MaryAnna Clemons Of Soul Circle: 5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Don’t mistake sympathy for empathy. An example of this would be to judge a person by the way they are dressed or if they are homeless. Having sympathy means you have judged, having empathy means you can relate to their situation, if only methaphorically.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is increasingly recognized as a pivotal leadership trait. In an ever-evolving business landscape, leaders who exhibit genuine empathy are better equipped to connect, inspire, and drive their teams towards success. But how exactly does empathy shape leadership dynamics? How can it be harnessed to foster stronger relationships, improved decision-making, and a more inclusive work environment? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing MaryAnna Clemons.

MaryAnna has been an Energy Intuitive since 2017. As a Forensic Medium she has worked with Law Enforcement, Families, and Private Investigators. She has a graduate education in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Criminal Justice. She has been a previous journalist, publisher, business owner, writer-editor and more. Her first book, Ethical Mediumship will be released Summer 2024. She speaks to groups or associations about the reality of Forensic Mediumship and is always looking to assist in Cold Cases, Murdered, Missing and more. As a mentor, you can choose to work 1:1 or join a class in Psychic (Evidential) Mediumship or Advanced Forensic Mediumship, just shoot her an email to [email protected] for more information.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about empathy, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

First, thank you for having me! The short answer is that relationship dysfunction and a lack of self-trust thrust me into the Intuitive Energy Business.

I’ve spent my life having my empathy used against me. I did not understand how to shut it off or at least turn it down. I believed everyone with a sad story to my own detriment. I left a marriage that I’d spent every ounce of energy investing in and within that move, I created a space where I had no one to rely on but myself. And that is scary.

Being a cheerleader for everyone else can be exhausting. We do this as mothers and fathers and siblings, leaders, coworkers, etc., and we forget to fill our own cups. We forget to find passions and reasons just for us through the years. In some ways, making sure everyone else is happy is a crutch.

I was alone and unmoored.

And I picked up a Tarot deck, something I had always wanted to learn since high school and I finally learned it. Keep in mind, before I learned it, I had never had a tarot reading or a mediumship reading. I realized that I was short-changing myself and my abilities by being a cheerleader to everyone but myself. In 2017, I dove into the Intuitive field. I learned to be a medium (yes, I talk to dead people), an Energy Reader (think younger, present and future selves), an Animal Communicator (alive and dead) and a Forensic Mediumship (think murder).

It was never meant to be a business and many people learn to talk to Energy just for their own personal growth. For me the journey was meant to be fun. But then I got further into the niche and realized what a sad cesspool of scammers it can be and I decided to add my voice to the mix for a dose of honesty and authenticity. My mission is to present what is real and what isn’t in an educational way and to normalize what I do.

What I do isn’t new. I didn’t create it, I’m not special and even though I’m very good at it, the reality is that I’m not alone. There are real, wonderful, amazing Inuitives and Mediums out there who strive to create healing and closure for others.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Helping law enforcement!

The time I brought through information in a Forensic Mediumship reading about a 27-year-old cold case murder of a woman. She had been leading a double life, professional sales woman by day and by night she was hanging out with a very different social circle. I had worked with families prior to this, but when I was able to do it for law enforcement it was the moment I knew I had to do this forever.

I work alone and with a team of mediums. In this case, myself and another medium were working with a 30-year detective. As Forensic Mediums we do not know anything about the case beforehand other than a name, in most cases. I didn’t even know the cause of death. I brought forward evidence that is known — which is how we validate that we are talking to who we say we are talking to — and then I bring through evidence that isn’t known and answer questions that law enforcement, the family or a private detective has.

In this particular case, a man, who had not previously been a person of interest, came through to me as someone who needed to be looked at. During this process, which is painfully slow and laborious (think underpaid and overworked law enforcement), the detective decided to send off a DNA sample that had not previously been worked. We are still waiting for an update on that outcome.

It’s more of an art than a science because it’s very difficult to replicate what you can do for one case versus another case.

Information you thought was going to be a non-starter can change down the line. For example, I worked with the same detective on a different case and I said (paraphrased), “Someone who should have been interviewed will move and you’ll have to rely on an outside law enforcement agency to help you do the interview or talk to this person.”

Nothing came of that information until months later when the detective texted me and said, “Guess what!” And yes, a witness to a murder had moved out of the state and they were going to have to rely on another law enforcement agency to assist them in the case!

And that ability to predict what may happen is a part of the magic of what I do.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Authenticity. I am a neuro-divergent person who thinks outside the box, with a sailor mouth (fair warning for my social media) and I’m painfully honest. I understand that in my niche of being an intuitive and a medium, that 80% of my niche is fake and that they make the rest of us look bad. No one ever talks about that part of our niche though. Most people in this niche, especially Hollywood, would have you believe that we’re somehow “turned on” 24/7 but the reality of it, at least for me, is that I have to purposefully tap into information. I do not walk by people and get assaulted by their passed-on relatives. I don’t get spirits waking me up at night and I don’t get followed by negative entities. I have the mental and emotional discipline to have on and off hours for what I do.

And I simply won’t guess, because sometimes there is no answer from the Universe! I’ve said to people during a reading, “There’s no answer being given, so that means it will be a surprise to you and me both.”

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?


As mentioned above, I present as a very BLUF (bottom line up front) type of person. I will not sell you something just to make a sale. In fact, there are multiple reasons not to get a reading!

Just this morning I was texting with a customer and she has already spent too much money on me and not enough time and energy listening to herself and I told her that. I also declined to take any more money from her. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings but at some point she isn’t doing the work needed to believe in and trust her own intuition.

I teach others how to listen to their own intuition instead of relying on me. When you rely on me you take away your own power by abdicating important decisions. We are all intuitive and teaching others to trust themselves is my literal mission.


I don’t trust people. Yes, it’s a funny comment, but let’s be real — you don’t really trust too many people either. And this is a problem in society, a lack of trust. During this process of learning what I know, I had to learn to trust myself. No one else matters and I mean that literally and not in a narcissistic way. I mean, you have to learn to listen to your own energy. We are shut down early and often as kids, especially in America. In our most formative years, we’re often lied to by adults, mostly because that’s how society has conditioned us, “Oh, honey, I’m fine,” when the reality is that your mom (or caretaker) isn’t fine and as a child, every time you’ve heard this and felt differently, you were conditioned out of listening to your own intuition.

Even if you trust no one — you have to learn to trust yourself.

An example, I doubted my intuition the other day. Instead of acknowledging the gut instinct I was getting, I gave a person a chance. It turned out exactly, and I mean exactly, like my gut said it would, which was that this person was not going to be a good fit for my business. Because I’m an empath (we all are), and because I choose to give other’s chances again and again, I end up learning the same lessons more than once.

By the same token, when my gut says go for it, I try to listen to that. Year after year, I’m getting better at listening to myself, the Energy around a situation and what next steps would be best for me, so that I can continue to help and teach others.


You have to allow life to happen. I used to fight everything and I mean that literally. My entire life has been one big fight for existence and respect. When I left the dysfunctional relationships behind — when I embraced that I am an Intuitive Leader and that I can teach others to do the same — and when I stopped struggling — is when life started coming together for me.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

Choosing between two paths has been a life-long struggle. As a neurodivergent person with ADHD, focus has always been and continues to be a struggle. I had to narrow my niche and not try to be everything to everyone. I chose to concentrate on speaking and teaching on Intuition, Energy and Forensic (Psychic) Mediumship.

I was going in too many directions, chasing rabbit holes, and getting in over my head trying to be everything to everyone. It was exhausting. I was spending more time, money and energy than I had. I love Animal Communication (both alive and passed) and Non-Verbal Communication (think Autism and facilitated conversations), but I had to pick a road and stick to it.

And I needed to treat my business as a business. Too often people in the Spiritual Realm tend to think of what we do as “gifts” and that we aren’t allowed to be capitalistic, but we are, and if we fail to make that connect, the business will fail.

Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define empathy in a leadership context, and why do you believe it’s a vital trait for leaders to possess in today’s work environment?

I define empathy in a leadership context as being able to listen and have compassion, while still making the business decisions that need to be made. Now and then people tend to misunderstand empathy for permissiveness and that isn’t the case. We, as leaders, need to be able to make hard decisions while being empathetic.

Your grandma was right, “Life isn’t fair,” but that doesn’t mean that we have to forget that people are struggling. We need to approach everyone with the same kindness or openness that we would want someone to give to us or a loved one.

Empathy is vital to leaders today because, post-pandemic, life has changed. Our ability to survive is based on the proactive ability to

tuck and roll. Some of us won’t make it to the next step. Leaders can’t save everyone, but they often have the ability to not make it worse.

If you know position downsizing is coming, don’t wait until the day of to tell people. If you know new positions are going to open and there will be competition for it, make sure you go above and beyond to let the applicants know how to best succeed and when you have to make a choice, emphasize why that choice was made over others.

In the absence of information, people make assumptions. Those self-created assumptions are where the hard feelings hide and where the festering starts. You don’t have to change your choices as a leader, but you do need to have enough empathy to understand that most people need a why.

Think of the last time you had your life up-ended without a why. Did you feel appreciated and valued? I doubt it.

Can you share a personal experience where showing empathy as a leader significantly impacted a situation or relationship in your organization?

This is going back a few years, but I was in public affairs and I got a “pre-read” on an article that was going to come out. In that article, the Colonel I was in charge of advising, made a poorly worded comment that was turned into a shocking quote.

I didn’t like this Colonel. We all have likes and dislikes and I could have let it all slide and acted none the wiser. But my empathy for the position, not necessarily the person, but for the position he held and the blow-back it would have caused to people who had not made the comment, prompted me to get the reporter to present the information in a different way.

The reporter also showed compassion and while the information itself did not change, the way it was presented did change, and voila empathy trumped dislike and we all walked away better for it.

How do empathetic leaders strike a balance between understanding their team’s feelings and making tough decisions that might not be universally popular?

Often the simple act of listening can change a battle into a conversation. The majority of your readership can think of a time when a “leader” walked into a room and dropped a bomb and then walked out.

How did that work out? Often, it creates more problems than whatever change was happening.

I worked with a “leader” before who lacked empathy to the point that I wondered if she had a diagnosis to go with her absolute lack of tact and caring about her workforce. Leaders who truly do not care about their workforce can’t hide that energy. They think they are, but they aren’t.

The leader needs to know energetically that the choices they have to make are truly the best for the company and workforce, not just the leader. When your energy talks for you through listening, through true empathy (not passive-aggressive pretending), through emotional intelligence, then the workforce can get behind the changes. In some cases, the workforce will champion the changes because they truly believe in the company or the leader.

How would you differentiate between empathy and sympathy in leadership? Why is it important for leaders to distinguish between the two?

I tackle this in my video as well.

Sympathy is about feeling sorry for someone, often without context. We tend to think that we are better off than that person and we create a sympathy scenario.

Empathy is when we consider how many paychecks we are away from that person. One death. One long-term hospital stay. One loss of a loved one. Life comes at us all fast and without a solid foundation in trusting yourself to get through it, you could be in the very same place as the person you’re currently judging.

Understanding that you aren’t better than the other person, you’re just on a different path, allows for compassion and empathy versus sympathy. Some of that seems like semantics, but when you are face-to-face with scenarios like that, it makes all the difference.

What are some practical strategies or exercises that leaders can employ to cultivate and enhance their empathetic skills?

Honestly, check your own temperature — do you actually care, or is this a matter of pretending to get through a moment? I used to love the show Undercover Boss because it was a temperature check on how far the boss could put him or herself in the shoes of the very people creating the legacy of his/her company.

If you’re unsure as a leader of your empathy levels:

  • Talk to the person who cleans the toilets — do they feel valued? If not, why not? If they do, who is making them feel that way and what is working about it? Make sure to reward that middle person that keeps the morale up.
  • Become a “neutral third party” when talking to people — no one is going to open up and be honest if they believe their words will be used against them, but if you have the emotional bandwidth to take feedback from the bottom upward, you’ll learn things about your own company that you didn’t previously know.
  • Look for the positive in the workforce and then celebrate that and not in the same meeting as the after-action reports are read, but in its own meeting of cheerleading.
  • Check in with your empathy toward yourself. Are you so driven that you rarely give yourself a break? Are you so addicted to being first, being best and being busy that you’ve forgotten how to be kind to yourself?

How can empathy help leaders navigate the complexities of leading diverse teams and ensure inclusivity?

Listening and then allowing mistakes to happen (within reason). I can listen to my child all day long and I can even fix every problem he brings me, but allowing him to talk through a scenario and allowing him to come to a conclusion supports his autonomy and ability to strategically think. And if he fails, I can support him in what he did right and why I think he’ll do it better next time because of that experience.

When I teach Mediumship, I allow students to grow in their discernment. In my niche, we have so many underdeveloped mediums who say truly horrible things to people who are actively grieving. I go above and beyond in my classes to teach mediums-to-be how to gently and kindly give information.

I tell students that their empathy toward their sitters (the person getting the reading), is a mark of a true professional medium. We should not expect the sitter to be at our level, we have to go to the emotions and check our empathy to the level the sitter is. I can’t take my years of living and assume that someone knows what I know, rather, I have to empathize with them where they are emotionally in order to provide closure and healing.

We can’t be everywhere at all times. As leaders, teachers and mentors, we have to allow for autonomy in others. We aren’t robots.

What’s your approach to ensuring that succession planning is a holistic process, and not just confined to the top layers of management? How do you communicate this philosophy through the organization?

I’m a very small business at the moment. I may stay there. So many businesses assume that they have to grow fast, make tons of money and keep going. Some of us are happy with small footprints.

Every time I start to feel the anxiety of words like succession, organization, top layers of management, I slow down. I step back. I realize that every path is different and mine won’t look like other’s paths, because I’m not them. I’m incredibly grateful to do what I do and when I take in new students, I give them my intentions, but I allow them to create their own path. I tell them why I do it the way I do and then I allow them to keep that lesson for themselves or move it to the recycle bin.

One of my favorite sayings is to “Take what resonates and leave the rest.”

Based on your experience and research, can you please share “5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership”?

1 . Don’t mistake sympathy for empathy. An example of this would be to judge a person by the way they are dressed or if they are homeless. Having sympathy means you have judged, having empathy means you can relate to their situation, if only methaphorically.

2 . Understanding the different types of empathy: Emotional, Cognitive and Compassionate Empathy. This allows you, as a leader, to have deeper, more meaningful conversations.

3 . The ability to listen is an empathetic leadership style. When people feel heard, they tend to be more loyal and find ways to support the person they feel heard by, be it a business leader, partner or child.

4 . When a leader takes the time and effort to show, understand and incorporate empathy into their leadship examples, this opens the door for others to follow that example.

5 . The sister to empathy is compassion and when we are able to marry up the two traits and use them on a daily basis, we allow our energy to be a safe place for others. This does not mean we are now pushovers or that we’ll agree to every request, it just means that we’ve found ways to work with our authenticity and respond in ways that we want our team to emulate.

Are there potential pitfalls or challenges associated with being an empathetic leader? How can these be addressed?

Yes, too much empathy allows people to walk all over you. This is often caused by unresolved co-dependency or unresolved childhood trauma mixed with too much empathy. I lived in that space for decades before I learned that not everyone has to like you.

That has been one of the biggest lessons of my life. Not everyone will like me. I will do the best I can for those that support and believe in me, but I no longer extend energy to those who say one thing to my face and then turn around and say something different to others. I can have empathy that their two-faced world is small and confining, but I don’t have to allow it in my space.

If the words don’t match the actions, I pull my energy and efforts back and re-evaluate the relationship.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Messages from loved ones that haven’t made it to their loved ones keep me up at night. The scammers that lie and steal from grieving parents keep me up at night. The fake intuitives that create worse grief or tell someone that their loved one is in hell (lower vibrations) keep me up at night. Hollywood fakes that make us all look bad wear on me.

I almost got out of the niche. The reputation of the industry is too big for just one person to change, but student by student, I’m helping create a community of reliable, evidential mediums who create closure and healing.

And then I’ll have another beautiful reading for a mom, or a wife, or a daughter, or I’ll talk to a student whose mind is blown that this is real and they are hooked. Or I’ll provide information in a murder case that wasn’t previously known and that’s the biggest thrill of it all.

Those days keep me in this niche. I’m working on a book that will release this summer that covers what ethical mediumship consists of and what to look for. Educating the public about what I do creates a barrier for the scammers to keep scamming.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would normalize talking about and using Intuition and Mediumship as a daily occurrence. Especially Intuition. No one knows what you need better than your Future Self. No one knows how hard you’ve worked better than your Younger Self and no one can enjoy today like your Present Self.

My niche is often misunderstood — and frankly, knowing the history of my niche and what is and has been claimed through the years, I understand why it’s misunderstood. I don’t believe in physical mediumship, there are no flying trumpets, no apports, no ectoplasm, etc., and people that encourage that type of historical hyperbole only do the community a disservice. Unfortunately, this area is unregulated, which is one of the main reasons I try to educate the public on what to look for in a medium, or an intuitive leader, while also trying to respect that each intuitive works in their own way. It’s a fine line.

Being able to facilitate a conversation with a person who has passed over doesn’t make me special. Rather, I’m trained and educated in it. You don’t tell a subject matter expert that they have a “gift” — rather, you acknowledge that they worked hard for the knowledge they have and you commend them for immersing themselves into their subject matter to the point that they are now they are the go-to for that niche.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I have two websites, one is being phased out ( as the old me going down too many rabbit holes and the new one that focuses on my passion, Forensic Mediumship and Intuitive Energy at

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.