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Slow down to speed up – new report from ACCA makes the case for mindfulness in 21st Century business leadership


05 Jan 2016


Innovation & Enterprise
Social Europe & Jobs

Mindfulness is fast becoming the new “must have” for executives to support self-regulation, promote effective decision making and protect themselves from toxic stress says new report from ACCA.

The report, titled CFOs and the c-suite - leadership fit for the 21st century, challenges the assumption that traditional leadership training is sufficient to prepare the c-suite for today´s environment. The report puts forward the case for mindful leadership, supporting sustainable behavioural shifts, enabling better decision-making and preventing damaging corporate scandals.

Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector at ACCA explains:

“Businesses are now operating in a brave new world where the only certainty is that nothing is certain. Technology in particular has increased the pace of change exponentially and we have seen more volatility and ambiguity in the past eight years than in the three decades before that. In this new environment, the ability to focus on what is important has become a prized commodity for the c-suite.”

Palma Michel, co-author of the report and mindful leadership advisor says:

“In order to thrive in today’s VUCA world, applying yesterday’s business frameworks, solutions and behaviours to tomorrow’s problems won’t work. The challenges are new, and they require a new set of leadership skills.

“The increase in competition, risk and uncertainty that comes with this new reality can often lead to caveman-like fight-flight-freeze reactions for many senior executives. When people are faced with change or feel under pressure, there is a tendency to fall into fear-based reactivity instead of being able to respond according to what the situation requires.”

Jamie Lyon believes a change in approach could help stamp out the kind of questionable decision making that leads to a culture of bad business practice:

“It is precisely in those stressful moments when leaders risk falling into a fight-flight-freeze-reaction. We see it so many times when businesses are faced with pressure to grow or compete. The decisions taken by those in charge lead to crisis or controversy. From HBOS, Toshiba and Tesco through to most recently Volkswagen, the roll call of scandals is long and on-going.

“As pressure builds and it comes to the crunch, values and best intentions so often go out of the window and behaviour is driven by a short-sighted fear-based reaction.” 

To combat this, Palma Michel suggests mindfulness:

“Research in neuroscience suggests that mindfulness training has the power to alter our brain structure for the better. In particular, to change our unconscious, fear-based response to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.”

This, according to Jamie Lyon, leads to a capacity for better self-management.

“Culture comes from the top. Using mindfulness, c-suite executives can ensure they act with integrity even when under great pressure and this authenticity of behaviour will trickle down through the organisation.”

Palma Michel says that mindfulness allows CFOs to manage their inner landscape and get into a different relationship to their thoughts, emotions and stress.

“Mindfulness trains the ability to stay focused and create mental space as well as increase awareness of self, others and the broader system c-suite executives operate in. This allows them to skilfully respond to what any given situation requires.

“Paying attention to what is happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment allows leaders to take a step back, become aware of what is happening and make better choices as to the course of action they decide to take. It may initially seem a totally alien concept when applied to the corporate world but simple mindfulness practices can be used by business leaders to enhance the decision making process, especially in the midst of particularly turbulent circumstances.”

According to Palma Michel, in addition to delivering better decision-making, mindful leadership is also vital when it comes to unlocking the full potential of the modern workforce:

"Increased awareness of others, especially when it comes from a compassionate place allows CFOs to become more effective relationship managers. Being able to align people behind a common purpose and getting them to do the things that are required, not just because they are told to, but because they actually care about the people, enables CFOs to be more inspiring, wise and effective leaders." 

Jamie Lyon summarises by pointing to the future:

“This style of leadership will become increasingly important as the next generation of professionals arrive in the workplace bringing with them a more collaborative, community-based approach to work.”

- ends -


For media enquiries, contact:

Louis Clark

ACCA Newsroom

29 Lincoln's Inn Fields London WC2A 3EE

020 7059 5622 / 07976 778 648


Notes to Editors

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. It offers business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 

ACCA supports its 178,000 members and 455,000 students in 181 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 95 offices and centres and more than 7,110 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. It believes that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. ACCA’s core values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and it ensures that through its range of qualifications, it prepares accountants for business. ACCA seeks to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating its qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.

More information is here: 


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