New Study Suggests Meditation, Psychedelic Use Leads to Positive Leadership Growth at Work

But does this study show us anything the psychedelic community didn’t already know?

Mindfulness meditation and psychedelics have shown up together as a therapeutic pair throughout history. Ancient yogis, in a practice that sees yoga as meditation through movement, paired cannabis with their tradition, and rock stars like the Beatles famously also figured out how mixing meditation with psychedelics like LSD could create iconic records such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Now, thanks to a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology, research suggests a connection between mindfulness meditation and psychedelic use on leadership development. So, if your boss has been dropping the ball recently, maybe they just need some mindfulness meditation served with a side of LSD

The study was created from anecdotal reports from folks already using altered states for performance enhancement and leadership growth, PsyPost reports, which has become especially trendy in the tech sphere. While older research already found that mindfulness meditation could help leadership by reducing stress, improving sleep, emotional regulation, and even increasing creativity, those studies are limited by small sample sizes. Research also supports the thesis that psychedelics can aid the creative process and interpersonal relationships. And, recent data made headlines by comparing the effects of psychedelics to meditation and hypnosis, demonstrating distinct behavioral-neural relationships. 

This latest study, “Altered states of leadership: mindfulness meditation, psychedelic use, and leadership development,” a collaborative effort by researchers in Sweden, the UK, and the US, aims to combine the two and see if mindfulness meditation and psychedelics can impact leadership. 

“There’s been a fair amount of research on how mindfulness meditation and psychedelic substances may impact mental health. Yet there is relatively little empirical data on how these interventions, especially psychedelics, might affect leadership development,” says the new study’s corresponding author Otto Simonsson, a postdoctoral researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience, PsyPost reports.

Mindfulness is the practice of rooting oneself in the present moment. Existing research already shows that psychedelics can aid in mindfulness. The latest study is based on data from two samples of participants: 4,867 U.S. and 4,865 U.K. adults. Everyone was asked about their experience with both mindfulness meditation and psychedelics. They wrote responses about how the two affected their leadership, and the researchers labeled their answers as having no, positive, or negative impact on leadership. Three thousand one hundred and fifty participants held a management position. Of these respondents, 43.6% had tried mindfulness meditation, 17.7% had taken psychedelics, and roughly 10% had experience with both. And, when asked about how both impacted leadership, the results suggest that your boss (and all the bosses reading this) should absolutely work psychedelics and meditation into routines to improve leadership quality and make work life better for everyone. 

Seventy-point-nine percent of the responses regarding mindfulness meditation reported a positive impact, 28.8% described no impact, and only a negligent amount (0.2%) indicated a negative effect. The study showed that psychedelics follow a similar trajectory. Forty-point-six percent described taking psychedelics as having a positive impact on leadership, 58.0% stated no effect, and only a tiny percent (1.4%) reported a negative impact. 

“Although the findings should be interpreted in light of the study’s limitations, the main takeaway from the study, I think, is that mindfulness meditation and psychedelic use may produce comparable and also complementary effects on leadership at work,” Simonsson told PsyPost.

The results suggest that the reason mindfulness meditation and/or psychedelics improve leadership is because they help general health. Respondents wrote about how both avenues of healing lowered anxiety and stress and helped them sleep better, which made them healthier. Healthier bosses are better bosses. 

The participants also note that psychedelics and mindfulness meditation increased “presence and awareness,” or in other words, mindfulness. The best leaders are the ones who are grounded in the present and in touch with their emotions and the environment around them. Additionally, they detailed how psychedelics and mindfulness meditation aided in creativity, productivity, and problem-solving. 

Perhaps most importantly, respondents talked about how both meditation and psychedelics improved their relationships with colleagues by increasing empathy and patience. The study confirmed what should be obvious, that leaders function best when they relate to and care about their employees and are willing to act as a team. 

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