Why kindness in leadership has nothing to do with being nice

To fully explain this concept, I first need to talk about the difference between the notion of kindness and niceness.

Two very different things, usually misunderstood and merged into one.

Leadership with kindness

Kindness is growing as a concept in leadership but it is still not defined officially. However, in my book A 'Culture of Kindness', we pave the way for the theory and explain how we can all easily adopt this theory to enhance leadership and improve the workplace for all. Kindness is so often thought of as being nice - and in fact, they are almost opposites. It is the question I am asked the most when I work with organisations on cultural change and this is how I best describe it in my workshops.

Imagine every day you walk to work. You go into the same coffee shop, buying a coffee and a croissant each time. On this one particular day, you notice a man sat outside begging. You walk in and decide that you will get him a coffee and a croissant too. You feel pleased with yourself as you are treating him as an equal. You are showing him that you care for him as much as you would care for yourself. We are the same.

You take it out to him, pass it to him and go on your way.

Let us be clear, this was not kindness. Yes, it was a nice thing to do but it had very little to do with kindness.

Kindness would have been sitting with the man to ask him what he needed. Maybe when you speak to him you discover that he has already eaten that day and what he really needed was some shoes. Maybe you knew someone who would kindly donate shoes to this man. Maybe you have some spare ones, barely worn that could do with a new home.

That is kindness. You gave that man time, listened to him, empathised, connected and had the courage to stand out in a crowd and do more. You were able to be nice by being kind.

Where kindness in leadership is important?

Kindness is not fluffy, I will say it 1000 more times no doubt this year alone. Telling your staff member they are doing a great job when they feel down, even though they and you know they are doing a terrible job, is not kind, heck at that stage it's not even nice.

Kindness is not speaking about the work but instead asking them about what is going on at home. Asking them how are they feeling and what they need to do their job. You have to consider you are that stranger to the homeless man.

Be present, listen, ask questions and then take action and do something nice.


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