“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible” - Dalai Lama.
In observing the very best leaders over the years they all have one overwhelming attribute. This observation has held true in multiple organizations, with different management cultures, over several decades in the workforce. This has also been demonstrated in interviews with famous leaders in large companies. The very top leaders are kind. They only comprise 1% of the leadership team in most organizations but they are the most successful. I believe this is true because the nice people rise to the top - because people want to work them.
The dictionary defines ‘kind’ as: “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person.” ‘Benevolent’ being defined as “desiring to help others.”
So kind leaders think of others more than themselves. Kind leaders have a strong desire to help others. It's the golden rule of management: manage others as you would want to be managed. Or the quote the great management guru Will Smith: "If you aren't making someone else's life better you are wasting your time."
How so does one become a kind leader? Is being a kind leader learn-able? I have noticed that kind leaders are:
2. Emotionally intelligent.
The good news is that all of these attributes are learn-able.
If you spend time with kind leaders you will notice they are fully present, they give the people they are with their full and undivided attention. They practice active listening. They put away distractions like email and phones. They show they are listening with their non verbal communication. They don't judge. They wait until the person is finished to respond. They listen to listen not to respond. They use their body language and eye contact to convey their presence. Zen Habits has a great guide to learn more about being present.
The next thing one notices about kind leaders is they highly emotionally intelligent. They are aware of their emotional state and manage it appropriately. They are also aware of other people's emotional states and interact with them accordingly. They know their own triggers and make sure they don't affect their decisions. They show they care about others with their words and actions. They are have strong empathy for others. They appreciate that people are different not difficult and that those differences help the organization grow. They are respectful to everyone from the cleaner to the CEO. They are solution oriented and ask 'how' before saying 'yes' or 'no.' They can take constructive feedback. They are excellent at navigating social situations. 6 seconds.org is a great website to learn more about emotional intelligence.
Finally, kind leaders encourage others. They are positive and supportive. You walk away from a conversation with a kind leader feeling you can do whatever you need to. They are confident enough to encourage confidence in others. Kind leaders are coaches and help you find the answer yourself instead of just telling you what you ought to do. They inspire people to dream more, learn more and do more. They give people a fine reputation to live up to. Kindness should not be confused with weakness. Kind leaders speak kind truths but they do speak truths. They have the hard conversations with people, they just do it kindly. Fast Company has a great blog post on being encouraging at work.
There you go, 3 learn-able skills anyone can adopt and become like the top 1% of leaders.