Kindness is not softness, it is not weakness, and it doesn’t always have to be nice.
In fact, sometimes kindness requires you to be tough and direct. I have seen the misinterpretation of this word negatively impact many organizations.
Leaders, in an attempt to be kind, move under-performing employees from position to position in the hopes that they will finally succeed or at least survive. Others allow deadlines to pass without repercussion or avoid having that fierce conversation that is needed in order to drive improvement and productivity.
Many of these leaders have adopted this style of kindness out of a reaction from working with or for a tyrannical ruler. They have witnessed how ineffective fear is in motivating people and driving an organization forward.
However, in an effort to be the antithesis of what they witnessed, they too have become ineffective.
Some are just new to their leadership role and worry about being liked. They lack the self-confidence needed and therefore, spend much of their time trying to please who that work for them.
But, neither of these is true kindness.
People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.
Kindness requires empathy, honesty and trust. It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.
Feedback, constructive criticism and accountability are all forms of kindness. People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.
Leadership Looking Glass
It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.
It may be counterintuitive, but letting someone go from their job could be a great act of kindness. For that individual, it very well may be that you are releasing them from the pain of being in the wrong job, giving them the freedom to finally pursue one that better fits their skills.
It could also be that difficult but teachable moment, where someone with a sense of entitlement finally realizes in fact they are not. Although no longer employed by you, they are now much better prepared for their next employment opportunity.
Maybe most importantly, it is an act of kindness to the rest of the organization.
It can be so demoralizing to be hard-working, a driven performer and not see those who aren’t be held accountable for their lack of performance.
When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering.
No one relishes having difficult conversations or enjoys taking tough action. When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering. But, avoiding those conversations and failing to take the needed action can be far more damaging in the long run.
Not only damaging to that individual, but also, to the efficacy of your own leadership and to the organization as a whole. Kindness requires that you push past your own discomfort and insecurity to take the needed action that best serves the interest of the company you help to lead.
You do not need to be nice to be kind. But, you must make people feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.
It is also essential that you always act with integrity and honesty and, that you have the conversations and take the action needed to best serve the organization you represent.
If you do all that, you are in fact a kind leader.
Remember: You do not need to be nice to be kind.
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