Leader as Caregiver

Harvard Business Review recently outlined the top 5 worries of CEOs during the pandemic: cash flow, family and friends, employee wellbeing, managing multiple changes and preparing for uncertainty. At Thought Architects, our Directors and Senior Consultants have heard similar things from the leaders we work with.


We have heard leaders are worried where the money will come from for all the changes. They are constantly worried about what is happening to their children or grandchildren’s education and growth while they are struggling to engage in on-line school. They are thinking a lot about how their elderly parents or loved-one is coping with isolation. They are anxious about how to support their staff’s emotional and mental wellbeing while needing to ask them to tackle yet another (and another and another…) change. They are scared that they have no idea what the new normal will be or how to recognize it when it gets here.


All of this fear, anxiety and worry translates means leaders are under enormous pressure and have become caregivers at work. They have become caregivers because their staff are experiencing this all too and need leaders who are compassionate and/or provide for their wellbeing needs at work.


And so, leaders lean in. And they care. And support. And give. And compromise.


So what?


What happens when leaders have not had time or energy to provide for their own needs?


What if they know they should be engaging in self-care but can’t seem to do it because the pressures seem so great?


Then, we have a legion of burned-out leaders. A post-pandemic pandemic.


We can help to restore leaders by encouraging them to engage in personal leadership by leading themselves through self-compassion. In this way, leaders become self-caregivers and we invite leaders to become self-caregivers because we realize that a leader cannot lead others if they cannot first lead themselves.


Now what?


The roadmap to self-caregiving is self-compassion.


Kristin Neff and Chris Germer outline two parts to self-compassion. The first is yin, which is how to be with ourselves in a compassionate way by comfort, soothing and validating. The second, yang, is how we act in the world by protecting, providing for and motivating ourselves.


To discover which part of self-compassion could support self-caregiving, leaders can be encouraged to ask themselves this key question:


“What do I need right now?”


This question can support a leader to discover the direction their self-caregiving can take and then invite themselves to give to themselves in the way they give to those they lead.


Next Steps


This pandemic has created multiple stressors across various life domains with increasing pressure on leaders’ emotional and mental wellness; this may mean that self-caregiving is not enough.


If this is the case, my invitation is to consider the value in coaching and psychotherapy. In my psychotherapy practice I’ve seen the profound difference psychotherapy can make for leaders in recovering and learning from their suffering. At Thought Architects we have seen the remarkable change and growth in leaders’ ability to lead themselves when they experience coaching. These two supportive modalities can be an excellent choice as you begin to consider including self-compassion as self-caregiving.


We also have seen the impact of professional growth with coaching on teams. Behind the scenes we sometimes wonder if we are doing “team therapy” when we help teams and groups become more confident, skilled and adept at communication and collaborating together. We see the real-life impact of teams learning, growing and thriving as individuals and as teams. Our Cognitive Resilience Leadership Series is designed exactly for that.


One place to start might be for you to attend our next Campfire chat as we consider how to engage in self-compassion as a personal leadership tool. The next one is coming up in September…stay tuned!


Are you ready to explore the potential of self-caregiving as personal leadership? More importantly, what is the cost to you if you don’t?

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