UNCP5548: Leadership and Mindfulness

Sandra Waddock

Professor of Management

This course is also offered as MD548


No matter what your major or where you think you will be going in the future, you will likely work in an organization of some sort. In your work and in the rest of life there will be many opportunities to exert leadership. The best leader is aware of his or her impacts on others, on the organization, on society, and on nature itself; good leaders, that is, act mindfully rather than mindlessly and are aware not only of themselves but also of the broader world around them.

This course will explore your personal development as a mindful leader today and tomorrow by reflecting on where you have come from and where you are going, what type of world you want to live in, what your relationships with others are like, and how you can be an effective leader in that world, or the one that actually exists. We will engage this topic through active class involvement with readings, writing, dialogue, exercises, presentations, and other in-class activities.


  • Personal History
  • Personal Vision Statement
  • Leadership Vision
  • Leadership Presentation
  • Social Vision Statement
  • Reflective Journal (three critical incidents described and associated reflections)
  • Final Paper: Evaluation of Personal Leadership, Mindfulness, and Effectiveness


  • Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline. New York: Free Press, 1990.
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are. Hyperion, 2005.
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. Basic Books, 1997.
  • Daniel Goleman, "What Makes a Leader?" Harvard Business Review, January 2004, 82 (1):89-99.
  • Daniel Golman, "Primal Leadership.Harvard Business Review, December 2001, 79 (11):42-50.
  • David Rooke and William R. Torbert, "7 Transformations of Leadership." Harvard Business Review, April 2005, 83 (4):66-76.
  • Sandra Waddock, "Integrity and Mindfulness: Foundations of Corporate Citizenship."Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Spring 2001, 1 (1):25-37.


Leadership is the capacity to take effective action with others, in full awareness of your impacts on those others, community, organizations, and even society. Positive leadership is, I believe, based in clear values and understanding of self and arguably can be developed through practices that enhance mindfulness. This integration of leadership and values means that you must be clear about your own goals, personal vision, and values so that you can translate them organizationally and in communities of which you are a part. This Capstone seminar on leadership, mindfulness, and business in society is an unusual course because communicating pre-packaged knowledge is not its fundamental purpose. Instead, we will explore:

  • your own values, ideas about leadership, and personal style, with respect to taking leadership initiatives, whether in the personal context or in an organization where you will eventually be employed;
  • the ways in which leadership affects organizations and societies today, particularly business enterprises;
  • reflection on your personal goals, relationship, commitments and dreams, and he ways in which leadership and mindfulness can help you achieve them as you take your place as an adult in society.


The course will be highly interactive, and extensive participation will be expected. It is also writing intensive, though not in a research sense, but in a reflective sense. Numerous teaching approaches will be used, including in-class discussions and dialogues, participative exercises, role-plays, discussions of readings, and discussion of assignments. Students will be expected to participate in:

1. Discussion Leadership

Teams of two will lead a class discussion on the readings for a week. Everyone is responsible for thoroughly reading and taking notes on assigned readings and coming to class fully prepared to discuss them either in the full class or in your learning team. The team should prepare a one-page summary of the key points in assigned readings, to be distributed to the class, and at least five critical questions that you believe will help the class reflect mindfully on that reading.

2. Reflective and Experiential Exercises

Most classes will include some experimentation with different aspects of leadership, personal awareness, and reflection, as well as discussion, as well as learning group discussions. Again, be sure your journal writing deals with these experiences, particularly with your leadership roles in them and what you have learned in reflecting on your role(s).

3. Critical Incident Journal

This helps you reflect on your own leadership by examining what happened in specific situations that might have involved your own leadership, or lack thereof, problematic interpersonal encounters and your efforts to take an initiative to change a situation that in your view needs changing. Reflection (thinking about what is likely to or has happened and why, gaining perspective on leadership events and patterns of behavior through thinking, analysis, discussion, and, importantly, writing) is a critical part of becoming self-aware, of developing effective leadership capability, and may be critical to organizational success in the future.

Note: This is a personal journal, in the sense that you are to write about your leadership experiments, reflections on readings, jobs, and other leadership experiences during the course, however, it is not a diary that records all of your daily activities, feelings or thoughts [you can do that elsewhere]. That is, the journal should be related to course readings, content, and process, as it relates to your own leadership experiences and as you witness leadership in others, with the idea that you will become more mindful by reflecting on your own practice of leadership through ordinary relationships.

Three journal incidents will be turned in. Your on-going journaling and other assignments should offer closely observed illustrations of actual personal leadership behaviors, no matter how small your leadership initiatives seem to be, particularly experiments with new behaviors and associated outcomes. These observations should be linked to analysis based on, and potentially critical of, the theoretical ideas/categories presented in readings week by week. From such analysis, novel experimental actions can be designed and enacted and the resulting on-the-job interactions once again observed and documented.

The journal will be an invaluable resource for your evaluation of your own leadership style and effectiveness, the final paper. Keep it faithfully by jotting down your ideas, reflections, and leadership activities frequently. If you keep your journal electronically (note: use a disk rather than the hard drive to assure privacy), you will be able to extract ideas, thoughts, and reflections from your journal for many of the numerous writing assignments, as well as for your action learning project.


Personal, leadership, and social visions are critical to both individual and organizational success, recent theorists tell us, since vision helps define what direction we should go in, what values guide us, and what ends we are to accomplish. Only by knowing where we want to go, even if the specifics are vague, can we enact our leadership practice in the right direction. Otherwise, as the Cheshire Cat told Alice in Wonderland, "...it doesn't matter which way you go." If we believe in leadership at all then we must believe that direction, action, practice, and reflection, matter — hence the importance of vision.


  • Final: Leadership, Mindfulness, and Life Assessment (format TBD).


  • Block, Stewardship
  • Burns, Leadership
  • Caro, The Power Broker
  • Collins and Porras, Built to Last
  • Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity
  • Csikszentmihalyi, The Evolving Self
  • Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade
  • Hegelson, The Female Advantage
  • Heifitz, Leadership Without Easy Answers
  • Jaworski, Synchronicity
  • Kegan, In Over Our Heads
  • Leonard and Murphy, The Life We Are Given
  • Morgan, Imaginization
  • O'Toole, Leading Change: The Argument for Values-Based Leadership
  • Vaill, Managing as a Performing Art
  • Wheatley, Leadership and the New Sciences

Personal History Up to Now

Write a 3-5 page (single-spaced, double between paragraphs, 12-point type) personal history, that is, a narrative of your life that highlights those people and influences that have been most important in shaping you, your self-awareness, your values, the important relationships in your life, and your leadership potential (and experiences) up to this point in time.

Write your story in a narrative form as your personal story. The voice of the narrator can be personal (use of "I") or from the perspective of a third person (use of "she" or "he"). Be creative but truthful, and don't necessarily avoid the negatives, as they may have played an important role in shaping you. Also be sure to reflect on the role that your education at Boston College and elsewhere has played in shaping your ideas, interests, and potential future path to this point.

Personal Vision From the Future

Write a 3-5 page (single-spaced, double between paragraphs, 12-point type) personal vision statement from 50 years in the future that details how you would ideally like your future to unfold. This assignment is an exercise designed to help you find your mission or purpose in life.

Some of the following questions may be helpful guides:

  • What work will you do and why?
  • How will your work serve the world?
  • How will you find your passions or what the great mythologist Joseph Campbell called your bliss?
  • What will those passions be and how will you have pursued them?
  • What relationships will have mattered and why?
  • How will you have constructed those relationships so that they stay meaningful in your life?
  • What communities? What activities, contributions back to society?
  • How will you have used the many gifts that are yours?
  • What spiritual, intellectual, relational, and creative pursuits will have best enriched your life and those of others around you?
  • How will you have fulfilled your mission in life?
  • How will you have served?
  • What is your best dream of the future?

Note: You can be creative with this assignment, writing it in the form of a short story, drama, narrative, obituary, journal entry, letter, or some other creative format.

Presentation: A Great Ideal Leader

In teams of two, or three if the class is full, find a leader you admire — your ideal or most admired leader. Develop a creative presentation that will introduce this individual thoroughly so that we are familiar with why you consider him/her to be a great leader. You may want to focus on his/her leadership attributes, style, and qualities, actions taken, institutions built, or accomplishments, but should also see what you can find out about how this individual actually practiced leadership. Bring at least three discussion points about this leadership approach to the class for discussion purposes. Each team will have 45 minutes to present the leader.

You may use whatever creative resources seem appropriate to get across your ideas of why this leader should be admired (e.g., videos, movies, dramas, narratives, essays, sayings, philosophy, history of the individual's accomplishments); just be sure that the entire story of this leader and why s/he is great is presented. The class will be partially responsible for assessing whether or not the leader's attributes are adequately conveyed and whether good issues about the nature of leadership have been raised in your presentation. To avoid duplications, please check with me to make sure that your choice has not already been taken.

Social Vision

Now that you have thought about your personal dreams and vision, reflect on what the ideal society would be like? Imagine you could live in a world/society that exactly met your deepest desires and dreams. Write an essay, story, letter, poem, drama, or something creative, to tell about this society (4-5 page, single-space, double-spaced between paragraphs, 12 point type).

  • What kind of world is it?
  • What makes this world interesting, exciting, and engaging?
  • What kinds of organizations exist in that world, and where do they fit into the four spheres?
  • How do organizations and institutions in this world intersect?
  • Who are the leaders, corporate citizens, and others in this world?
  • How do they create visions, values, and value added?
  • What are the important values that make this world so terrific?
  • How would it be similar to, and how would it be different from, today's world?

Personal Leadership Assessment

Using what you already know about leadership, develop a statement of what leadership means to you personally (a 3 page, single space, double between paragraphs, 12 point type). How do or have you lead? How do you serve? Give some examples of what has worked and what hasn't. Analyze why some efforts to take even small leadership initiatives, improve relationships, or make changes in your life, are problematic. What are your current strengths and weaknesses as a leader? How will you develop the strengths and improve on the weaknesses?

Based on your personal leadership assessment, describe three initiatives (these can be small initiatives or experiments to improve your emotional intelligence, take an initiative, make a personal change, improve a relationship, or undertake an actual leadership activity in a work or club setting) you can take over the course of the semester to test or improve your leadership.

Note: You will be using these three initiatives for your critical reflections assignment so you will actually have to undertake them.

Critical Reflections: Mindful Leadership

Take the three initiatives that you described in your personal leadership assessment and try out, journal about the results, and turn them in as part of the critical reflections journal. Summarize what you learned in each leadership attempt and then summarize overall what you have learned about leadership as you have reflected on it over the course of the semester. Due: Last day of class.


  • What is leadership?

  • Course structure and dynamics
  • Writing assignments
  • Exercise: What is leadership? What is mindfulness? How do they apply to your life?
  • Conversation

Action, Inquiry, and Reflectiveness

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 1, 2, 3; Kabat-Zinn, ch. 1; Goleman, "What Makes a Leader?"
  • Written assignment: Personal history

Leader as Mindful Inquirer

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 4; Kabat-Zinn: ch. 2, 3; Goleman: "Primal Leadership"
  • Written assignment: Personal vision statement

Leader as Initiator: Personal Mastery and Mindfulness

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 5; Csikszentmihalyi, ch. 1, 2; Kabot-Zinn, ch. 4
  • Written assignment (2 pages): Journal: critical incident #1 using Torbert's framework of action inquiry to describe an incident and its outcome, plus your analysis related to personal mastery.

Systems Thinking

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 6, 7; Csikszentmihalyi, ch. 3, 4; Wheatley, read articles in packet; Senge, "Building Vision" (combined with Wheatley articles)
  • Written assignment: Leadership vision statement — what will work, play, and relationships mean to you at the end of your time here?

Commitments and Relationships

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 8, 9; Kabat-Zinn, ch. 5; Csikszentmihalyi, ch. 5, 6; Torbert, "Transformation of Leadership" (Action Inquiry)
  • Written assignment: Write up a short (less than one page) problematic conversation that you have had with someone recently, giving both sides of the conversation. We will learn and apply two techniques to this conversation: the left-hand column technique and the principles of action inquiry to try to figure out 1) what is really going on in your mind (developing your mindfulness), and 2) how that conversation might have turned out differently. Role play.

Leader as Reflective Practitioner: Mental Models

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 10; Csikszentmihalyi, ch. 7; Kabat-Zinn, ch. __
  • Written assignment: critical incident #2: Describe a relationship situation that is meaningful to you where something needs to change. Explain how you used your emerging mindfulness and leadership skills to improve the situation, or, if the conversation didn't work, analyze what went wrong.
Leader as Steward: What is Leadership, Really?
  • Readings: Senge, ch. 11, 12, 13; Csikszentmihalyi, ch. 8; Wheatley, Servant Leaders

Leader and Mindfulness in a Complex World

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 14, 15, 16; Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers: "Breathing Life into Organizations"
  • Written assignment: Social Vision Statement

Leader as Meaning-Maker: Spirituality and Leadership

  • Readings: Senge, ch. 18, 19; Csikszentmihalyi, ch. 9
  • Written assignment: critical incident #3 from Journal. Describe a situation in which you attempted to make meaning. What happened? What is your assessment of why that happened? What would you do differently next time?

Constructing a Whole Life and Leadership

  • Readings; Senge, ch. 19, 20, 21, Appendix 1 and 2; Kabat-Zinn, ch. __

Presentations of Leader Projects

  • Leadership Projects 1-3

Presentations of Leader Projects

  • Leadership Projects 4-6