Leadership and self compassion

Leadership has been an ever evolving skill. There is a lot that has been spoken and written about good leadership. From the alpha male kind of leadership to the calm and composed leader who believes in leading from the front, one can find diverse leadership styles that are in existence and working well for different set of leaders.

Leadership, irrespective of the style, has one clear objective – delivering the best and motivating one’s team to do the same. Not many leaders believe in focusing on their failures, or learning from their mistakes. Talking about failures is a strict no-no across organisations and geographies, even today. While it is great to gun for the best and aim to be a super achiever, leaders need to ensure that they are self-aware and not burning themselves out for something that did not go as per the plan.

Interestingly, a not-so-common trait seen in leaders is that of self-compassion. There has been a lot written about the benefit of self compassion in an individual’s life and how it could be a more effective path to success than having a high self-esteem. However, when it comes to leadership and self-compassion, it is a fairly new term that doesn’t find many takers in the world of cut-throat competition and performance driven leadership.

Compassion and leadership: Can they work in tandem?

A good leader is expected to be someone who could raise the bar with every project. However, it is not a rosy picture every day. In case of crisis or unprecedented situations, leaders can get caught up with fear or self-doubt as they try to take the best decision for their team or the organisation.

Sadly, not many leaders realise that it is extremely important to have mental clarity, emotional balance and vision, to be able to take the right decision in times of crisis. Self-compassion helps one do just that. For any individual to move away from the zone of self-doubt and lack of clarity of thought and action, to a smart decision maker, it is imperative to cultivate the skill of self- compassion. There is no quick fix solution to acquire this skill. However, self-compassion can easily be learnt and nurtured over a period of time.

So, what is self-compassion all about?

Self-compassion is definitely not about self-pity or being easy on oneself. It is a skill that enables one to see a different perspective of the situation. To explain it simply, it is about assessing the situation as you would with a friend who is facing the challenge. Self-compassion is majorly designed around 3 key pillars- self-kindness, humanity and mindfulness. It enables an individual to be kind, understanding and more encouraging. Mindfulness is all about clear, non-judgmental, awareness of one’s experiences in the present moment. Self-kindness is extremely important as it helps to not take the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong. Self-criticism can be damaging and isolating for anyone. Hence, it is important to focus on cultivating self-compassion. Lastly, the third pillar of common humanity is about recognising our interconnectedness with other humans and helping us understand that no one is perfect.

Leaders need to understand that self-compassion is not about being complacent, being weak or narcissist or lowering the bar. Instead, it is about building resilience and courage to be able to tackle the situation in a much better and calmer way. Self-compassion allows a leader to focus on building capacity to take on challenges.

In the recent times when the world has been trying to fight the pandemic, self-compassion can be the core skill that can power leaders to manage these unpredictable times in a better way. It can help them face the daily challenges better and also emerge as a more effective leader, and more so in the times of unpredictable and social media.

Benefits of self-compassion

Self compassion works well as it helps to create a sense of self-worth, which is very essential in the competitive and crazy times we live in. It has a number of benefits for leadership. Here are some of them:

Emotional intelligence: Leaders with high self-compassion have high EQ. This is because they are kind rather than being judgmental and are able to connect with others in a better way. They are able to build a better bond with their team members and in turn, are able to build a more cohesive team. They have a very balanced approach to negative emotions when they stumble or fall short in terms of expectations. They are okay to feel low about a situation but do not let the negative emotions control them.

Logical decision making: Leaders with self-compassion tend to take smarter and more logical decisions and perform better in crisis. This is because they do not get caught in the web of self-doubt and harm, and instead tend to keep a cool head when they hit a roadblock. They also do not take undue stress in case of failures or mistakes and focus on the learning and moving on process.

Resilience: Self-compassion helps leaders to accept failures and mistakes. They understand that failures are also part of the gig and hence, do not waste time in playing the blame game in case of failures, and instead invest their energies in finding a solution to the problem in hand.

Growth mindset: Self compassion triggers a growth mindset. It enables a leader understand his/her strengths and weaknesses better. When leaders treat themselves with compassion, they are open to realistic self-appraisals, which is the starting point for becoming a better version of oneself. Such leaders are also motivated to work on their weaknesses, enhance their skills and let go of their bad habits. Leaders who cultivate self-compassion tend to perform better at all times and emerge stronger from critical situations or setbacks.

Better Mentor: A leader with high self-compassion is committed to get his team to also deliver their best. He believes in giving feedback to his team members, and guiding them in case he thinks that they are not putting their best foot forward. This kind of leader is approachable and hence, is seen as a mentor and not an ever-so-critical boss by his team members. His growth mindset in turn motivates his team members. Also, a self-compassionate leader is seen as more authentic and true to himself, which helps create a transparent team culture and foster long-lasting relationships.

To conclude, leaders with high self-compassion are the future. They are the ones who have high motivation to improve themselves and are generally more true to themselves. Both of these are extremely critical for success. They, in turn, create a culture within the team wherein team members are also motivated to become a more evolved professional. Additionally, since they are a more aware lot, they tend to be more optimistic in the overall approach. Such leaders connect better across levels and age groups, and end up creating teams that are high on productivity, in the good as well as the bad times.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha heads PR and Communication at BharatPe. She has over 15 years of experience in working across global/digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains.

In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 30 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands. She has been associated with brands like Pine Labs, MobiKwik, VLCC and Power2SME and spearheaded their PR/brand/communication campaigns.

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