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What are the barriers to kindness and compassion?

What are the barriers that get in the way of kind and compassionate leadership in health and social care? Explore this issue with The King's Fund.
© The King’s Fund, Carnegie Trust UK and Stephen Covey

In this article, we’ll explore how barriers to leading with kindness and compassion might play out in organisations and systems and consider the ways in which we can start to address these challenges.

What are the barriers?

Julia Unwin, who has carried out research on kindness in social policy offers this illustrated way of thinking about some of the influences in wider society and organisational life that ‘squeeze out’ kindness and compassion in health and care work.

The powerful forces she identifies shape the lives and experiences of both patients, service users and staff in the health and social care system, and it can feel disempowering to acknowledge many (if not all) of them are beyond our ability to influence.

Adapted from Julia Unwin (2018). Kindness, emotions and human relationships: the blind spot in public policy.

These powerful forces shape the lives and experiences of both patients, service users and staff in the health and social care system, and it can feel disempowering to acknowledge many (if not all) of them are beyond our ability to influence.

What can we control and influence?

Stephen Covey’s idea about our individual circles of concern, influence and control can be helpful here. Specifically, it can help us to consider what we can control and could influence, offering a clearer sense of our personal agency in the face of the broader structural and systemic forces identified by our five leaders in the video and Julia Unwin’s research.

Adapted from Stephen Covey (1989), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

In this diagram, the circle of concern, represented by the largest and outermost circle, represents the wide range of worries that we might hold and forces at play.

The circle of influence is smaller and represents the worries that we can do something about, either directly or indirectly, through our ability to influence things like events and other people.

Finally, the smallest circle is the circle of control, and this represents the things that we can actually take direct personal responsibility for and do something about.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
© The King’s Fund, Carnegie Trust UK and Stephen Covey
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An Introduction to Leading with Kindness and Compassion in Health and Social Care

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