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5 tips for using your kindness as a leader

One of the brilliant things about being a Kindness Cheerleader is that there are so many different contexts to spot it. People behave kindly in all sorts of scenarios so it crops up all over the place! There is lots for me to see and celebrate.

Don’t get me wrong, there is always room for improvement. I’m a positive and optimistic person, but I’m also realistic in acknowledging that there is terrible behaviour in many contexts too. Some of it deliberate and some of it accidental or unintended.

The situations where people want to be kind but aren’t sure how to be are particularly interesting. One obvious area where you see this lack of confidence or uncertainty about kindness is in leadership. This has a lot to do with how the skills and qualities of a kind leader are perceived.

In the military, command and control model of leadership that was transferred to business, the word of the person at the top was the only thing that mattered. Workers had to follow orders and do what they were told. The leader shouted orders and that was how they stayed at the top.

Thankfully that extreme model of leadership is not as prevalent as it once was, although there are still too many examples. More collaborative, collegiate models are increasingly used and valued. Places where leaders involve others in decisions and encourage conversation.

But even where people skills are recognised or even valued, their power can be undermined by describing them as ‘soft’ skills. The word soft is loaded with meaning, often judgemental.

It’s no wonder that leaders can feel unsure about showing kindness if it is seen as something weak or a bit ‘less’.

But more and more of us are no longer prepared to accept that. We are proud to lead in collaborative, collegiate ways and we want to use our innate kindness as part of our skill set. To acknowledge being kind as a strong and powerful force that connects us all.

If that’s the sort of leader you are or that you want to be, here are some tips for how to use your kindness as a leader.

1. Listen to your team. Truly pay attention to what they are telling you (verbally and through their actions) and use the opportunity to really understand what’s going on. Even if they have different views to you or their suggestions for new processes aren’t viable, take the time to truly hear them.

2. Get to know your team members as people, not just as fundraisers, accountants or administrators. We are all human and have often messy and complicated lives. Find out what matters to your team when they’re not at work. What is happening elsewhere will have an impact when they come in and its unrealistic (and unkind) to expect them to be unaffected.

3. Make sure there is a clarity of ‘why’ for the work you are all doing. Find ways to create a shared understanding of where the organisation is heading and what part of that vision your team can influence. Part of being a kind leader is to hold people accountable and you can’t expect them to achieve if they don’t know what their role is or what it delivers.

4. Trust them to do a good job without you getting involved in the detail; no-one wants a micromanager. If you’ve created a shared ‘why’, do you really need to interfere in how they get there (as long as it’s legal and ethical)? Part of trusting them is trusting yourself too. You don’t need to feel threatened by them doing well or worry that you haven’t done your bit properly.

5. Finally, be kind to yourself. You won’t get everything right, no-one does. And that’s OK. No-one is the perfect leader. If you have a bad day or make a mistake, acknowledge what’s happened and give yourself a break.

What would you add?

Sarah Browning - Kindness Cheerleader, Communicator and Strategist


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