Man looking at clouds below watching the sun rise above them

Mindful Leadership Forum Insights: Extending Compassion to Donald Trump?

It was a real treat to attend the Mindful Leadership Global Forum in Sydney recently with my lovely IECL colleagues. Having attended a couple of years ago I found it to be extra special this time as a busy working mum to be able to take the time to sit, learn and be present.

The forum advocated three core pillars for mindfulness:
Self-awareness – Mindful leaders understand how to respond wisely to stress and learn the skills to allow more intelligent and creative choices in challenging situations.
Compassion – Mindful leaders value high quality relationships. They learn skills to create a culture of kindness and creativity rather than a culture of stress.
Authenticity – Mindful leaders bring their whole selves to work. They don’t have to act like someone else. They “walk the talk” and people experience them as honest and real.

The following is a summary of the themes I distilled from each of the speakers at the forum, which brought to life the three mindfulness pillars:

What’s your First Nature? For the first time I’d had the pleasure of hearing Petrea King speak who just oozed wisdom. She challenged us to reconnect to our first nature and to let go of some of our developed second natures. This struck an accord with me as I look at baby Ethan in awe at his natural empathy, compassion, presence and curiosity, and ponder the question of when do we unlearn some of these natural gifts? I’m currently enjoying Petrea’s book “Your Life Matters” which discusses this topic further.

Compassion, a Core Leadership PracticeDr Emiliana Simon-Thomas facilitated a workshop on compassion and how contagious it can be as you’re more willing to help someone after being helped yourself. It starts with ourselves and self-compassion – quietening the inner critic, replacing it with a voice of support, understanding and care for oneself. You can discover how compassionate your organisation is by taking a quiz in the Greater Good Science Centre’s great resource section

Extending Compassion to Donald Trump? ” Nancy Costikyan, the Director of Work-Life balance at Harvard shared how she tried to send compassionate thoughts to Donald Trump during one of the activities and found it really hard. This started an interesting discussion about extending compassion to perpetrators of violence. Emiliana showed how we are deeply sensitive to fairness, and sometimes it might be better for our own self-compassion to not extend compassionate thoughts when we find it really difficult. One participant shared a thought that helps them to understand a person and often asks, “what happened to that person as a child?”

Holding the Space versus Taking the SpaceDr Nick Udall, founder of Nowhere, Dr Nick explored how leaders can ‘hold the space’ versus ‘take the space’ which starts in the body. He explained how this expands us into the 4th realm of being an innovator/shapeshifter from an achiever to energiser. This realm is about insight and the collective breakthroughs which binds us. Nick talked about how it gives us purpose when we create, and how creativity is in our DNA, and that complexity is key to innovation.

No one size fits all for Mindfulness Organisational Initiatives – We heard from SAP, GE and Herbert Smith Freehills representatives about their journey to pioneer a culture of mindfulness. Each approach was very different. SAP’s approach was systemic with executive sponsorship, measurement, strategic focus and sustainability as key elements. GE’s in contrast is bottom up, digitally delivered with a goal of it being part of induction training. At Freehills it is led by the L&D team who each have a personal mindfulness practice and are all trained executive coaches.

Did you attend? What resonated for you? Love to hear your thoughts/comments and to keep the conversations going to bring more mindfulness and compassion into our workplaces.


Dani Matthews loves her work leading IECL’s Coaching Practice with John Raymond. At the heart of this is a community of over 100 Coaches across the Asia-Pacific Region with the purpose of increasing performance and well-being. Her personal purpose is sharing learnings and insights through writing and conversation, to inspire others to action (if right for them). Dani is mum to baby Ethan and in her spare time enjoys being part of her local triathlon club community. She can be found actively blogging at Mumpreneur, Huffington Post and sharing learnings on LinkedIn and Twitter, and would love to connect.