Originally published April 4, 2017
I like to read and re-read blogs on leadership. They are helpful reminders on what I need to keep doing (or not doing) and where there are opportunities for personal growth. Although expressed from different perspectives, the articles often cover the same attributes or competencies that we rightfully expect from good leaders.
I am struck by how often we need to be reminded to listen. Sound too basic? If you are preparing your response when someone is talking, are you fully listening? The answer is NO, and I have to remind myself of this on a regular basis.
And, of course, we are reminded that we need to express our recognition. But, too much attention is paid to recognizing concrete accomplishments and not enough to existential recognition: acknowledging someone exists by saying hello or non-verbally recognizing their presence.
I am glad to see more articles/blogs focus on caring. If you don’t care for your employees, they won’t care for you. So, some of our caring, if we are honest, is self-serving.
But absent from the blogs that I have read is one attribute that feels endangered in our fast-moving, highly-polarized and sometimes cruel world: kindness. By kindness, I mean warm and gentle thoughtfulness with no expectation of a return on investment.
A casual smile. Picking up coffee for a colleague. Pulling back when you know someone needs space. Leaning in when you sense someone needs to talk. Asking someone if they are feeling better. Looking the person in the eyes with attention and not agitation.
We all have heard the expression “random acts of kindness.” That we need to be reminded to do them randomly speaks to their deficit in the ordinary course.
Being kind to people means more than caring about their concerns or appreciating their contribution. It means truly recognizing the humanity of a colleague without thinking about how what you do may benefit you.
As leaders, we need to do more than perform random acts of kindness. Kindness needs to be in our DNA. That does not mean being weak. And, it does not mean avoiding hard decisions. One of the best HR people with whom I have the pleasure to work was thanked after she terminated someone. The terminated employee thanked her for her kindness.
The antithesis of kindness is bullying. When I see bullies, I see weak snowflakes - those who can feel good about themselves only when they make others feel less than them.
When I see kindness, I usually see strength, someone strong and secure enough that they can risk being and being seen as more gentle.
And that leads to the ultimate question: Are you strong enough to be kinder?
Originally published April 4, 2017.