If anytime was going to encapsulate VUCA it is now.   That volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world we live in.  The term originated to describe battlefield conditions. Now it just describes a normal day.  And Covid19 has even ramped that up!

And how to make a positive change in such a context?  I draw from the words of wisdom from American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, who said  “quieting our mind is a political act”.

And quieting our mind is a leadership act.

In quieting, we serve ourselves, others and the earth.

The infinite and the core

Leadership is an action that helps move forward in a collective goal. And we have infinite ways we can take action.  Noticing what is needed, we give what is missing.  Whether that be meaning, value or structure.  And quieting our own mind is at the core of them all.

Quieting is not to zone out. Or to ignore what is going on. To be passive.  Rather the contrary. We become more aware, alert and active.

When we quieten

When we quieten our mind, there is a greater chance, with a new consciousness, that our subsequent actions, will be more courageous, compassionate and effective.

  • Anchored and open: if we can be in such a mindful state, we are more anchored and yet more open.  In this state, we are rooted. And we can flex with the winds.  We are less likely to be pulled off balance and uprooted. Whether that is by another person or a pandemic.  Leaning into the mystery, we are not phased by uncertainty but can sit in it without judgement.
  • Seeing clearly: in quieting our mind, we increase our ability to see clearly.  It gives us space and perspective. In that, we become a key witness to what is happening within us and around us.  We simply notice more. And in a more nuanced way. We notice interdependence. Importantly, we hear ourselves and others more deeply.
  • Somatic awareness: with a quieter mind, we become more in touch with our own body and its wisdom.  We feel more connected and whole.  And using our internal compass, we literally can sense check with our body.  We feel what is going on.  What is this anger? What am I fearful of?   And intuition, that valuable source of decision making expertise, crucial in navigating VUCA contexts. It can only be used, if we are quiet enough to hear its whispers. If we can feel it in our body.
  • Peace and power: when we quieten our mind, we access increasing sources of our own peace, power and potential.  We notice how some of our beliefs, values, and judgements are themselves constructs. How they maybe constricting us.  Or how they keep us trapped in a way of being and doing.   Quieting our mind, frees us. It brings greater consciousness and choice to take wise action.   We enhance our wellbeing.  We get bigger – no longer constrained by that small fearful self.  This positively impacts on how we show up. And how we engage with the external world.

Four acts of leadership

It is therefore grand acts of leadership to:

  1. Train our mind to quieten. Find out what helps you. Whether it be meditation, mindfulness, yoga, exercise, music, solo time, whatever. Just commit to it.  This helps to…
  2. Quieten one’s mind in the moment, particularly in high pressure situations.  This may be through remembering to pause, breathe, and come into presence.
  3. Take the next action from a quieter, calmer, more centred place.
  4. Be self compassionate when we fail to do any of the above.



  • Inspired by @JackKornfield   www.jackkornfield.org
  • This article was also gifted to www.impactinternational.com
  • Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash
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Anne Carthy
10 months ago

Really useful contribution Penny. Leadership without conscious pause, pacing & interpretation of team impact can be so damaging to a team. Thank you for sharing this

Penelope Mavor
10 months ago
Reply to  Anne Carthy

Am so pleased it resonated for you Anne. Particularly important at this time, yes.