Kindness in Leadership
Leadership and kindness aren’t two words you often see used together. But kindness in leadership is essential if you want to improve the engagement of your team, and earn their trust and respect.
Kindness is defined in the Oxford dictionary as:
“the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”
If you asked a group of people to list the top five attributes for a great leader, kindness probably wouldn’t feature on anybody’s list. You’d probably see ‘honesty’ ‘vision’ and ‘determination,’ but you’d be unlikely to see ‘kind.’
Yet if kindness is not a common trait that we identify with leadership, why is kindness in leadership so important?
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What does kindness in leadership look like?
When you think of kindness, you might think of sharing your belongings, spending time volunteering, or just offering a kind word or a cup of coffee to someone who needs it. It’s normally a trait we associate with the people in our families or friendship circles rather than leaders.
Kindness in leadership can take different forms, but common behaviours from my own clients that demonstrate kindness are:
- Championing inclusion
- Showing compassion for and empathy with people’s personal issues
- Treating every member of your organisation with respect
- Having a personal touch in your communications with others
- Being generous with your time and listening actively to people
- Appreciating and recognising success in others
This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are many other behaviours that demonstrate kindness in leadership. Usually it’s a combination of these behaviours that would lead others to identify you as a ‘kind’ leader.
How does kindness help in leadership?
Leaders who display kindness are usually very people-focused. They champion values in their organisation linked to respect, fairness and equality. These are the kinds of leaders that do more than simply say they put people first – they show that they do.
Research into organisations whose leaders put kindness first has shown that they have higher engagement and motivation levels, higher employee retention, and more innovation and creativity among employees.
The fact is that your teams value kindness. It makes people feel genuinely appreciated and instils a kind of loyalty in people. This is a much greater motivator than salary and benefits alone.
Demonstrating kindness as a leader will build trust among your teams. When people feel they will be treated fairly and equitably, they will be much more open and honest with you – allowing you to get to the root cause of any performance issues quickly.
Is there such a thing as too much kindness in leadership?
Saying kindness is a key leadership quality, can cause the more sceptical among us to scoff. It can sometimes be dismissed as a ‘woolly’ concept. I’ve heard people say it’s possibly even a sign of weakness in a role where hard decisions sometimes have to be made, and stretching targets need to be met.
However, in these situations, kindness becomes even more important. Start with gaining the trust of your teams and demonstrate kindness through your behaviours. Then, they’ll be more open to perceived difficult messages or changes because they’ll trust you to do what’s best for them, and not just the bottom line.
Being kind doesn’t mean you have to avoid making the hard decisions or come across as weak.
It simply means considering the impact your decisions have on people and taking steps to ensure that they are treated fairly and with empathy.
In fact, being able to display kind leadership will only make you a stronger leader.
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