What is Kindness? Why is leading with kindness so important?

Kindness is for suckers…

Kindness is for losers…

Kindness is for weaklings…

Kindness has no place in the rough and tumble world of business.

And now we have proof.

Ripped from the headlines of an August 15, 2011 Wall Street Journal article, “Hey, You!  Mean People Earn More, Study Finds” and “It may not pay to be nice in the workplace” – is the definitive justification for eradicating, once and for all, kindness from the pantheon of leadership values.

If you truly buy into these convoluted and ridiculous bromides, then STOP READING this article!  Go back to plotting your next move for conquering the world – all by yourself.

Leadership is about forging meaningful and lasting relationships.  Caring is the sine qua non for all positive relationships.  Followers will follow only if they believe that a leader truly cares about them.  Kindness is at the core of caring for others.

What is kindness?

Kindness has been described as being:

  • Compassionate
  • Considerate
  • Decent
  • Generous
  • Humane
  • Helpful
  • Patient
  • Thoughtful
  • Tolerant
  • Understanding

The opposite of kindness is:

  • Callous
  • Cold-hearted
  • Cruel
  • Greedy
  • Harsh
  • Heartless
  • Inconsiderate
  • Mean
  • Selfish
  • Vicious

Many misconceptions surround the belief that kindness is critical for leadership greatness.  Among the most pernicious of these faulty ideas is the “either/or” paradox.

Either a leader can be tough or kind… hard-nosed or kind… analytical or kind… passionate or kind.  These statements are all false equivalents.

A great leader can be both tough AND kind.  A great leader can set high performance standards AND be kind.  A great leader can hold people accountable for their actions/goals AND be kind.  Kindness and toughness are not mutually exclusive.

Kindness is HOW you treat people.  Being kind doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards or not expect the best from people.  Kindness means showing you care by treating people with fairness, respect, decency, and compassion.

Another popular misconception is that people don’t need praise or recognition.  Doing a good job should be praise enough by itself.

Not true.

People crave appreciation.  They want to know that what they do matters.  They want to feel like they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.  Mother Theresa once said, “there is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread.”

Great leaders find a way to fulfill this universal need for appreciation.  They embrace the belief that small gestures of kindness – the smiles, gestures, compliments, and favors – can change lives and accomplish miracles.

A Final Thought –

“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. (1935)

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