Kindness. It’s not really the first thing you think of when someone says “leader”, is it? We typically picture someone who’s powerful, commanding, and charismatic, but rarely do we envision the kind, unassuming figure that sits among the team, wholeheartedly engaged in their lives.
For some reason, there’s an expectation with work environments that personal lives should be checked at the office door and people should show up ready to execute. The societal construct of leadership tell us that separating the person from the profession will result in better performance, but this is not what the research shows. Productivity actually declines when we aim to compartmentalize people instead of holistically engage them.
The truth is, we can leverage the potential in people better when we lean into the complexity of who they are; when we make them feel seen, heard, and validated; and when we learn what drives them. Does this sound like a lot of work? It is. But dear leader, you will either spend your time connecting and caring for people or you will spend your time correcting and cleaning up poor performance. The choice is yours.
There are probably many marks of a kind leader, but these three stand out to me.
1. Kind Leaders Assume the Best
Kind leaders always give the benefit of the doubt and make the most generous assumptions of others possible. When they get a distasteful vibe from someone, they don’t draw back into accusation or self-protection. They allow space for that person to not be at their best. Maybe that person just learned they’re facing an outrageous home repair bill, or maybe they just received word that their mom’s condition has worsened, or perhaps they’re rattled from almost getting hit by a car on their way into work that morning.
You never know what’s going on with someone. You don’t have control over how they respond to the unexpected stresses of life, but you do have the power to stretch a wide net of safety and grace for them to process through it. On the other side of this is a person who’s a little healthier and a little more emotionally aware for next time. Their growth is your gain if you’re willing to spend the time.
2. Kind Leaders Show Consistent Behavior
Kind leaders have given intentional thought to the type of person they’re going to be to the world around them. Their behavior doesn’t change when the circumstances get tough or conflict arises. They don’t let their feelings dictate a reaction; they let their core values formulate a response. This demonstrates a consistency people can’t help but trust in and feel safe around.
3. Kind Leaders Empower Others
Kind leaders live for the growth and success of others. They often take the blame and give the credit. They’re not afraid to hold people accountable but they’re also ready to take ownership of where they failed to set clear expectations. They don’t just expect execution, they encourage contribution. They personalize their leadership to honor the intricacies and varying capacities of each individual in order to set them up for the highest success.
I truly believe the reign of kind leadership is something we’ll see in our lifetime. What other traits would you say characterize a kind leader?