Traditionally leadership and kindness aren’t two words you’d see together
Traditionally, leadership and kindness aren’t two words you’d see used together. But kindness in leadership is becoming spoken about more often. It’s also essential if you want to improve the engagement of your team and earn their trust and respect.
What is kindness?
In the Oxford dictionary, kindness is defined 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.’
So, if kindness is not a common trait that we identify with leadership, why is kindness in leadership so important?
When I’ve experienced kindness in leadership, it’s been when leaders are genuinely interested in their team members and show they care. And when I say this, I mean being intentional with authenticity and warmth. Because when this is felt by your team members, it generates a sense of support and trust. It also invites them to be themselves at work by creating psychological safety.
When we experience kindness, it triggers a release of Dopamine in our bodies, making us feel positive and energised, so it’s no wonder it’s been proven to have an impact on people’s happiness which leads to being 12% more productive.
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Does kindness belong in leadership?
When I speak to people about kindness, they tend to think of being there for others, 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. It’s also something we view as positive.
But when we talk about kindness being a key leadership quality, it can cause the more sceptical among us to scoff. We can sometimes dismiss it as a ‘woolly’ concept. I’ve even heard people say it’s possibly a sign of weakness. Especially in roles where hard decisions have to be made, and stretching targets need to be met.
However, in these situations, kindness becomes even more important.
It reminds me of the phrase “People before Process.”
Kindness in Leadership = People before Process
It starts with thinking about your team, and not just the process.
- Focusing on who your team really are. What inspires them, what are they good at, where do they want to progress to, etc. Showing you’re there for them, care for them, understand them, and value them.
- Giving clarity to your team members so they understand the task at hand, and expectations are clear, avoiding any room for misinterpretation. And if there is misinterpretation or underperformance, you share this with your team member. Remember can’t change / improve if they don’t know.
- Something as simple as a “thank-you” is generally linked to showing kindness. However, if you want to increase engagement and built trust within your team, I suggest switching from a generalised “thank-you” to considered, authentic gratitude. This is more about taking the time to acknowledge what your team member is doing well, as opposed to just saying “thanks.”
These are all steps in gaining the trust of your teams by demonstrating authenticity and showing 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.
And yes, it’s possible to meet KPIs, and show kindness in leadership. Just ask my clients!
Being kind doesn’t mean being weak
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.
Remember that kindness is linked to happiness, productivity, engagement, and trust. And to see all of this in the positive, it needs to be practiced daily. This is about role modelling authenticity, transparency, and warmth, and reminding yourself of ‘People before Process’.
Kind leaders do more than simply say they put people first – they show they do.
Give yourself a breather and take 5 minutes for you
The easy part is reading my blog …the harder part is choosing to change something after reading it. Give yourself a breather and take 5 minutes for you. Reflect on what you’re taking away from my blog, and more importantly what needs to change. I’m challenging you to make one change this week to lead with more kindness.
So …what will it be?
I’d love to hear how you plan to lead with more kindness, so let me know in the comments or send me an email email@example.com
Want to lead with more kindness?
You’ll love my one-to-one, personalised coaching. Support from someone outside your organisation who’ll give you the space you need to speak your mind, listen without judgement, encourage you to open up and listen to your inner self, and look at things from different perspectives.
Remember with leadership, it all starts with you! It’s time to stop and look within yourself. The answers are already in your head, you just need the time and space for them to emerge.
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