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One of the most needed elements in effective leadership and resolving conflict is self-compassion. This defies what we think makes leaders successful: an endless supply drive and ambition. For most of my life, I’ve taken great pride in how “hard” on myself I am. I used to see my drive as a part of maintaining high standards, moral excellence and a rigidly defined sense of integrity. But my biggest failures taught me those are neither enough nor sustainable.

Having focus and determination are great qualities when aimed in the right direction. But resilience is even better. It allows the failure to be a teacher. Recovery is the ability to get back up more times than getting knocked down.

So what I’m learning is that the most needed quality that gives drive and determination a competitive advantage – is self-compassion. It’s like they say in the practice of Tai Chi: become like a needle wrapped in cotton. Solid core, gentle packaging. Self-compassion notices when judgment and criticism are present. It takes a warrior’s bravery to deny the inner critic a voice. But it takes his courageous heart to make friends with it. Self-compassion becomes an ally once it’s a habit.

Now, I still get to be ambitious, resilient and recover quickly. Because I’m learning to not be so hard on myself, my recoveries are quicker. What’s next? Learning how to extend that level of compassion to those closest to me. I think it can only happen after I’m truly kind to myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.