Mindfulness is the practice of bringing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness to one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical feelings. Mindfulness for leadership ca be a powerful tool for doing good. This practice has been shown to have a number of benefits for mental and physical health. These include reducing stress and anxiety, lifting mood, and increasing self-awareness (NIH, n.d.). In addition to these benefits, mindfulness can also help individuals to develop empathy and compassion for themselves and others.
Empathy and Mindfulness for Leadership
Empathy and compassion are two related, yet separate, concepts. However, one must be empathetic to have compassion as empathy is an aspect of compassion. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Alternately, compassion is the desire to presence suffering and to provide support and care for others (Siegel, 2010). It is important to understand the difference between empathetic distress and compassion. As empathetic distress can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue, while compassion can bring feelings of satisfaction and well being (Grossman et al., 2004).
Empathetic distress is the experience of feeling overwhelmed or upset by the suffering of another person. This can occur when an individual becomes too deeply attached to the emotions of another person and is unable to distance themselves from the experience. They are unable to see clearly that the “others pain” is not “their pain”. Empathetic distress can get in the way of a person in a position of leadership’s ability to provide support and care to others (Grossman et al., 2004). This is a prime example of the importance of mindfulness for leadership.
Compassion and Mindfulness for Leadership
On the other hand, compassion, is a desire to be present with suffering and to provide support and care for others. Compassion actually has no “burn-out” when there is a balance between empathy and self-compassion. Additionally, it allows an individual to remain grounded and centered while giving support to others (Siegel, 2010). Evidently, research has shown that compassion can bring feelings of satisfaction and well being, and can help individuals to develop a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives (Siegel, 2010).
Also, mindfulness can be a powerful tool for evoking empathy and compassion. Basically, by bringing present-moment awareness to one’s own thoughts, feelings, and physical feelings, individuals can better understand their own emotions and experiences, and can develop a greater sense of self-compassion (Siegel, 2010). All in all, this can help individuals to become more attuned to the emotions and experiences of others, and can help the development of empathy and compassion for others (Siegel, 2010). These skills make mindfulness for leadership a powerful skill for change.
Comparatively, one way to bring compassion to life through mindful nurturing is to practice self-compassion. This is the work of treating oneself with the same kindness, care, and understanding that one would offer to a good friend (Neff, 2003). Correspondingly, this can include things like speaking to oneself in a kind and supportive way, understanding and accepting one’s own emotions and experiences, and taking care of one’s physical and emotional needs (Neff, 2003). This aspect of mindfulness for leadership is the equivilent of putting on the breathing mask for yourself first before helping others to secure theirs.
In addition to practicing self-compassion, individuals can also bring compassion to life through mindful acts of kindness and charity towards others. This can involve things like volunteering, donating to a cause, or simply offering a supportive word or a helping hand to someone in need. By seeking out opportunities to help others and to lower someones level of suffering, individuals can evoke a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives, and can bring compassion to life in a tangible and meaningful way through mindfulness for leadership (Siegel, 2010).
Finally, Mindfulness for leadership is a powerful tool for evoking empathy and compassion. By bringing present-moment awareness to one’s own thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, individuals can develop a greater sense of self-compassion and can become more attuned to the emotions and experiences of others. Through mindful acts of kindness and generosity towards oneself and others, individuals can bring compassion to life in a powerful way, and can experience the fulfillment and well being that it brings.
Join Samantha Akers, Certified Mindfulness Teacher and C-IAYT Yoga Therapist for
Mindfulness Training & G.R.A.C.E – Leading with Presence, Compassion and Wisdom
with Samantha Akers, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500
Certified Mindfulness Teacher
April 17-May 11, 2023
Prerecorded + Live Zooms
Mondays 4:00-5:30pm Pacific -OR- Thursdays 9:30-11:00am Pacific
Grossman, P., Niemann, L, Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 35-43.
Neff, K. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223-250.
NIH (n.d.). Meditation: An introduction. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.html
Siegel, D. (2010). The mindful therapist: A clinician’s guide to mindsight and neural integration. W. W. Norton & Company.