The Power of Self-Compassion

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Although not signposted on the cover of the September-October 2018 Harvard Business Review (HBR) this article on The Power of Self-Compassion
caught my eye – along with The Business Case of Curiosity – which is headlined on the cover. The two for me often go hand in hand!

People who are kind to themselves find it easier to be kind to others, they are more curious in others and in what drives them. In particular leaders who are compassionate are more likely to collaborate and ask for help from offer help to others. They are committed to others’ learning and development, seeking opportunities to help them grow and to flourish.

At the heart of my work is helping leaders build their leadership confidence, to bring more of themselves to their leadership and to do this through a rich mix of self-reflection and conversation with others. I believe that people can change, that we can grow and develop but that to do so we need people to support and challenge us, and that this is a two-way conversation. One in which - to quote Kim Scott, in her great book, Radical Candor – we are ‘personally caring AND directly challenging’. We care enough about the other person to support and challenge them directly, we are committed to their success and to helping them learn and grow.  Even better when this is two-way and part of building a bigger relationship with each other.

The more confident we are in who we are and in touch with what we care about – our values and beliefs - the more confident and authentic we are in our leadership. In turn we are more credible and real to others, people know who we are and what we stand for.

The consultancy KRW International have extensively researched into the ‘who we are’ and refer to this as Character. ‘Character is an individual’s unique combination of values and beliefs and character habits that motivate and shape how we behave with others.’ KRW have identified four key Character Habits of Strong Character Leaders: Integrity, Responsibility, Forgiveness and Compassion and shown that these leaders create more value for their organisations, the Return on Character Value Chain. To find out more you visit:  and read, a great article summarising Return on Character and Fred Kiel’s book ‘Return on Character – The Real Reason Leaders and Their Companies Win’ published by Harvard Business Review Press.

If you are looking to grow and develop self-compassion I recommend The Hoffman Process offered in the UK through The Hoffman Institute

The poetry of Mary Oliver is a great place to start - in particular her poem, Wild Geese - which the wonderful poet David Whyte reads beautifully in his audio entitled ‘The poetry of self-compassion’

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

Over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

The world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

Over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


By Mary Oliver, in Wild Geese, selected poems

Anni Townend