You Want To Be Kind, But Is Your Leadership Really Demonstrating Kindness?

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“The kindest form of leadership is the truth.” – Jack Welch

The problem many leaders have with the concept of kindness is that they think it means to avoid speaking truth, in order to spare someone’s feelings.

In fact, speaking the truth is the very essence of kindness.

This is not to say that leaders have a license to destroy people emotionally with language that is mean-spirited and cruel.

But the fact is, one of the kindest ways a leader can demonstrate value to a person is to caringly, but unflinchingly, communicate some important truths. As a starting place, kind leadership involves communicating these 3 truths… 

1. “This is exactly what is expected of you…”

It is a cruel form of leadership to leave a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the head of members of the team with respect to expectations.

It should never be a matter of guesswork or supposition when it comes to the outcomes you expect from them.

Kindness begins by laying out, in explicit detail, what a “win” looks like for those you lead.

2. “This is how you are performing against those expectations…”

Good or bad, people want to know where they stand.

If they are surpassing your expectations, good, kind leadership requires that you tell them.

If they are successfully meeting your expectations, good, kind leadership requires that you tell them.

And if they are coming up short of your expectations, good, kind leadership requires that you tell them. This is not something you reserve for their annual “performance review”. Kindness in leadership is expressed through ongoing evaluation and feedback.

3. “This is how you can improve…”

Having laid out the expectations you have for them, and having kept them informed as to how they are performing against those expectations, kindness next requires that you tell them how they can improve, regardless of their present level of proficiency.

Like you, the members of your team want to improve. They want to elevate their performance. And the kindest way you can respond is to clearly lay out what improvement would look like.

Kindness paints a clear path forward for improvement.

Make it your personal mission to lead with as much kindness as possible.

Just remember; the truth is the kindest form of leadership.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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