8 Path Factors of Buddhism and Leadership

Mindfulness is a buzz word these days. So you can imagine that I’m a bit skeptical of all of the woo-woo stuff that I hear around the water cooler. So when I came across an article entitled “Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization” by Ronald E. Purser and Joseph Milillo, I started to read with a my skeptic’s hat on.  Traditionally Westerners think of mindfulness as “being present” or highly aware and discerning in the moment. Mindfulness is also often associated with non-judgment; but Purser and Milillo note that this is inconsistent with the Buddhist way of thinking about mindfulness.

Using the 8-Path Factors, they suggest that the factors of right speech, right action and right livelihood reinforce ethical behaviours, and as a result mindfulness. They also suggest that right view influences right effort, which influences right mindfulness. Notice the use of the word “right”. They believe that the effort of mindfulness helps us to create ethical or “skillful behaviours” which make us better people in the world. Thus mindfulness does have an aspect of judgment, to help us self-regulate our own behaviours.  In the work place, unskillful behaviours might include lying, bullying, deceptive practices and violence.

I’m no expert in Buddhism, or in leadership, but this philosophy does intrigue me. In the Buddhist approach, mindfulness is a process that we use to self-regulate, with the objective of flourishing individuals and communities, and creating compassion for others. As leaders, we generally want to achieve the same objectives. Being self-aware, understanding when we are aligning with right view, right effort and right livelihood can help us be better leaders. The idea of mindfulness is not just to be hyper aware, but also to ensure that one’s view and actions align with the 8-Path Factors, to create a better world, (and perhaps a better place to work).

I’m not sure if I will ever become a Buddhist, but I’m interested in learning more about the Buddhist philosophy. I’ve got a feeling that this might take some time.

Source: Purser, R. E., & Milillo, J. (2014). Mindfulness Revisited A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization. Journal of Management Inquiry, 1056492614532315. doi:10.1177/1056492614532315


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