Kind leaders are needed in the workplace, not the niceness that pervades our culture. Kindness comes from a place of knowing we are loved and has an internal motivation. Niceness is externally motivated and tries to please, receive affirmation, or be seen in a certain way.
Leading with Kindness is actually the name of a book co-authored by William F. Baker and Michael O’Malley. It uses scholarly reports, interviews with leaders, and personal observations to document “how good people consistently get superior results” in management by using kindness. That’s in sharp contrast to the “winning at all costs” model for leadership behavior.
The authors define key attributes of kind leaders as humility, authenticity, gratitude, integrity, humor, and compassion. If you know someone who models these attributes they probably stand out from other leaders in the organization.
Kind leaders do three things exceptionally well.
- They set expectations.
- They provide honest assessments through feedback.
- They promote growth.
These behaviors are challenging to practice since workplace cultures are often populated with persons who are cynical, frequently blame others, and sometimes openly battle change.
Leading with kindness is an excellent approach to combat this helpless environment. When a kind leader’s key attributes are on display through his or her behaviors, the culture can become more open, resilient, and engaged.
It’s ironic that a book must make the case for what every person longs for; to be loved and treated with respect and dignity. Kind leaders are self-confident, self-controlled, and self-aware; the perfect role model for this compassionate, decent, generous, patient, and helpful approach.
How does being kind equate with results? Kindness is about how you treat others. When expectations are clear, performance can improve. If feedback is honest and immediate, behaviors can change and employees know what they are doing well and what needs improved. If personal growth is encouraged, employees will be more accountable for their actions.
Aspiring to become a kind leader isn’t about following a recipe or checking attributes off a to-do-list. Leading with kindness is a way of life; a leadership style embodied through daily interactions with those you serve.
Kindness shows you care and you simply can’t fake it.