What is the most underrated practice that will make you a great leader? It's self-compassion.

For many people, it is much easier to exercise compassion towards others than to one's self. Developing greater self-compassion allows you to recognize that making  mistakes and suffering is part of the human condition. 

The foremost researcher of self-compassion Dr. Kristen Neff, describes self-compassion as this: 

When you fail or come-up short, instead of being critical and judgmental of yourself,  you are kind and understanding to yourself. You treat yourself in the same way that you would treat a friend when they are suffering.

Do you have a self-compassion deficiency? When you make a mistake or feel as though you failed: 

  • Do you beat yourself up and call yourself names, such as dumb, stupid, or idiot?
  • Do you feel guilty about this mistake for a long period of time and have a hard time forgiving yourself?
  • Do you say nasty things to yourself that you would never say to a friend?

If you answered any or all of these questions with a "yes," then you are suffering from a self-compassion deficiency. 

So, what causes a self-compassion deficiency? The outside and self-imposed pressures to be perfect, be a people pleaser, or always be a high-performer can be the culprits. 

As a leader, why is it important to develop a greater capacity to be self-compassionate? 

Whether you lead a company, a team, or you are an aspiring leader, you will not fully unleash your leadership capabilities unless you have the capacity to be self-compassionate.

Because here's the catch. You cannot be a courageous leader unless you can engage with yourself from a place of self-compassion. Do you look up to any leader who you do not think is courageous? Probably not.

The reason this leader has the capacity to be courageous and take risks is because when they come up short, make a mistake, or fail, they are kind to themselves.

And, is courage only exhibited through heroic acts, such as putting your life on the line? No, courage comes in many forms.  Research Professor Dr. Brené Brown calls this type of courage: ordinary courage

Your ordinary courage could be admitting to your boss that you were wrong, mustering up the courage to confront your child's teacher about something you do not agree with, calling your friend as soon as you find out that her loved one passed away, quitting your job, moving to a new city, starting a new business, and so on.

When you exhibit your own personal courage and you get an undesirable reaction or when the situation does not turn out the way you had hoped, self-compassion comes in and picks you back up again.

Self-compassion allows the lapse times between acts of courage to be shorter. 

The top 3 reasons to practice self-compassion to be a more courageous leader: 

  1. The more compassion you have for yourself, the more compassion you will have for others when they come up short, whether it be your colleagues, boss, family, or friends. 
  2. Self-compassion prevents burn-out and mitigates stress.
  3. And to reiterate what I said above: When you fail, self-compassion picks you right back up again.

What can you do to start being more self-compassionate today?

  • When you make a mistake, whether you misspell a word in an email, are late to an important meeting, or inadvertently hurt or offend another person, stop the negative self-talk. 
  • Treat yourself with empathy and say the same words to yourself that you would say to a friend who is suffering. 
  • Engage in self-care (work-out, read a good book, get a massage, etc.). 
  • Seek support from a compassionate colleague, friend, or family member.  Text your friend to tell her the mistake you made at work. Commiserate with a trusted colleague over coffee.
  • Get outside yourself: If it's appropriate, apologize to the other person or parties involved.
  • Finally, most of all: Don't forget to forgive yourself by recognizing that making mistakes and feeling inadequate from time to time is part of the human condition. 
Published on: Mar 31, 2016