🤝 4 Leadership Strategies for Everyone:
Making a Positive Difference in Life and Work
I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership. I believe we are all leaders, whether at work or in our own lives.
What is a leader? I like author Tony Robbins’ definition of leadership, which reminds us that in addition to leadership in organizations and business, leadership also refers to how we as individuals choose to lead our own lives, as well as inspire and motivate others to grow toward their best selves (Robbins, 2022).
And yes, there are many different kinds of leaders in today’s world. Whether leading or collaborating with countries, communities, businesses, organizations, schools, families, or one-to-one relationships, leaders can create impact in many ways – positive and negative, at macro and micro levels.
Positive leaders bring out the best in people. Leadership is a skill set involving ways of thinking that we can all learn and utilize to empower others (Robbins, 2022). Many good leaders have strong collaborative skills, sharing responsibility with others as they resolve challenges and achieve their goals.
Our 21st-century world benefits when leaders are mindful and compassionate. Leaders who live and work with mindfulness and compassion have greater potential to inspire others, catalyze positive change, and promote wellbeing and effectiveness (Dreher, 2015; Goleman & Boyatsis, 2008; Lanaj, et al, 2006; Neff, 2022).
Both mindfulness and compassion are robust topics of scientific inquiry (Goleman & Davidson, 2017; Neff & Dahm, 2015; Shapiro, 2020). Strong evidence links mindfulness with enhanced life satisfaction, positive emotions, compassion, and overall wellbeing. In the business world, many Fortune 500 companies have recognized the value of mindfulness and share it with their employees.
In contrast to what you might think, mindfulness is not just about ourselves as individuals. Practicing mindfulness can help us be more present in the moment and build greater empathy and compassion. These are important components of mindful leadership (Shapiro, 2020). Psychologist, Kristen Neff, PhD, (2022) identifies three elements of self-compassion: (1) Willingness to observe our thoughts and feelings with acceptance rather than getting lost in reacting or negativity. (2) Being kind to ourselves even when we fall short of our goals and desires or are suffering. (3) Recognizing that imperfection, suffering, and inadequacy are part of being human.
🌱 Mindfulness and compassion are learnable skills we can practice and grow.
To strengthen your mindfulness and compassion skills, here are a few ideas:
- Remind yourself of a circumstance in your life that’s causing you difficulty, challenge or stress. Consider how you feel about this situation – your emotional and physical reaction (Neff, 2022).
- Calmly say to yourself:
- This is a moment of suffering. (Or you might name the experience: This is stress. This is sadness. This is painful.)
- Suffering is part of living. (Or everyone suffers in their lives; I am not alone, suffering is part of life.) You might gently put your hands at your heart center, your abdomen, or wherever feels soothing.
- May I be compassionate with myself. As an alternative you might choose another phrase that feels soothing or comfortable for you, such as: May I be well; May I be kind to myself; May I be whole and complete as I am.
- Sitting comfortably in a safe location, with your eyes open or closed (whatever’s more comfortable), think about or whisper these phrases:
May I be safe. May I be well. May I be happy. May I be peaceful (Salzberg, 2014; Dreher, 2015).
- As you think of someone you care about or who has been kind to you, you can say to yourself:
May you be safe. May you be well. May you be happy. May you be peaceful.
- Then you can add:
May all beings everywhere be safe. May all beings everywhere be well. May all beings everywhere be peaceful.
3. Begin meetings and get-togethers with a moment of mindfulness. Suggest a 60-second pause for people (including yourself) to turn attention to the breath, or a repeated phrase to help focus and become present. For example: I am breathing in, I am breathing out. As I take this breath I am calm and present.
4. Continue learning about leadership, mindfulness, and compassion. Life-long learning is a great way to continue to grow, gain new skills, and bring them to your personal life, relationships, and organizations. Some ways to continue learning include: reading articles and books, listening to podcasts and TED talks, viewing videos, attending trainings and workshops, taking courses, and working with a leadership coach.
💭 How can you strengthen your skills as a mindful, compassionate leader in life and at work?
© 2023 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.
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- Dreher, D. E. (2015). Leading with compassion: A moral compass for our time. In T. G. Plante (Ed.). The psychology of compassion and cruelty: Understanding the emotional, spiritual, and religious influences (pp. 73-87). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
- Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. New York, NY: Avery.
- Goleman, D. & Boyatsis, R. (2008). Social intelligence and the biology of leadership. Harvard Business Review.
- Robbins, T. (2022). What is leadership? -Retrieved 8/13/2022
- Neff, K. D., & Dahm, K. A. (2015). Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. In B.D. Ostalin, M.D. Robinson & B.P. Meier (Eds.) Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation (pp. 121-137). New York, NY: Springer.
- Neff, K. (2022). The heart of the center for compassionate leadership’s model: Self-compassion.
- Neff, K. (2022). Self-compassion break.
- Salzberg, S. (2014). Real happiness at work: Meditations for accomplishment, achievement, and peace. New York, NY: Workman Publishing.
- Shapiro, S. (2020). Good morning, I love you: Mindfulness and self-compassion practices to rewire your brain for calm, clarity, and joy. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CEC, is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.
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