal Individ Differ 51(8):958–962. Scholar
  8. Barge J K (1994) Leadership: communication skills for organizations and groups. St. Martin’s Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Baron L (2016) Authentic leadership and mindfulness development through action learning. J Leaderial Psychol 31(1):296–311. Scholar
  10. Baron C, Cayer M (2012) Fostering post-conventional consciousness in leaders: why and how? J Manag Dev 30(6):344–365. Scholar
  11. Baron L, Rouleau V, Grégoire S, Baron C (2018) Mindfulness and leadership flexibility. Journal of Management Development 37(2):165–177.
  12. Bass BM, Avolio BJ (1990) Developing transformational leadership: 1992 and beyond. J Eur Ind Train 14(5).
  13. Baas M, Nevicka B, Ten Velden FS (2014) Specific mindfulness skills differentially predict creative performance. Pers Soc Psychol B 40(9):1092–1106.
  14. Bergomi C, Tschacher W, Kupper Z (2013) Measuring mindfulness: first steps towards the development of a comprehensive mindfulness scale. Mindfulness 4:18–32. Scholar
  15. Block-Lerner J, Adair C, Plumb JC, Rhatigan DL, Orsillo SM (2007) The case for mindfulness- based approaches in the cultivation of empathy: does nonjudgmental, present-moment awareness increase capacity for perspective-taking and empathic concern? J Marital Fam Ther 33(4):501–516. Scholar
  16. Boyatzis RE (2015) Building and maintaining better leadership relationships through mindfulness. In: Reb J, Atkins PWB (eds) Mindfulness in organizations: foundations, research and applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 239–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Boyatzis R, McKee A (2005) Resonant leadership. Harvard Business School Publishing, BostonGoogle Scholar
  18. Brendel W, Bennett C (2016) Learning to embody leadership through mindfulness and somatics practice. Adv Dev Hum Resour 18(183):409–425. Scholar
  19. Brendel W, Hankerson S, Byun S, Cunningham B (2016) Cultivating leadership dharma: measuring the impact of regular mindfulness practice on creativity, resilience, tolerance for ambiguity, anxiety and stress. J Manag Dev 35(8):1056–1078. Scholar
  20. Brown ME, Treviño LK, Harrison DA (2005) Ethical leadership: a social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 97(2):117–134. Scholar
  21. Bunting M (2016) The mindful leader: 7 practices for transforming your leadership, your organisation and your life. Wiley, MiltonGoogle Scholar
  22. Cardaciotto L, Herbert JD, Forman EM, Moitra E, Farrow V (2008) The assessment of present- moment awareness and acceptance the Philadelphia mindfulness scale. Assessment 15(2): 204–223. Scholar
  23. Carson SH, Langer EJ (2006) Mindfulness and self-acceptance. J Ration Emot Cogn Behav Ther 24(1):29–43. Scholar
  24. Carter, Tobias and Spiegelhalter (2016) Mindfulness in organisations. Case Studies of Organisational Practice. Institute for Employment studies, p. 1–50.
  25. Cebolla A, Demarzo M, Martins P, Soler J, Garcia-Campayo J (2017) Unwanted effects: is there a negative side of meditation? A multicentre survey. PLoS One 12(9):e0183137. Scholar
  26. Chiesa A, Serretti A (2011) Mindfulness based cognitive therapy for psychiatric disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res 187(3):441–453. Scholar
  27. Choi E, Leroy H (2015) Methods of mindfulness: how mindfulness is studied in the workplace. In: Reb J, Atkins PWB (eds) Mindfulness in organizations: foundations, research, and applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 67–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Condon P, Desbordes G, Miller WB, De Steno D (2013) Meditation increases compassionate responses to suffering. Psychol Sci 24(10):2125–2127. Scholar
  29. Conway JM, Lance CE (2010) What reviewers should expect from authors regarding common method bias in organizational research. J Bus Psychol 25(3):325–334. Scholar
  30. Dane E (2011) Paying attention to mindfulness and its effects on task performance in the workplace. J Manag 37(4):997–1018. Scholar
  31. Dane E, Brummel BJ (2014) Examining workplace mindfulness and its relations to job performance and turnover intention. Hum Relat 67(1):105–128. Scholar
  32. Decuypere A (2017) Mindfulness in de begeleidingskundige praktijk. Feiten en mythen. Tijdschrift Voor Begeleidingskunde 2:26–34Google Scholar
  33. Decuypere A, Audenaert M, Decramer A (2019) When mindfulness interacts with neuroticism to enhance transformational leadership: the role of psychological need satisfaction. Front Psychol 9:1–18. Scholar
  34. Dekeyser M, Raes F, Leijssen M, Leysen S, Dewulf D (2008) Mindfulness skills and interpersonal behaviour. Pers Indiv Differ 44(5):1235–1245.
  35. Deyo M, Wilson KA, Ong J, Koopman C (2009) Mindfulness and rumination: does mindfulness training lead to reductions in the ruminative thinking associated with depression? Explore 5(5):265–271. Scholar
  36. Eisenbeiss SA, Van Knippenberg D (2015) On ethical leadership impact: the role of follower mindfulness and moral emotions. J Organ Behav 36:182. Scholar
  37. Fairhurst GT, Connaughton SL (2014) Leadership: A communicative perspective. Leadership 10(1):7–35.
  38. Feltman R, Robinson MD, Ode S (2009) Mindfulness as a moderator of neuroticism–outcome relations: a self-regulation perspective. J Res Pers 43:953–961. Scholar
  39. Frizzell DA, Hoon S, Banner DK (2016) A phenomenological investigation of leader development and mindfulness meditation. J Soc Change 8(1):14–25. Scholar
  40. Giluk TL (2009) Mindfulness, big five personality, and affect: a meta-analysis. Personal Individ Differ 47(8):805–811. Scholar
  41. Goldberg SB, Wielgosz J, Dahl C, Schuyler B, MacCoon DS, Rosenkranz M, … Davidson RJ (2016) Does the five facet mindfulness questionnaire measure what we think it does? Construct validity evidence from an active controlled randomized clinical trial. Psychol Assess 28(8): 1009–1014.
  42. Goldberg SB, Tucker RP, Greene PA, Simpson TL, Kearney DJ, Davidson RJ (2017) Is mindfulness research methodology improving over time? A systematic review. PLoS One 12(10):e0187298. Scholar
  43. Goleman D, Davidson RJ (2017) Altered traits: science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. Penguin Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Good DJ et al (2016) Contemplating mindfulness at work. J Manag 42(1):114–142. Scholar
  45. Grossman P (2011) Defining mindfulness by how poorly I think I pay attention during everyday awareness and other intractable problems for psychology’s (Re)invention of mindfulness: comment on Brown et al (2011). Psychol Assess 23(4):1034–1040. Scholar
  46. Guillén JL, Fontrodona J (2018) Mindfulness and Its Impact on Ethical Behavior in Companies. In: Mercado JA (ed) Personal flourishing in organizations (pp. 121–140). Springer International Publishing, Cham.
  47. Hafenbrack AC, Kinias Z, Barsade SG (2014) Debiasing the mind through meditation mindfulness and the sunk-cost bias. Psychol Sci 25(2):369–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Haigh EAP, Moore MT, Kashdan TB, Fresco DM (2011) Examination of the factor structure and concurrent validity of the Langer mindfulness/mindlessness scale. Assessment 18(1):11–26. Scholar
  49. Hatfield E, Cacioppo JT, Rapson RL (1994) Emotional contagion. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  50. Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, Apaydin E, Xenakis L, Newberry S, … Maglione MA (2017) Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Behav Med 51(2): 199–213.
  51. Hölzel BK, Carmody J, Vangel M, Congleton C, Yerramsetti SM, Gard T, Lazar SW (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Res 191(1):36–43. Scholar
  52. Hülsheger UR (2014) Making sure that mindfulness is promoted in organizations in the right way and for the right goals. Indus Organ Psychol 8(04):674–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Hülsheger UR, Alberts HJEM, Feinholdt A, Lang JWB (2013) Benefits of mindfulness at work: the role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. J Appl Psychol 98(2):310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Hyland PK, Lee RA, Mills MJ (2015) Mindfulness at work: a new approach to improving individual and organizational performance. Ind Organ Psychol 8(04):576–602. Scholar
  55. Judge TA, Bono JE, Ilies R, Gerhardt MW (2002) Personality and leadership: a qualitative and quantitative review. J Appl Psychol 87(4):765–780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Kabat-Zinn J (1982) An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: theoretical considerations and preliminary results. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 4:33–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kabat-Zinn J (1994) Wherever you go, there you are. Mindfulness meditation for everyday life. Hyperion Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  58. Kabat-Zinn J, Lipworth L, Burney R, Sellers W (1987) Four-year follow-up of a meditation- based program for the self-regulation of chronic pain: treatment outcomes and compliance. Clin J Pain 2:159–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Karelaia N, Reb J (2015) Improving decision making through mindfulness. In: Reb J, Atkins PWB (eds) Mindfulness in organizations: foundations, research and applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 163–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Kearney WS, Kelsey C, Herrington D (2013) Mindful leaders in highly effective schools: a mixed-method application of Hoy’s M-scale. Educ Manage Adm Leadersh 41(3):316–335. Scholar
  61. Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, Masse M, Therien P, Bouchard V, … Hofmann SG (2013) Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev 33: 763–771.
  62. Kiken LG, Shook NJ (2011) Looking up: mindfulness increases positive judgments and reduces negativity bias. Soc Psychol Personal Sci 2(4):425–431. Scholar
  63. King E, Haar JM (2017) Mindfulness and job performance: a study of Australian leaders. Asia Pac J Hum Resour 55(3):298–319. Scholar
  64. Kopperud K, Martinsen O, Humborstad S (2014) Engaging leaders in the eyes of the beholder: on the relationship between transformational leadership, work engagement, service climate, and self–other agreement. J Leadersh Organ Stud 21(1):29–42. Scholar
  65. Lakey CE, Kernis MH, Heppner WL, Lance CE (2008) Individual differences in authenticity and mindfulness as predictors of verbal defensiveness. J Res Pers 42(1):230–238. Scholar
  66. Langer EJ (1989) Mindfulness. Addison-Wesley Reading ,Mass, BostonGoogle Scholar
  67. Leroy H, Anseel F, Dimitrova NG, Sels L (2013) Mindfulness, authentic functioning, and work engagement: a growth modeling approach. J Vocat Behav 82(3):238–247. Scholar
  68. Levy DM, Wobbrock JO, Kaszniak AW, Ostergren M (2012) The effects of mindfulness meditation training on multitasking in a high-stress information environment. In: Proceedings of graphics interface (GI ‘12). Canadian Information Processing Society, Toronto, pp 45–52Google Scholar
  69. Liang LH, Lian H, Brown DJ, Lance Ferris D, Hanig S, Keeping LM (2016) Why are abusive supervisors abusive? A dual-system self-control model. Acad Manag J 59(4):1385–1406. Scholar
  70. Luberto CM, Shinday N, Song R, Philpotts LL, Park ER, Fricchione GL, Yeh GY (2018) A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of meditation on empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors. Mindfulness 9(3):708–724. Scholar
  71. Mcgill J, Adler-Baeder F, Rodriguez P (2016) Mindfully in love: a meta-analysis of the association between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. J Human Sci Ext 4(1):89Google Scholar
  72. Mrazek MD, Smallwood J, Schooler JW (2012) Mindfulness and mind-wandering: finding convergence through opposing constructs. Emotion 12(3):442–448. Scholar
  73. Neufeld DJ, Wan Z, Fang Y, Neufeld DJ, Wan Z, Ivey R (2010) Remote Leadership, Communication Effectiveness and Leader Performance. Group Decis Negot 19:227–246.
  74. Ostafin BD, Robinson MD, Meier BP (2015) Introduction: the science of mindfulness and self-regulation. In: Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation. Springer New York, New York, pp 1–6. Scholar
  75. Pikos AK (2017) The causal effect of multitasking on work-related mental health – the more you do, the worse you feel. Leibniz Universit at Hannover, Institute of Labour Economics. Retrieved from
  76. Pinck AS, Sonnentag S (2017) Leader mindfulness and employee well-being: the mediating role of transformational leadership. Mindfulness 9:884. Scholar
  77. Pipe TB, Bortz JJ, Dueck A, Pendergast D, Buchda V, Summers J (2009) Nurse leader mindfulness meditation program for stress management: a randomized controlled trial. J Nurs Adm 39(3):130–137. 8pCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Pircher Verdorfer A (2016) Examining mindfulness and its relations to humility, motivation to Lead, and actual servant leadership behaviors. Mindfulness 7:950–961.
  79. Prins B, Decuypere A (2013) Mindfulness is goed voor alles. En zeven andere mythes over mindfulness. Lannoo Campus, TieltGoogle Scholar
  80. Prins B, Decuypere A, Van Damme S (2014) Effects of mindfulness and distraction on pain depend upon individual differences in pain catastrophizing: an experimental study. Eur J Pain 18(9):1307–1315. Scholar
  81. Purser RE, Milillo J (2014) Mindfulness revisited: a Buddhist-based conceptualization. J Manag Inq 24:3. Scholar
  82. Reb J, Atkins PWB (eds) (2015) Mindfulness in organizations: foundations, research, and applications. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  83. Reb J, Narayanan J, Ho ZW (2013) Mindfulness at work: antecedents and consequences of employee awareness and absent-mindedness. Mindfulness 6(1):111–122. Scholar
  84. Reb J, Narayanan J, Chaturvedi S (2014) Leading mindfully: two studies on the influence of supervisor trait mindfulness on employee well-being and performance. Mindfulness 5(1): 36–45. Scholar
  85. Reb J, Narayanan J, Chaturvedi S, Ekkirala S (2017) The mediating role of emotional exhaustion in the relationship of mindfulness with turnover intentions and job performance. Mindfulness 8(3):707–716. Scholar
  86. Reb J, Chaturvedi S, Narayanan J, Kudesia RS (2018) Leader mindfulness and employee performance: a sequential mediation model of LMX quality, interpersonal justice, and employee stress. J Bus Ethics 160:1–19. Scholar
  87. Roberts JA, Williams BH (2017) Put down your phone and listen to me: how boss phubbing undermines the psychological conditions necessary for employee engagement. Comput Hum Behav 75:206–217. Scholar
  88. Roche M, Haar JM, Luthans F (2014) The role of mindfulness and psychological capital on the well-being of leaders. J Occup Health Psychol 19(4):476–489. Scholar
  89. Ruedy NE, Schweitzer ME (2010) In the moment: the effect of mindfulness on ethical decision making. J Bus Ethics 95(S1):73–87. Scholar
  90. Sampl J, Maran T, Furtner MR (2017) A randomized controlled pilot intervention study of a mindfulness-based self-leadership training (MBSLT) on stress and performance. Mindfulness 8(5):1393–1407. Scholar
  91. Sarwar S, Shaukat K, Fakhri Z (2016) Impact of abusive supervision on employee creativity : through emotional exhaustion and moderating role of mindfulness. Int J HR Organ Manage Insights Transform 2(1):1–11Google Scholar
  92. Sauer S, Kohls N (2011) Mindfulness in leadership: does being mindful enhance leaders’ business success? In: Han S, Pöppel E (eds) Culture and neural frames of cognition and communication. Springer, New York, pp 287–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Schuh SC, Zheng MX, Xin KR, Fernandez JA (2017) The interpersonal benefits of leader mindfulness: a serial mediation model linking leader mindfulness, leader procedural justice enactment, and employee exhaustion and performance. J Bus Ethics 156:1–19. Scholar
  94. Shapiro SL, Astin JA, Bishop SR, Cordova M (2005) Mindfulness-based stress reduction for health care professionals: results from a randomized trial. Int J Stress Manag 12(2):164–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Shapiro SL, Wang MC, Peltason EH (2015) What is mindfulness, and why should organizations care about it? In: Reb J, Atkins PWB (eds) Mindfulness in organizations: foundations, research and applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 17–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Spijkerman MPJ, Pots WTM, Bohlmeijer ET (2016) Effectiveness of online mindfulness-based interventions in improving mental health: a review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clin Psychol Rev 45:102–114. Scholar
  97. Sutcliffe KM, Vogus TJ, Dane E, Jones JH (2016) Mindfulness in organizations: a cross- level review. Annu Rev Organ Psychol Organ Behav 3:55–81. Scholar
  98. Tang Y-Y, Hölzel BK, Posner MI (2015) The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nat Rev Neurosci 16(4):213–225. Scholar
  99. Taylor VA, Grant J, Daneault V, Scavone G, Breton E, Roffe-Vidal S, … Beauregard M (2011) Impact of mindfulness on the neural responses to emotional pictures in experienced and beginner meditators. NeuroImage 57: 1524–1533.
  100. Ucok O (2006) Transparency, communication and mindfulness. J Manag Dev 25(10):1024–1028. Scholar
  101. Van Dam NT, Van Earleywine M, Borders A (2010) Measuring mindfulness? An Item Response Theory analysis of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. Personality and Individual Differences 49:805–810.
  102. Van Den Broeck A, Vansteenkiste M, De Witte H, Lens W (2008) Explaining the relationships between job characteristics, burnout, and engagement: The role of basic psychological need satisfaction. Work & Stress 22(3):277–294.
  103. Van Dam NT, Van Vugt MK, Vago DR, Schmalzl L, Saron CD, Olendzki A, … Meyer DE (2018) Mind the hype: a critical evaluation and prescriptive agenda for research on mindfulness and meditation. Perspect Psychol Sci 13(1): 36–61.
  104. Virgili M (2015) Mindfulness-based interventions reduce psychological distress in working adults: a meta-analysis of intervention studies. Mindfulness 6(2):326–337. Scholar
  105. Wachs K, Cordova JV (2007) Mindful relating: Exploring mindfulness and emotion repertoires in intimate relationships. J Marital Fam Ther 33(4):464–481. Retrieved from
  106. Wajcman J, Rose E (2011) Constant connectivity: rethinking interruptions at work. Organ Stud 32(7):941–961. Scholar
  107. Waldron AL, Ebbeck V (2015) The relationship of mindfulness and self-compassion to desired wildland fire leadership. Int J Wildland Fire 24:201–211. Scholar
  108. Wasylkiw L, Holton J, Azar R, Cook W (2016) The impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness in a health care setting: a pilot study. J Health Organ Manag 29(8):893–911. Scholar
  109. Weick KE, Putnam T (2006) Organizing for mindfulness: eastern wisdom and western knowledge. J Manag Inq 15(3):275–287. Scholar
  110. Zhang Y, Gan Y, Cham H (2007) Perfectionism, academic burnout and engagement among Chinese college students: a structural equation modeling analysis. Personal Individ Differ 43(6): 1529–1540. Scholar
  111. Zheng X, Liu X (2017) The buffering effect of mindfulness on abusive supervision and creative performance: a social cognitive framework. Front Psychol 8:1588–1600. Scholar

Key Literature

  1. Baer RA, Smith GT, Hopkins J, Krietemeyer J, Toney L (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1):27–45.
  2. Brown KW, Ryan RM (2003) The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. J Pers Soc Psychol 84(4):822CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dane E (2011) Paying attention to mindfulness and its effects on task performance in the workplace. J Manag 37(4):997–1018. Scholar
  4. Goleman D, Davidson RJ (2017) Altered traits: science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. Penguin Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Grossman P (2011) Defining mindfulness by how poorly I think I pay attention during everyday awareness and other intractable problems for psychology’s (Re)invention of mindfulness: comment on Brown et al (2011). Psychol Assess 23(4):1034–1040. Scholar
  6. Reb J, Atkins PWB (eds) (2015) Mindfulness in organizations: foundations, research, and applications. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anouk Decuypere
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mieke Audenaert
    • 2
  • Adelien Decramer
    • 2
  1. 1.Department Marketing, Innovation and OrganizationGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations