Lead with Kindness: You Will Get Better Results

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Home > Articles > Lead with Kindness: You Will Get Better Results

 Lead with Kindness: You Will Get Better Results

William Wan | Today's Manager
September 1, 2018

Lead with Kindness: You Will Get Better Results 1

Kindness is good for business. Kind leaders are able to focus on both the bottom-line and the needs of their people, and finish first with the right approach and strategy.

Kindness does not spontaneously come to mind when we think of business or leadership. One might even believe that being kind may hamper your progress at work or cause others to take advantage of you. However, I would submit that strong leadership and kindness are not mutually exclusive.

In Leading with Kindness, the authors stated at the outset that “In order for companies to improve, the people of the organisations have to become smarter and more resourceful and work together more effectively over time. For this to work, people actually have to care about their work, the company, and one another. This requires the expert orchestration of a kind leader.” 2

The most successful leaders treat their team members with kindness. They realise that kindness is motivating, earns the trust and respect of their people, and leads to better results.
But first, you might ask, what is a kind leader?

A kind leader is not a permissive person or pushover. 3 Being a kind leader does not mean that you don’t fire people. It doesn’t mean that you don’t make tough decisions that will impact the bottom-line. It simply means that you are focussed as much on the delivery of your message as you are on the message itself.

Kindness is also not likeability. When you focus on being liked, you will instinctively try to please the people you are leading. And you will end up bending over backwards to make everyone happy. You will never have the courage to do what needs to be done. 4

Mr John Keyser, founder of Common Sense Leadership, defines a kind leader as “being a person of character and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the learning, growth, and success of others.” 5

Kind leaders relate to their people with genuine care, dedicated to helping them succeed. We rise by lifting others. This manner of leadership invigorates the culture of our organisations and inspires our people to also care about one another, valuing team accomplishments over personal achievement and recognition.

How then does kindness contribute to strong and effective leadership?

Firstly, kindness engages and motivates employees. Researchers from New York University Stern School of Business 6 found that when leaders are self-sacrificing, their employees experience being moved and inspired. As a consequence, the employees feel more loyal and committed and are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees.

Secondly, kindness earns the trust and respect of people. Researchers from Harvard Business School 7 have shown that leaders who project kindness and warmth (even before establishing their competence) are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. One reason is trust.

For a team of colleagues, trust can increase productivity by altering how we react to motivation to achieve results. Trust also plays a surprising role in communication—we are more likely to hold back our own feelings about an issue when we don’t trust the person we are sharing information with.

To be a highly effective leader, we want to strive to earn and maintain the respect and trust of our team members. When we have their trust and respect, they will believe in you and the organisation’s cause, and do their best for the team.

There is no doubt that kindness is good for business. Kind leaders are able to focus on both the bottom-line and on the needs of their people. And contrary to popular belief, with the right approach and strategy, kind leaders actually finish first.

1 Edited by Haskins G, Thomas M, Johri L, 2018. Kindness in Leadership, Routledge.

2 Baker WF, O’Malley M, 2008. Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results, AMACOM, 21.

3 Kerpen C, 18 November 2013. Kindness Does Not Equate To Weakness In Leadership, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/carriekerpen/2013/11/18/kindness-does-not-equate-to-weakness-in-leadership/#60efd09a42b9.

4 Nieuwhof C, 3 Hard but powerful truths about likeability and leadership, https://careynieuwhof.com/3-hard-powerful-truths-likeability-leadership/.

5 Common Sense Leadership, About John Keyser, http://www.commonsenseleadership.com/about/.

6 Bosworth J, 4 January 2018. Lead with Kindness: You’ll get better results, http://www.incourageleading.com/lead-with-kindness-youll-get-better-results/.

7 Cuddy AJC, Kohut M, Neffinger J, July to August 2013. Connect, Then Lead, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2013/07/connect-then-lead.



​Dr William Wan is a Justice of the Peace and General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM). He was a senior partner of a regional law firm and a managing director of a psychometric company headquartered in the USA.


Copyright © 2018 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 3, 2018

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