Kindness in the workplace is cool

What happens when we put kindness at the centre of our leadership?
By Jane McCarroll

My mother has always taught me that you’ll get more bees with honey than you do with a big stick. And, I’ve always operated with a spirit of kindness and paying it forward.  What happens when we put kindness at the centre of our leadership? There’s plenty of hard evidence that kind leaders get better results. Kindness also combats meanness, and reduces bullying – which sadly, is prevalent in our workplaces.

What can we do to combat that? Acts of kindness rarely cost anything, and can improve productivity in the workplace. Isn’t it in everyone’s best interests to do everything we can to ensure our people are happy? 

Kindness is contagious. When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind – it’s how we raise our kids to be compassionate humans and, as leaders, it’s a conscious choice to be moment-by-moment, to slow down and find calm in the chaos.

It helps us to lead with truth and clarity moving our actions away from individuality towards kindness. Kindness is a value not to be confused with weakness or lack of strength. In a world of selfies, status updates, emojis and self-promotion leadership grounded upon kindness sounds revolutionary. Let’s do it.

And, for the business case; Emma Seppala, Ph.D, a research scientist at Stanford University, details several studies how being a kind boss is good for business.

She highlights that a kind leader may actually be good for “employees” hearts citing a study from the Karolinska Institute that has shown a correlation between a leader’s qualities and reduced incidences of heart disease in employees. Seppala also notes that employees feel greater trust with someone who is kind and in turn they are inspired by kindness to be kind themselves. Seppala’s article also shows that kind leaders get it done. It takes a kind and balanced leader to know how to bring out the best of their people. This balance prevents burnout, builds culture and gets results. See more

They say it can be tough at the top and I say it can also be tough in the middle. Am I sharing my wisdom from running several international organisations and leading teams of many? No. I’m writing from my personal experience and from being in the workforce for 20 plus years and being a mum for 10 plus. My point is we have opportunities to lead whatever we do – no matter what our age is, or at what stage of our career and life we are at.

What advice would we generally give our younger selves? Having asked a few colleagues and friends, a lot said they’d be kinder on themselves. I’d say that too.

In the end, only kindness matters. I look for common values with everyone I work with and everyone smiles in the same language. Be kind. Always.

Beyond the business case to support kindness and the ripple effect the results of leading with kindness can bring the Dalai Lama reminds us:

“…because my future and yours is connected with everyone else’s. So we have to take seriously our concern for all of humanity. When we focus on our individuality, humanity inevitably suffers, each one of us will suffer.”

Jane McCarroll is the marketing and membership manager at IMNZ. The Institute of Management New Zealand. Helping leaders step up and lead since 1946.


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