Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12am

Developing Mindful Management Skills as Part of the Lancaster MBA

Developing Mindful Management Skills as Part of the Lancaster MBA main image

Yuki Takahashi

The famous strains of the Star Wars theme tune sounded through Lecture Theatre 2. But instead of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, the new MBA class was bewitched by eloquent, unpredictably, witty and satirical storytelling of Dr. Peter Lenny.

Dr. Lenny is the creator and lead lecturer of the Lancaster MBA’s signature module, the ‘Mindful Manager’. Throughout all three terms at the Lancaster MBA, the theme of the mindful manager is taught in various ways by various lecturers and guest speakers, to help skills around critical thinking, reflectivity and mindful leadership.

Learning about management through self-reflection

The Mindful Manager module emphasizes personal development and the cultivation of leadership qualities, helping you to get to the bottom of what management actually is, and what the role of the manager is in the first place.

Besides working out how to be a mindful manager, the module leads us to question commonly accepted assumptions around business. Students aim to develop critical thinking around three areas: dominant ideologies in business, the business/management ‘discourse’ of academia and business education, and your own thought process. To be able to think critically is to be aware of the things which unconsciously affect your thinking.

Reflectivity is ingrained through habitual reflection on one’s personal conduct and by writing reflective blog posts. The deadlines for the latter are set after every influential and experiential learning opportunity, because the crucial mechanism of learning through reflection is a circular process, originating with experience. Students are required to deploy a reflective framework based around three questions – what, so what and now what?

What I’ve learned about mindful leadership

Mindful leadership is about developing your skills as a leader, embedding theory into your practice. It is focused on developing flexibility and self-awareness. The opportunities to develop skills related to mindful leadership are abundant.  In compulsory modules such as ‘Strategy and Leading Change’, we learned that the world of management is a complex and paradoxical milieu. In a special workshop session taught by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, we had the opportunity to be exposed to a top leader’s skills, to understand his motivations in terms of strategy and hear his judgements relating on the real fierce world of business. Working in diverse teams, in which students’ time management and team-building/working skills are under scrutiny, allows us to evaluate and polish our own definition of leadership while also learning from your peers’ different perspectives on leadership. Students are deliberately pushed outside their comfort zones in order to stretch their decision-making skills.

This dynamic experiential learning of the module is not a stand-alone module is designed to interweave practical business education with philosophical thought from thinkers such as Aristotle, Machiavelli and Heidegger. In mindful manager speak, managers are sculptors. The mangers’ role is hammering and chiselling with the right political and ethical motives. A proposition by Henry Mintzberg lies at the heart of paradigm of the mindful manager: “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet."

Five months have passed since I set off on my Lancaster MBA journey. Thanks to the Mindful Manager module and other fundamental theoretical modules, I have become more aware of what I ought to be, what my shortcomings are and how to take the next step. Before starting the Lancaster MBA, I used to have just vague perception of myself, although I was eager to become a person with global professional skills and awareness. But I am beginning to get a better understanding of where I can find the things that I need.

It’s a never-ending adventure!

About Yuki Takahashi

Originally from Japan, Yuki is an MBA student at Lancaster University Management School in the UK, from which she will graduate in 2014. After seven years in sales at the Nikko International Corporation she served as the managing director of Global Co-Star LLC. She studied drama and theatrical arts at Meiji University in Tokyo, focusing on traditional Japanese forms such as Noh and Kabuki and has spent time volunteering for the Shinagawa Boys and Girls Choir.

Tags used in this blog post