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Why Self-Compassion is Your Best Leadership Strategy

Updated: Jun 26

The theme of self-compassion took center stage during The Leader Network's March roundtables. Over 100 independent school leaders shared that it's second nature to extend compassion to a colleague, offer a comforting word to a student, or stand with community members through thick and thin. Leading with heart comes naturally to those deeply invested in the well-being of our school communities.

But how often do we direct that compassion inward? Many of us have come to believe that practicing self-compassion is an indulgence—a luxury we can’t afford due to our roles and responsibilities. "Leaders must be strong and stoic," we tell ourselves—even as we shoulder burdens that aren’t our own—or harshly judge ourselves for minor missteps.

Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a pioneering researcher in self-compassion, offers insights that are particularly impactful for leaders. Neff explains that Self-Kindness (being gentle with ourselves), Common Humanity (recognizing our shared experiences), and Mindfulness (managing our emotions without being overwhelmed by them) are more than just uplifting qualities. They’re crucial tools that help us excel in our roles and in life.

So let's commit to treating ourselves with the same kindness, understanding, and compassion that we extend to others. Let’s recognize that self-compassion isn’t solely about caring for oneself—it's a strategic leadership decision—an approach that fosters resilience, encourages empathy, and drives school communities towards success and well-being.

Here's to leading with heart—for others and for ourselves.

With high hopes,

Jim Best and Bernie Noe

Co-Founders of TheLeaderNetwork

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