In today’s busy world, it can be easy to simply go through the motions and complete tasks on autopilot. But from a leadership perspective, that's not ideal. Mindfulness and emotional intelligence are the keys to forming effective and resilient leaders.
In 2007, Google developed the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) after discovering a lack of sufficient leadership programs focusing on compassion, empathy, and the importance of taking the time to show appreciation and care for people. Google gathered neuroscientists, mindfulness experts, and emotional intelligence researchers to create the highly successful institute, which trains individuals to be certified leadership facilitators and to educate organizations and college campuses.
Gettysburg College’s Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC) has partnered with two of these facilitators for the first time this spring to educate 35 students and young alumni participants on mindful thinking and practices, such as meditation and journaling.
GLC Executive Director Andy Hughes himself participated in the program in 2019, and reflected on the impact that it has had on his daily life.
“When you first come to a meeting, it’s common to be distracted and thinking of something else; it may take you a while to become present. One skill I learned is called Shift to Connection, which is a simple three-breath mindfulness practice,” explained Hughes. “In your first breath, just take it and pay attention to the breath itself. In your second breath, pay attention to your body and what it is telling you. Finally, in your third breath, question how you want to engage in your meeting or the task at hand. You are essentially shifting the connection from where you’ve been to where you want to go, which has been useful for me.”
Current Gettysburg participants are already recognizing the benefits of the program in their own lives, as well.
“We spend so much of our lives zoning out, either daydreaming or stressing about the future, but rarely do we realize what is important in the moment. This program has taught me several tactics to quit borrowing trouble,” said psychology major Talia Zlupko ’23. “I am hoping to become a clinical psychologist, and I plan to take these skills with me to be in the moment with my clients and offer my utmost support.”
Christina Noto ’19, a former GLC Leadership Mentor who currently works at KIPP DC Promise Academy teaching 2nd through 4th grade science, explained that the sessions have given her bite-sized practices that she can easily incorporate into her everyday life. Noto said, “I have found that I really like doing the ‘full-body scan’ practice. I can practice for 3-5 minutes or 30 minutes, depending on how much time I have and what my body and mind need.”
Over the course of six weeks, students and alumni will continue to learn and develop these skills, as well as many others, with the guidance of facilitators Sarah Lehn and Joseph Croskey.
Lehn began her mentoring journey after she realized she was missing a sense of deeper meaning in her first job and recognized the strong inner alignment with her values that she felt with this career. “I’ve noticed how many people suffer from a lack of consciousness and compassion in our world, and I feel passionate about sharing ideas and practices that help us all navigate through life more skillfully,” she reflected. “This is empowerment for me and is why I love facilitating.”
Similarly, Croskey felt an urgent calling to share these worthwhile lessons with students and people around the world. “I’ve found that these practices not only help me focus, but also bring me a sense of ease when dealing with stressful situations,” said Croskey. “In short, they help me to be happy and peaceful, and I hope to spread those feelings with the people I interact with.”
Lehn continued, “Knowing how to use mindfulness practices changes the ways we perceive and respond to experiences. This becomes especially important as we venture out into the world of finding ourselves or a job, and co-creating our future.”
“In higher education we often talk about the importance of lifelong learning,” added Croskey. “The SIYLI training gives participants effective tools to become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent, which will help them build healthy teams and relationships, both personally and professionally.”
By leveraging these tangible resources and life skills, GLC participants are able to be more intentional in their decision-making and more calmly navigate any frustrations that they may experience.
Hughes concluded, “Everyone is so busy, but it’s still important to take care of yourself, and to focus on your wellbeing and on things that can slow you down. The result of this will be healthier, happier students and individuals, who are better in the classroom and better in organizations.
“I hope for more compassionate and empathetic leaders. If Gettysburgians can see the value in that, I know they will bring it forward into their careers to create a better world.”
By Delaney Adams ’21
Photos by Garrett Glaeser ’21, Phuong Le ’20, and Shawna Sherrell