When we think of the traits of successful business leaders, what first comes to mind? Assertiveness? Decisiveness? The ability to command a room and take control?
While there are undoubted merits in all of the above, there is a danger that we start to value these more than the attribute which can perhaps provide us with one of the greatest competitive advantages of all.
That attribute is kindness.
Transforming our culture
I’m almost certain there will be a few people who will have read that sentence and dismissed it out of hand, but hear me out on this one. Kindness isn’t something we typically prioritise when it comes to bringing employees, managers and senior leaders into our organisations, yet it is one of the few personality traits which can genuinely transform an organisational culture.
Let’s think about it for a moment. We’ve all had those times when someone we work with has gone out of their way to do something for us for no other reason than to be kind. Perhaps we’ve been struggling to hit a project deadline, and a colleague from another team has offered to stay behind after work to help us get it across the line. Maybe we’re struggling with our confidence when it comes to an upcoming presentation, and our fellow worker has asked if we’d like them to help us run it through.
How does that make us feel? Valued? Supported? Cared about? Like we would want to go out of our way to help that person in future?
It likely makes us feel all of those things, and more. And that really is at the heart of why kindness is such an important feature of the very best organisations out there. You can fill your businesses with leaders who are assertive and decisive and confident… and you will no doubt get things done. But will you be getting everything done that you could be? Will the people in your organisation feel truly invested in you as an employer, to the point that they will go out of their way to deliver above and beyond and delight your customers and clients?
Assertiveness and decisiveness and confidence doesn’t get you that. People who are told what to do will do that task, but only to an extent. Until you’ve shown them that the business – and the people who work within that business – truly care about them, you’ve not got their emotional buy in to really want to deliver. And that’s where kindness comes in.
I have worked for a number of employers and for a number of different managers over the years, and the ones which have stayed with me, every single time, are those who demonstrated kindness. And, not only demonstrated it, but valued kindness in others, and saw it as just as valuable an attribute as any of the others I have described above.
The human response
Businesses are filled with people, and those people are humans. As human beings, we respond best to being treated with compassion, not with criticism. I would urge every business leader reading this to take a long hard look at whether your organisation truly values kindness as a trait, and encourages everyone who works for you to demonstrate it on a daily basis. Because if you don’t, then I can promise you that your organisation is almost certainly not going to achieve its true potential.
In a world where we can choose to be anything, making that choice to be kind is one of the most important things we can do.