How Can Kindness Make You a Better Leader?
READING TIME: 5 MINUTES
“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.”—Brian Tracy.
A common belief is that good leaders need to be strict, authoritative, and tough. If you don't spread fear among team members, they won't respect you. That's what most people think, but the reality is much different. A little bit of kindness goes a long way in the workplace and can, actually, make you a better, more respected leader.
Compassionate leaders are more effective
Fear is never a good motivator. Most of us have dealt with managers who were strict and acted like army generals at one point or another. This strategy is used to get people in order as they believe this is the only way someone would obey and listen to their demands. But, the workplace is neither a combat zone nor a medieval kingdom where a king makes all sorts of demands and peasants just need to adhere to them blindly without having the opportunity to express their opinions. The workplace should be a type of environment where positive values are promoted starting with the leaders themselves. Compassionate leaders are more effective than their counterparts who practice toughness. Researchers at the Harvard Business School found that competent people who lack warmth elicit envy in others, an emotion that involves both resentment and respect. The same research also found that a combination of incompetence and warmth induces pity in others.
Although most leaders tend to emphasize their strength, credentials, and competence in the workplace, the above-mentioned research shows that's a wrong approach.
It’s quite simple. Leaders who project strength before establishing trust among team members increase the risk of spreading fear and other dysfunctional behaviors. Fear decreases creativity, cognitive potential, and problem-solving skills while also reducing the engagement of team members and their interest overall.
Leaders who want to be respected and positively influence their team members should begin with warmth and compassion. Warmth facilitates trust, absorption of ideas, and promotes communication.
Prioritizing warmth and kindness helps leaders connect with team members. Simple acts of kindness demonstrate that leaders notice and hear their employees who then feel understood and respected. The reason why kindness and compassion are important is that they set a foundation of trust among team members. If employees don't trust you, then exhibiting strength and spreading fear won't change that. As mentioned above, those behaviors can lead to dysfunction of the whole team. Workplaces where the leader doesn't establish trust cultivate all the wrong values and promote the "every person for himself/herself," type of culture which can harm productivity, business goals, and the market success.
Negative attitudes attract negative responses, thus creating a vicious cycle that hurts the organization.
Happy people are more productive
The leader is not just someone who tells other people what to do, as we're inclined to believe. Although it seems redundant to say that leaders lead, we often forget that. You need to lead by example. The energy you put into the workplace is the same energy the team members will produce toward one another, and you, for that matter. Moreover, leading by kindness and warmth also leads to happiness.
Why is that important?
Well, happy people are more productive people! One research showed that happy people are 12% more productive than their unhappy counterparts. It's not that difficult to conclude why; happy people are more motivated and strive to do their best in the workplace. Leaders who show kindness make team members happy in the workplace, which translates to improved performance. On the flip side, negative behaviors such as fear and ruthlessness generate unhappiness and hinder performance.
Inspires great results
Good leaders do not point out mistakes only and make people feel bad for making them. They inspire employees to be better. It’s not just about telling someone that something they did wasn’t good enough, it's about providing constructive compassionate feedback and celebrating good work and achievements. Kindness teaches us to highlight both good and bad so that each employee knows what to improve and how to thrive. Appreciation and acknowledgment go a long way; they motivate and inspire, thus helping team members produce great results.
Great leaders inspire team members to express their opinions and share ideas. Unfortunately, if you lead by fear employees will be reluctant to share because they're scared of harsh criticism. It's needless to mention this harms productivity.
On the flip side, kindness paves the way to a fruitful ground for many ideas and solutions that would have otherwise remained unknown. Kindness makes you a better leader because it shows you're open to suggestions and care about other people's opinions. Great leaders don't act like they know everything better than others; they know their own strengths and weaknesses and encourage team members to share their visions. This way, employees sharpen existing and develop new skills.
Leadership is highly misunderstood and there is a common belief that leaders need to be harsh and strict. However, kindness goes a long way. Warmth establishes trust and earns more respect. It also makes people happier, which increases productivity and contributes to innovation. Kind leaders cultivate the environment which supports the development of each team member, nourishes the culture of support, acknowledgment, and appreciation, all of which can contribute to the overall success of the organization.