Why practising kindness is a crucial leadership skill

It has delighted me to hear from several people over the last few weeks checking in with me to see how I am going with the latest lockdown. Fi Slaven’s message is one of my favourites. She lets me know, “I’m here if you need me.” It is a phrase she borrowed from netball. When a player is taking the ball down the court, her team members run beside her calling out, “I’m here if you need me.” There is no problem if everything is going well. But she now knows her teammates are available. 

Fi’s kind offer is reassuring, even if I do not need to take her up on it right now. It is one of several practices suggested by Boris Groysberg and Susan Seligson in the Harvard Business School article, Good Leadership Is an Act of Kindness. The authors argue, “The pandemic is not a time for a stern, iron-fisted approach to leadership and management. The virus’s vast fallout demands a kinder, gentler approach.” They suggest, “Along with empathy and emotional intelligence, kindness is one of the most essential soft skills for good leadership. But in these times, it might be the most crucial one.” 

They suggest some ways to practice kindness:

I hear you

Really listen. Be fully present and don’t judge. 

Are you okay? 

Show a willingness to provide comfort and monitor for signs of distress such as social withdrawal and poor performance. 

What can we do to help? 

It may be as simple as validating an employee’s personal challenges during the pandemic. 

How are you managing these days? 

According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, “some companies are creating deeper insights into the specific situations their workforces face by surveying home workers.” 

I’m here for you 

Let your employees know routinely that you are there for them when they need to share concerns or simply require a sympathetic, nonjudgmental ear. 

I know you’re doing the best you can 

This statement is, with few exceptions, true. In scores of first-person accounts and on social media, people are reporting they are working harder than they did pre-COVID. 

Thank you 

Say it with sincerity and say it often.

🙋‍♀️ What other ways have you found to practice kindness? 🙋

Best Regards, Brian