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Mindful Leader Interview - Mike Lee


Patrick Kozakiewicz

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I recently held a 6 question interview with Mike Lee. He is a keynote speaker  and peak performance coach. He teaches the strategies, skills and mindsets of basketball's elite to drive business performance.

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You can listen to the full interview below or you can read the main conversation highlights below.

What are the biggest problems we face as leaders today?

Well, specifically today it's navigating the uncertainty. It's being able to be in that space of ambiguity until you get enough clarity to be able to make decisions, and also being able to make decisions without all the information, and be able to just continue to make progress and take steps, without having all that information and being able to adapt, being able to adjust on the fly and navigate on the fly. Regardless of what that business plan that you had written out from a couple months ago said you got to be able to just navigate right now, and be able to make those decisions. And I think just having, creating, developing that skill and just being able to make quick decisions. And you have to be able to just continue to take action and not let that uncertainty paralyze you in this moment.


Your favorite quote, credo or mantra?

I guess I mean there's a lot. I used to read a lot of Jim Rohn books, who was Tony Robbins first mentor. And I think a lot of my philosophy, from of life and of leadership and personal development that has come from him, one quote that I try to keep in mind, from him is, "be grateful for what you have while you pursue all that you want."


What is mindful leadership and why is it important

Well, it all depends on how you define it but if you use my definition of mindfulness, "creating awareness of your thoughts, your feelings and your actions in the present moment," then you start with that.

This is important to leadership because we allow our lives and, I know I do at certain times as well, to be driven by our emotions versus driven by our attention. And when we are operating with more self awareness, we can lead with more intention, we can lead with more thoughtfulness, we can lead with more compassion with more empathy. And I think right now those are those are crucial things to be able to create a culture that is continually performing and taking action

And so being able to be a mindful leader is creating that awareness of what's driving my thoughts, my feelings and actions so I'm not in a place of reaction leaders. It's coming from a place of being centered a place of being grounded. And when you are practicing mindfulness, when you create that self awareness, you're able to be in that place of being centered and being grounded and you're able to make decisions that are in alignment with your values, your personal values, your leadership values and the values of the organization.


If you could have dinner with everyone died or alive?

It would be the Buddha, or Jesus or somebody like that. I think there's so many people that I could pick and I think it would all be dependent on what I was trying to do in that moment in my life. And so it can be anybody from from Phil Jackson to Elon Musk, Steve Jobs to Jim Rohn.


How does one become a more mindful leader?

Well as cliche as it sounds like you can't lead anybody until you lead yourself. And I think from a mindfulness standpoint, you have to become more mindful yourself, you have to become more self aware, and you can do this in a variety different ways but I think one of the best ways to do it is through a meditation practice.

It's proven by science that it literally changes areas of your brain just like when an athlete lifts and you see physical evidence of change when they go on a training program, their muscles break down and they longate and grow back stronger, there's physical evidence of change as well when you have a meditation practice there is an area of your brain called the amygdala which is responsible for your fight, flight or freeze response. That area actually shrinks making you less reactive to stress.

The other part that changes when is the neocortex, which is responsible for things like your self awareness your decision making and other executive functions. So, we're talking about executive functioning, executive leadership and mindful leadership, right, you can see the correlation there, that area actually grows in your brain.

And so if we have the awareness of how we're actually operating our body language, how we're showing up for other people and how those behaviors infused in your culture and in your organization then you will be a more mindful leader.

What's more, we have special brain cells that are called mirror neurons and their role is literally to imitate the behaviors and the actions and even the emotions of the people that we see are in our environment. And even though we're all living very virtually right now, that can even happen through, through an email it can happen through a zoom call. And so being able to exhibit those behaviors, is super important because the people that are observing you through email through video calls through zoom are going to start to imitate those behaviors you consciously or subconsciously, are exhibiting.


1-2 suggestions of any materials/programs/projects

One, get clarity of what you want, what the vision is.

Two, you have to have a strategy or process to follow.

Third, we talked about this earlier, model behaviors. Find somebody else that you can model, learn from them.

Four, for find a teacher or mentor.

Five, practice, practice, practice, especially when it comes to mental and emotional aspects.


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