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MINDFUL LEADERSHIP IN THE FACE OF CHANGE

UV1102 March 4, 2009

This technical note was written by Elizabeth A. Powell, Assistant Professor of Business Administration. Copyright 

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2007 by the University of Virginia Darden School Foundation, Charlottesville, VA. All rights reserved. To order

copies, send an e-mail to sales@dardenbusinesspublishing.com. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored

in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical,

photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of the Darden School Foundation.

WRITING TO REFLECT:

MINDFUL LEADERSHIP IN THE FACE OF CHANGE

Most of us know that writing is a technology invented several millennia ago to aid memory,

but few consider how much writing—especially reflective writing—can aid creative and critical

thinking, particularly when leading organizational change. As Andrew Robinson has pointed out:

Writing is among the greatest inventions in human history, perhaps the greatest

invention, since it made history possible. Yet it is a skill most writers take for

granted.… As adults we seldom stop to think about the mental-cum-physical

process that turns our thoughts into symbols on a piece of paper.1

For anyone who is about to embark on organizational change, has the responsibility to lead it, or

needs to help others make sense of it, reflective writing can enhance and deepen your leadership

practice.

Low-tech as it was, writing initially solved a practical problem by rendering thoughts in a

permanent form, allowing them to be remembered at another point in time. Later, paper allowed

thoughts to be transmitted not only over time but also across distances. Today, electronic files and

instant messaging solve the same problems at much higher storage capacities and accelerated

speeds.

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