“Be Kind…” – President George H. W. Bush

Kindness is NOT a word generally associated with great leaders.

Ask a randomly selected group of people to articulate the top 10 character traits of great leaders and you’ll probably hear words like integrity… strong… visionary… courageous… resilient… authentic… and results-driven.

To be sure, these are all important qualities of great leadership.  While compassion might make the list, it’s highly unlikely you will discover kindness among the most significant leadership attributes.

Most people just don’t think kindness or a “generosity of spirit” is crucial for great leaders.

I beg to differ.

Kindness does matter.

Kindness matters because people need to feel that their contributions are recognized and appreciated.  People need to believe their leaders truly care about them as people, not just as employees or interchangeable nameless parts in a large organization.

I am convinced that Kindness is a fundamental element of great leadership.

Consider this remarkable excerpt from a wonderful new book by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), 412.

On the eve of his crushing defeat to Bill Clinton in 1992, President George H.W. Bush wrote in his personal diary:

“Now to bed, prepared to face tomorrow: Be strong, be kind, be generous of spirit, be understanding and let people know how grateful you are. Don’t get even. Comfort the ones I’ve hurt and let down. Say your prayers and ask God’s understanding and strength.  Finish with a smile and some gusto and do what’s right and finish strong.”[1]

A classy statement from a very classy leader.


[1] Original quote from:  All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings, George H.W. Bush (New York: Lisa Drew/Scribner, 1999), 572.

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