Self-compassion: Vital for Leadership

Compassion towards others is often considered a virtue. We are quick to praise those who show compassion towards others.

But compassion towards oneself is being misconstrued as selfish, self-centered, or even self-indulgent. This misunderstanding is causing many managers burnouts. Research shows that a higher self-compassion directly relates to good mental health and even achievement-related outcomes. How? You might ask.

Here are some researching findings by KM Wasylyshyn and Frank Masterpasqua:*

  1. Individuals who have developed self-compassion can see failure as a learning opportunity. It allows them to focus more on what’s needed to be accomplished instead of being choked up by failure. In contrast, those who lack self-compassion will try to avoid situations they think they might fail. As a result, a lack of self-compassion directly reduces one’s courage and readiness towards facing challenges.
  2. There is a direct relationship between compassion towards oneself and towards others. Researches state that those who are more self-critical naturally become more critical of others too. These self-critics often focus on theirs and others’ shortcomings.
  3. A higher level of self-compassion is directly linked to more perspectives-taking. Experienced coaches will agree that if they can help their clients reframe challenges, they help their clients to greatly reduce personal stress. It will even help offended parties to foster greater forgiveness.

Is having self-compassion an excuse to become complacent? If I hold a high standard for myself, does it mean I am without self-compassion?

K.M. Wasylyshyn defines compassion as “The acknowledgment and the commitment to alleviating the presence of pain rather than denying it.” It’s acknowledging the reality of pain, and proactively finding ways to alleviate that pain.

A coach can play a critical role in helping clients develop self-compassion through a supportive, safe, and embracing relationship. They can help clients develop the three elements of compassion:

  1. Notice and name their own sources of suffering relating to work
  2. Feel–instead of pushing away–their pain
  3. Respond to the misery by identifying ways to address it effectively

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Karen Tan

Experienced leadership and intercultural coach with a demonstrated history of empowering global leaders in both corporate and non-profit sectors. Skilled in leadership development, intercultural communication, cross-cultural living and adjustments, and transitions.

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