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08.06.08

Can You Lead With Kindness?

Leading With Kindness
Bill Baker and Michael O’Malley have done a service with their book, Leading With Kindness. As awkward as that title might seem at first blush, the authors aren’t suggesting that kind leaders have a soft personality, or are sissies, or are well liked at all times. (“You can be hard-nosed and kind.”) Leading with kindness is not a hot-tub leadership where the participants pass the torch singing Kumbaya. In fact they write, “They muddle through life much like the rest of us, mostly unnoticed except by those around them who are keenly aware that they are in the presence of someone special.”

(That last sentence reminds me that great leaders are not great because they are super-human. Instead, they are ordinary but growth-oriented people with character that have chosen to make a commitment to a bold course of action that is in the best interest of those they serve despite the odds.)

The authors add:
The fact is, kindness isn’t always nice. It pushes others to do better; it asks them to try out things that they are uncertain they can accomplish; it requires them to engage in activities that they are not sure they will like. Another fact is this: Folks don’t always take kindly to kindness. Leaders, even great ones, cannot save everybody.
Armed with that knowledge, you can safely leave the dust-jacket on when you read the book and confidently move on absorbing the many great insights the book has to offer. The book is research-based, practical and realistic. They suggest that:
  • Kind leaders are framers. They reinforce expectations for employees by establishing clear boundaries, standards of conduct, challenging goals, and organizational values.
  • Kind leaders are interpreters. They tell the truth about how each worker and the entire company is doing. They help individuals adapt to change and make sense of their efforts.
  • Kind leaders are enablers. They stimulate calculated “stretch” and risk-taking, without sheltering people from their own mistakes. They fight cynicism and facilitate growth.
Baker and O’Malley ascribe six attributes and behaviors to leading with kindness:
  • Compassion … Staying in touch with workers’ everyday challenges and problems.
  • Integrity … Reliably acting on established values and keeping promises and confidences.
  • Gratitude … Appreciating others for their essential help in keeping a business going.
  • Authenticity … Being honest about being oneself and not playing for the crowd.
  • Humility … Tempering optimism with realism and accepting responsibility for failures.
  • Humor … Tapping the power of laughter to diminish anxieties and bolster group cohesion.
In the end, it gets down to character, maturity and a genuine respect for other people. Kindness is a way of viewing the world and it can only come from within.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:58 PM
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