The task of mediating is complex. It demands of the practitioner: knowledge about people’s behaviour in emotionally driven conflict situations; specific competencies to manage power relationships; and attributes which are conducive to handling stressful situations. This paper reports the findings from a qualitative and quantitative doctoral study which explored the stressors facing 43 Australian professional mediators and how they cope with role pressure and strain. The intrapersonal and interpersonal coping strategies and the social/emotional competencies reported by the mediators are discussed, as is another unexpected factor which emerged: the need for political competence. Mediators must be ‘powerful’ in managing the use of power, in order to achieve ‘empowerment’ of the disputants. Yet, the expertise of the mediator is demonstrated obliquely, and the influence is subtle, not overt. The paper discusses the implications for the selection, training, development and ongoing support of mediators. It presents a model which draws on the empirical evidence gleaned from the research project and which is in line with the new standards.