Think about your most memorable bosses. I’m willing to bet the first person that comes to mind is probably the worst one, and the “kind” boss probably came in second or third. This is because our memories are tied to emotions, and emotions can be both good (positive) and bad (negative). The strongest reaction is usually (but not always) associated with the worse emotion, so the worst boss usually pops up over the nice boss.
In the recently published “Emotional Intelligence” article on the eSkill blog, we learned that several successful billionaires were not known as nice guys or kind leaders. However, they are among the richest, most powerful people in the world. When you consider all of the angles, it makes some sense. A part of us likes the “bad boy” or “bad girl” image – for some reason, we’re drawn to it. And we hear all too often that “nice guys finish last” and “good girls are boring.” Has anyone ever told you “you’re too nice”? What does that even mean, and can nice people succeed in business?
Kindness as a quality or characteristic doesn’t always equate to power and wealth, but it’s not unfathomable either. Kind leaders have to make tough decisions just like any other leader, but it’s the delivery and way that they execute and communicate those tough decisions that make them special. They manage to incorporate sympathy, care, and respect – even when they have to fire someone, lay off staff members, or address hostile situations.
There are a few books on the subject of leadership kindness, like The Power of Nice – How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness, by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, and Adam Grant’s Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. And there are real-life examples of kind leaders we only seem to hear positive things about, for instance, Oprah Winfrey. She’s a media mogul with billions of dollars who owns several companies, yet you only hear kind stories about her and her leadership style. Warren Buffet is another example of a billionaire businessman we only hear nice, kind, and positive stories about. I would say Warren and Oprah are pretty powerful people.
Anyone can be kind for a moment, but real kindness is more than a gesture, an act, or an instance; it is a way of life. Truly kind individuals are kind all of the time: at the office, at home, and in public. They make it a part of their lives, and it permeates the things they read and watch, the music they listen to, and even the people they surround themselves with. The people who believe kindness is associated with weakness are missing out on the advantages that come through leading with kindness.
IS powerful: Contrary to popular belief, kind leaders can be powerful. In fact, they can be more powerful and influential than those who do not use kindness as a leadership model. President Obama is one of the most powerful men in the world, and by all accounts (both Democratic and Republicans agree!) he is a very polite and kind man.
IS contagious. When managers, bosses, or leaders make kindness their primary leadership style, it has a positive impact on customers and business partners. It’s hard to be a jerk in a sea of kindness.
IS part of the culture/brand. Again, kindness leadership spreads throughout a company and its culture, so it affects all employees. It impacts everything from the products you create to the services you provide, to the delivery of your brand messaging.
IS calming. When you work for a kind leader and you know that he or she uses the principles of kindness, you worry less about your job status. You’re not suspicious of their actions or motives, and you are more confident in their ability to be a leader and take care of you as an employee.
We don’t usually hear about kind leadership examples or models, because kindness does not make the headlines. And that’s okay with kind leaders because they do not practice kindness for the attention or the limelight; they simply do it because it feels good and it works for them. In fact, kind people are often extremely modest and shy; they prefer to shine the light on others instead of grabbing it for themselves. And in this world of fame seekers, it is refreshing to follow in the steps of thoughtful and kind leaders.