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Kindness Is Key

By Sunil Deshmukh, CMA
July 1, 2021

While there are many qualities that a leader should embody, kindness is one of the most important for achieving success.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the human side of leading a team or organization. employees who are struggling with stress, illness, or the loss of loved ones appreciate leadership qualities such as kindness, flexibility, and openness. During the pandemic, corporate leaders were expected to show a different style of leadership that’s more empathetic. Kindness is infectious and contributes to team cohesiveness and employee loyalty to the organization.

 

The popular perception is that powerful leaders are tough, strong, decisive, rational, and results-driven. In business, too often kindness is seen as weakness. Cutthroat professionals with a survival-of-the-fittest mind-set neglect kindness and fail to develop that key leadership trait. In the corporate setting, most leaders have experienced moments when an act of kindness would’ve improved their decision-making process.

 

Many forward-thinking leaders have realized that inflexible, aggressive leadership has gone out of fashion, replaced by a kinder, more humanistic approach to leadership. Kindness in leadership will have a positive impact across an organization. Kind leaders treat others with respect, communicate with compassion, listen intently, share information transparently, accommodate employees’ personal issues, offer advice, encourage subordinates’ career growth, motivate employees without resorting to negativity, adapt to change, recognize employees’ talent and contributions, and prioritize fairness and inclusivity.

 

To lead with kindness, we must have compassion, which provides employees with the sense of security that they need to perform; integrity, which means acting based on values, keeping promises, and combating biases; gratitude, meaning to appreciate others’ work; authenticity, which means that leaders must show that they’re genuine; humility, which means remaining grounded and down-to-earth; and humor, which eases tension and boosts morale.

 

PRACTICE KINDNESS

 

The positive impact of kind leaders on employees is increased happiness, motivation, commitment, engagement, loyalty, and productivity. Kindness also leads to greater team stability, creativity, and innovation. Kind leaders also positively impact their company’s reputation, helping it to attract and retain customers, the best talent, and strong business partners.

 

Practicing kindness in the workplace isn’t a competitive disadvantage—quite the opposite. Many successful organizations practice kindness, helping to cultivate happier employees, a more engaged workforce, and enhanced outputs.

 

Kindness in the workplace can also create a strong bond among employees, organizational stability, consistent teamwork, and improved performance.

 

In contrast, leaders’ rudeness or lack of control over their temper can have a negative impact on organizations; incivility or arrogance can potentially infect teams with bad morale and a negative attitude, and performance will suffer.

 

As children, we’re taught to treat others how we would want to be treated, but some tend to forget this as adults. It’s much easier to be rude than to be kind. Often, leaders surrounded by yes-men don’t have a feedback mechanism to realize how rude they are.

 

A simple step that organizations can take to develop a culture of kindness is defining the behaviors you expect employees to practice, using words such as “friendly,” “helpful,” “compassionate,” and “respectful.”

 

A common tendency is for leaders to react to a frustrating situation or disappointing results with anger but not respond to employees’ thoughts and feelings. Think before you react, keep calm, give yourself time to reflect, try to keep your emotions under control, and allow your employees to express themselves honestly.

 

Effective leaders give employees transparent feedback, discuss problems without pointing fingers, encourage career growth, find ways to motivate colleagues, and take time to do small acts of kindness.

 

CREATE A CULTURE OF KINDNESS

 

Most leaders don’t think of culture first but rather focus on their company’s products, technology, and services. Culture is generally seen as an afterthought, and those organizations inevitably suffer.

 

Creating a culture of kindness takes time, and it needs to be nurtured to be sustainable. Culture is the combination and culmination of leaders’ decision making and communication of values and priorities over time. If you have a culture of kindness at your organization, then it’s likely that your employees will have less emotional baggage and more focus on their jobs.

 

GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

 

Some companies are doing community service or donating to charities as a part of their corporate social responsibility, giving employees a chance to serve the community and society. Internal and external acts of corporate kindness can be incorporated into company values.

 

Most people want autonomy and flexibility to work from home and create their own work routine. That creates trust among employees, encouraging them to work more efficiently, which improves performance.

 

Employees look to their leaders’ example to define the organization’s culture. Well-trained leaders who walk the talk and embody the organization’s values will inspire respect and help to develop a culture of kindness.

 

BE A KIND LEADER

 

A kind leader is honest, forthright, and transparent in communication with colleagues, even during difficult situations and transitions. A leader also condemns unethical or irresponsible behavior. A kind leader encourages others to take responsibility for completing work tasks, empowers them to take ownership of their role, and supports them.

 

Kind leaders realize that mistakes happen, recognize that people are central to the success of any organization, promote fairness, and consider various viewpoints. Kind leaders are more respected than rude, temperamental leaders are. Kindness in leadership brings stability and inspires better employee performance and retention. An organization with kindness as a core value is likely to perform much better than an organization with a dog-eat-dog ethos. Embedding simple acts of kindness into the culture can create a long-term positive impact on employees and stakeholders.

 

Sunil Deshmukh, CMA, is a leadership coach, mentor, and independent director. He’s also a member of IMA’s Mumbai Chapter. You can reach him at sd@sunil-deshmukh.com.
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