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The impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness in a health care setting: a pilot study

Louise Wasylkiw (Department of Psychology, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada)
Judith Holton (Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada)
Rima Azar (Department of Psychology, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada)
William Cook (Iris Centre, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 16 November 2015



The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of mindfulness awareness practice (MAP) on mid-level health-care managers’ leadership.


In total, 11 mid-level health-care managers in eastern Canada took part in an intensive weekend retreat and a follow-up webinar on mindfulness awareness. Perceived stress and leadership effectiveness were assessed pre- and post-intervention (i.e. four and eight weeks). A control group (n=10) also completed the same measures twice. Additionally, informants (n=28) provided assessments of participants’ leadership pre- and post-intervention. Follow-up interviews were carried out with eight participants 12-16 weeks post-intervention.


In comparison to controls, retreat participants showed significant increases in mindfulness and corresponding decreases in stress that were sustained across eight weeks post-retreat; retreat participants reported significant positive changes in their leadership effectiveness that were corroborated by informants. Qualitative data, however, suggest that sustaining a mindfulness practice presents significant challenges to middle managers in a health care setting.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are useful to management working in health services that are plagued by increasing demands and changes. Despite the small sample and lack of random assignment, the pilot data support the efficacy of MAP in improving leadership.


Little empirical research supports the claim that MAP enhances leadership. The present study employed a mixed methods approach to address this gap and demonstrates the potential benefits of MAP among mid-level managers.



This research was supported by Horizon Health Network and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation with grants awarded to the first three authors. This research received ethics approval from the Mount Allison University Research Ethics Board and Horizon Health Network Research Ethics Board. Thank you to Danielle Lenarcic Biss for her assistance.


Wasylkiw, L., Holton, J., Azar, R. and Cook, W. (2015), "The impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness in a health care setting: a pilot study", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 29 No. 7, pp. 893-911.



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