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Kindness in Leadership: Should Kindness Have a Place in Your Organisation?

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Have you ever thought that you should be emphasising kindness as a key feature of organisational success? Is kindness a core value of your organisation? Does the importance of kindness often come up in performance assessments in your place of work? The probable answer is, “No.”

Yet those of us who live in English speaking countries, will hear the word “kind” very often. It is one of the five hundred most frequently used words in the English language. Kind actions are remembered: they have a “boomerang” effect: Kindness begets Kindness. Such acts cost nothing but create significant value.

An erosion of trust
In our recent book, ‘Kindness in Leadership’, we obtained input from 200 female and male leaders around the world in the public and private sectors. In both sectors, we found that there had been a significant erosion of trust in leaders, and a decrease in levels of employee commitment and engagement in organisations in recent years.

In response to these developments, our interviewees underlined the need for organisations to focus more on people and relationships and to give a greater emphasis on attributes like Compassion, Empathy and Kindness.

Acts of kindness
Findings from research reported in Chapter 3 by Dr Clare Murray and Alison Gill show that kindness was defined as relational act or behaviour, a typical response being: “Kindness is active. Acting with the interests of the recipients at heart” and to be something that can be learned and developed through practice.

These leaders emphasised that kindness in leadership is characterised by a variety of kindness-based behaviours, all of which reflect a strong relational style. These include: fostering a sense of inclusion; accommodating personal issues; treating others with respect; generosity in both giving and receiving; caring and empathy; communicating with a personal touch; sharing information transparently; giving time and listening intently; counselling and mentoring; valuing the views of others while giving truthful and constructive feedback; demonstrating tolerance and embracing diversity.

Kindness as a core value
Leaders also subscribed to philosophies about kindness as core to the values of their organisations. These included beliefs that: people are central to the success of any organisation; equity and fairness as important ideals in enhancing employee confidence and loyalty; and that respect and care stimulate ownership and commitment.

Kathleen Kenehan Henson is Founder and CEO of Agency H5, a successful PR consultancy in Chicago is committed to Kindness as a core value. In her Epilogue to ‘Kindness in Leadership’, Kathleen writes: “I made a conscious choice to create a company on the foundation of most important value in life: kindness.

I’m very proud to know that we are known for that value throughout the USA and beyond … As a leader, I’ve found that when people are genuinely happy, they practice kindness to each other and that makes our clients happy and it’s an ongoing cycle of kindness. I firmly believe that if more companies focussed first on making their employees happy … they would have better retention, results and profitability.”

Giving life a richer meaning
This positive outcome was encapsulated by Richard Everard, Chairman of Everards Brewery Ltd. When endorsing the messages of ‘Kindness in Leadership’, he wrote: “Kindness is at the very heart of our philosophy, but it demands that everyone lives and breathes it every day. The human, financial and societal outcomes are tangible and will endure through future generations.”

The wellbeing of individuals, organisations and communities will improve if leaders demonstrate that they care, that they develop themselves and help others to develop, that they show respect to all who work with them in their organisations and treat them as equals and that they strive to know and understand diversity and different views.

Everyone can aspire to kindness: individually our own actions add to the whole and together kindness becomes stronger. Kindness leads to engagement and supports the development of self-fulfilment. It gives life a richer meaning, and has been shown to make us happier in the process.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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