Good Leadership Is an Act of Kindness
Let’s follow the leadership of kindness. Times of uncertainty can lead to individuals building their own power base, or individuals becoming true leaders and establishing strong foundations that will serve future generations. A very important part of this foundation is to ensure as a leader that you align with and understand how people are dealing with everyday life through a kindness approach. Kindness can be taught and building kindness into your leadership approach will be remembered!
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” —Henry James
KINDNESS is an Investment that NEVER FAILS!
In November 2020, Boris Groysberg and Susan Seligson from Harvard Business School outlined “Good Leadership is an act of Kindness.” With the COVID-19 pandemic transforming our lives at every level, a growing number of students and former students have sought advice about how to lead in a time of great uncertainty and unprecedented employee stress. The stories these executives tell attest to the fact that these are the most difficult times in memory for many, if not most people. Parents struggle to balance the demands of remote work and home schooling. Employees who live alone strain to stay focused while isolated from loved ones and traditional social supports. In between Zoom meetings, caretakers exhaust themselves attending to a special needs child or ailing parent. Everyone frets over their physical and financial well-being. Who among us isn’t anxious, stressed out, and off our game right now? Unfortunately, most Management 101 advice does not recognize that in times like these, the manager’s toolkit must expand in ways we haven’t seen before. I believe that a powerful, fundamental leadership strategy is being largely overlooked. It is, in fact, the most innately human one: Be kind.
According to a recent Gallup survey, less than half of employees (45 percent) feel strongly that their employer cares about their well-being. Many realize that this needs to change. Practicing active, habitual kindness can transform the remote workplace and it can start today. A little reassurance, compassionate listening, a conscious effort to validate people’s fear and confusion all go a long way. Employees and managers alike face unprecedented obstacles every day. In March and early April, as COVID-19 spread worldwide, a study by Mind Share Partners in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP found that 42 percent of respondents said their mental health had declined since the outbreak. Six months later, people’s anxiety, confusion, and despair are topics of near-daily reports in the news and on social media. Even if gestures of kindness and compassion were not woven into business as usual before the pandemic, they are essential now and going forward.
Unfortunately, the notion of kindness in the form of the simplest words and gestures often gets lost when CEOs and managers are in perpetual crisis management mode, struggling with layoffs, remote work technology, market woes, and a range of other frustrating disruptions. While confronting these challenges requires time and unique skill sets, kindness does not. The value and rewards of kindness have been touted by leaders as legendary as King Solomon and Desmond Tutu to latter-day executives like General Motors CEO Mary Barra, known for her inclusive, employee-centric style.
Kindness is teachable. Ritchie Davidson of the University of Wisconsin has compared practicing kindness and compassion to weight training: “People can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help,” he said. Great leaders attest that it is not a sign of weakness or relinquishing authority to be consistently kind and to offer encouragement and show genuine interest in employees’ mental well-being in punishing times. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, at once forceful and compassionate, remarked that one of the criticisms she’s faced over the years is that “I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” We’ve seen how stress can alter behaviour. It’s jarring for managers to see normally calm, high-functioning employees show signs of confusion and burnout. Teams are failing to meet deadlines and executives tell me they see an increase in petty conflicts and a parallel pandemic of short tempers, exposed nerves, and increased sensitivity to perceived slights.
It’s important to remember that kindness is contagious as well as calming. And it is healing: the Mayo Clinic urges us to “intentionally set a goal to be kinder to others. Express sincerely felt kindness to a co-worker.” Science has confirmed what we observe in our daily interactions. According to the Mayo Clinic, acts of kindness activate the part of our brain that makes us feel pleasure and “releases a hormone called oxytocin that helps modulate social interactions and emotion. Being kind is good for our own and our employees’ mental health.” And that translates to improved morale and performance.
Here’s what Psychology Today had to say about kind bosses: “They have been shown to increase morale, decrease absenteeism and retain employees longer. Kind bosses may even prolong the lives of their employees by decreasing their stress levels which improves cardiovascular health.” The pandemic is not a time for a stern, iron-fisted approach to leadership and management. The virus’s vast fallout demands a kinder, gentler approach. What can CEOs and managers do to infuse their leadership with kindness and empathy? Here are straightforward, effective ways to practice kindness as a matter of course:
- “I hear you”
- “Are you okay?”
- “What can we do to help?”
- “How are you managing these days?”
- “I’m here for you”
- “I know you’re doing the best you can”
- “Thank you.” Say it with sincerity and say it often
Along with empathy and emotional intelligence, kindness is one of the most essential soft skills for good leadership. But in these times, it might be the most crucial one. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, kindness is an investment that never fails.
7 Laws of Kind Leadership
My blog outlines my mantra, “To always be a Brave and Kind Leader and empower brave and kind leaders around me and across the world.” Research had shown that Kindness is a strength for leaders and that being kind makes us happier and our employees more productive! My 7 laws for being a kind leader –
- Kindly be Present – The best gift you can give yourself and others is to be truly there.
- Kindly be Compassionate – Be kind to yourself first and foremost and compassionate to others.
- Kindly show you Care – People want to be cared about and by showing you care about others at work and in the community makes a difference.
- Kindly show Gratitude – Always saying thank you to everyone who did something that you are grateful for whether it’s your team for doing great work or cafe worker making your coffee.
- Kindly help others – If you someone is struggling or needs support of guidance, offer your help.
- Kindly show Respect – Accept everyone for who they are no matter what and respect them as human beings.
- Kindly be Kind – Ralph Waldo Emerson may have said it best. “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
MAKE A START by improving YOUR Leadership Skills
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Get in touch today to learn more about building leadership skills and set yourself up for success!
Stay Kind. Stay Courageous.
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