Countdown to Compassion and Self-Care

In February, we hosted a #LeaderShapeChat with the theme “to lead, live compassionately.” Members of the LeaderShape community shared some insightful thoughts about what it means to listen compassionately, how to foster compassion in others, and some tools, behaviours, and resources that act as reminders to be compassionate.

Let’s continue this conversation.

Now more than ever, if we want to create a just, caring and thriving world, we need to practice empathy, active listening, and kindness. Effective leadership takes place in the context of community…and perhaps the same thing can be said about compassion. Compassion creates a community that is stronger than anything – conflict, fear, hate – that tries to divide it.

Let’s reflect on what it means to serve through a compassionate lens. Many struggle with balancing servant leadership with self-compassion. But the truth is, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. One of the ways we serve ourselves is through self-care – and there is nothing selfish about it.

To lead, look after your physical and mental well-being. To lead, remind your friends, family, colleagues, and teammates to make self-care a priority. To lead, listen. To lead, have the courage to be vulnerable and open up when you may be struggling and need support. As Simon Sinek said, “A leader, first and foremost, is human. Only when we have the strength to show our vulnerability can we truly lead.”

Ready to lead and live compassionately? Below, we have a “countdown” list to kick-start your commitment! This list features some bookmark-worthy articles, videos, and lessons from LeaderShapers!

Kick-start Your Commitment To Compassion and Self-Care

FIVE –  5 Self Care Tips for Activists 

“So if you’re the activist, organizer, or community member who tends to do social justice work all day, every day, but is also exhausted all the time (and potentially unhealthy), this one’s for you.”

FOUR – 4 LeaderShapers share some lessons they have learned about compassion:

“Despite the risks involved, I still hold that employing compassion is central to high-quality leadership. “Lofty” endeavors can be realized when people sense genuine compassion from leaders and facilitators.” – Suzie Day

“One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned is that you must care for yourself before you can help others. Self-care takes effort, it’s hard to put yourself first. However, I find that I am a much stronger leader when I am taking care of myself. Helping others is the icing on the cake for me. I know that when I help others, I am making a positive change in the world.” – Erica Henkin

“I’ve learned that as leaders, we tend to care for others before ourselves. It seems like the right thing to do as leaders. But, when we practice self-care we enable ourselves to do more for others. We feel refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to care for others. It’s critical to practice self-care and to display that self-care for other people in our lives. Leaders lead busy lives and though it is tough at times, we must take care of ourselves to better serve others.” – Blake Shepheard

“I used to find ways to escape life as I thought that was “self care.” It wasn’t until I began taking care of myself from inside out that I began to truly understand that taking care of myself isn’t about escaping life, but to embrace and celebrate all that is part of my life. Similarly, taking care of others in my life is a choice I make every day. I decide to what extent and whose measures (mine).” – Saba Rafiq

THREE –  3 Things You Should Know About Intersectionality and Self-Care

“It’s a great gift that balance, healthy lifestyles, and stress management are becoming common imperatives, rather than written off as selfish, unnecessary, or unproductive. But, does everyone have equal access to the tenets and practices of self-care? And, is the way we define self-care inclusive of all people — those with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and identities?

TWO – Two TEDx Talks

  1. “The balancing act of compassion” – Jackie Tabnick

“You have to, of course, be aware of the needs of others, but you have to be aware in such a way that you can carry on with your life and be of help to people. So part of compassion has to be an understanding of what makes people tick. And, of course, you can’t do that unless you understand yourself a bit more.”

2. “A self-care revolution” – Megan McCormick (a LeaderShaper!)

“If you’ve ever been on a plane this is in your seatback pocket and it’s a woman using oxygen mask before she goes the child next to her. When I was younger, I saw this picture and I said “Why isn’t she helping the child first? He’s in need.” As I got older, I realized that the oxygen mask is a lot like self-care – we all have parents, friends, family members that we want to be empathetic towards. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, if we don’t put on the oxygen mask first, we don’t have the capacity to help those people that we care so much about.”

ONE – One quote to leave with you…

Lanterns float upwards into a dark sky

An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows it to shine vibrantly, lighting the way for others.” –Project Happiness

If you’re ready to be a more compassionate leader, let us know an act of self care that you will commit to practicing in the comments below!

2017 National Sessions of the Institute


As everyone quickly moves through their daily lives, it is difficult to make time for conversations. Many interactions happen with a quick text or message via Snap Chat. At the Institute, we intentionally slow down to allow participants to create a community in which they can engage in meaningful conversations about values, integrity, and their passions. The week is focused on asking participants to connect with their values and then put them into action by developing a vision for something they care about.

In 2017, we will continue to provide the Institute experience to participants giving them an opportunity to explore their values and develop a vision for something they care about.

We will host 5 sessions in two locations. The dates and locations of the two general sessions are May 14-19 in Boston, MA and July 23-28 in Champaign, IL.

For the past two years we have hosted a national session for a specific demographic. We have done this to help participants explore the concepts of the Institute in a community of individuals who share parts of their identity. These sessions with African American men have been profoundly impactful so we are expanding to other areas of interest in 2017. Here are the dates and specifications for the three special interest sessions, all to be held in Champaign, IL:

May 21-26: Institute for Residence Hall Leaders
July 30- August 4: Institute for Latinx Students
August 6-11: Institute for African American Men

If you are interested in learning how you can attend or how you can send students from your college/university or organization to a session, please email us at

Want to learn more about the Institute?
You can visit our website and check out these posts about our program.
Institute FAQs
A Nerd’s Reflection on the Institute
The Heart of National Sessions of the Institute


Friday Five: Staying in the moment

As leaders, we spend a lot of time thinking about the future, don’t we? Whether we are going through the visioning process or striving to meet personal or professional goals, leaders typically have a futuristic mindset. We get excited about the future (as we should) and we love to let our minds wander about all the possibilities that exist within the days, months, and years to come. We enjoy wondering what’s next – in our career, with our family, and with other things that are important to us. For many, the future can provide a sense of motivation and purpose because we are goal oriented.

But because of the many unknowns and all the different variables, thinking about the future can take a lot of time. And sometimes, it can remove us from the present. From the now. It can distract us from our daily interactions with others, from the beauty of our daily lives, from our relationships, and from our daily thoughts.


What would happen if we could pause for a moment each day to embrace the present moment? Would we be able to relax a bit more and stress a bit less? Would we be able to accomplish more and increase our productivity? Would our relationships flourish? Would our momentum continue building?

Staying in the moment is tough and it typically doesn’t come naturally. We are constantly surrounded by so many distractions and disruptions in our lives. We have short attention spans and busy schedules and the “present moment” flies by so quickly.

Here are my 5 tips for staying in the moment:

Being intentional in your daily routine can be the first step to staying in the moment. Pausing allows you to recognize that you want to shift your mindset to that very moment. It helps you to actively think about what you are doing and to escape the chaos surrounding you in that moment.

Taking the time to reflect allows you to embrace the present moment. It can help you to recognize everything that is happening and develop an increased appreciation for the beauty of that moment. Reflect upon the stillness surrounding you. Reflect upon the sights and sounds that you are immersed in.

Though breathing is such a natural process, intentional breathing can provide you with so much control in the moment. Breathing allows you to de-stress, relax and be fully present in the moment.

Writing is a powerful practice. Pausing in the moment and capturing your thoughts, feelings, and environments will help to solidify the value of staying in the moment. Writing in the moment allows you to focus your attention and energy while capturing a glimpse of the most still moments of your life.

Repeating this process will make it more natural. Before you know it, you will find yourself enjoying the little things in life more and making the most of every moment. You will be more engaged in conversations and more present with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Will you make it a priority to intentionally stay in the moment? Will you embrace the beauty of everyday life? Will you pause, reflect, breathe, and write a little bit more today
Let’s do it together.

Blake is a marketing and community engagement intern at LeaderShape and a graduating senior at Missouri State University studying public relations. Blake enjoys unplugging and recharging by kayaking, hiking, and reading a good book.