It takes courage to be a kind leader, especially if you are in an organization focused solely on the bottom line. It requires confidence, integrity and strength — and it ultimately does improve the bottom line. Kindness leads to employees’ feeling appreciated and connected, which leads to improved performance, increased collaboration and more innovation.
Organizations led by kind, authentic leaders experience greater levels of trust, which leads to open communication, connection and optimized performance. Kind leadership not only improves results; it creates a ripple effect beyond the workplace. Kindness at work translates into kindness at home, in the community and anywhere else one shows up in life.
Here are four simple ways you can bring kindness into your leadership style.
1. Be Genuine
Open your heart and care — your employees will know immediately if it’s genuine. Writing a simple handwritten note thanking an employee for his or her extra effort on a project will go a long way. Take a few extra minutes to walk through the office and engage with employees. Show up for significant life events, such as a funeral for a family member, or talk with them about an upcoming event, such as the birth of a child, a move to a new home or an athletic event they are training for. You’ll be amazed what can happen when you take just a few extra minutes each day to intentionally connect with your team members.
2. Understand Core Values
A great way to create meaningful connection with your team is to engage in conversation about what drives them. You could start the conversation by saying, “My top three values are honesty, integrity and teamwork. What is most important to you?”
Sharing your values and understanding what’s important to your team members creates opportunities to connect. It also helps ensure that individual values are aligned with the organization’s values. If employees’ deeply held values and beliefs are in alignment with the organization’s, you probably have satisfied, high-performing employees. Openly sharing values is a great way to hold each other accountable.
3. Recognize Contributions, and Give Honest Feedback
Employees want to be recognized for their efforts, and studies show that recognition doesn’t have to come in the form of a monetary reward. A mention of a job well done in a team meeting or a staff email is what most employees are looking for — knowing that you noticed and appreciated their efforts.
It is also important to be able to speak hard truths. When your relationship is built on trust and open communication, your team members will receive constructive feedback better. In fact, one of the greatest gifts an employee can receive is honest feedback that comes from someone who genuinely wants him or her to succeed.
4. Be Self-aware
Being kind takes intention, practice and focus. Check in with yourself regularly to see where you are mentally, emotionally and physically. This self-awareness will help keep you centered. If you notice yourself feeling stressed, a great way to calm the nervous system is to take three or four deep breaths (with a complete exhale) before walking into a meeting or engaging in a conversation. Other effective strategies include stepping away from your desk, going outside for a breath of fresh air and engaging in a regular meditation practice.
The combination of kindness and leadership is powerful. Kind leaders optimize employee and organizational performance while creating a ripple effect that benefits families and communities and make the world a better place.
“Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness; something instinctive in us expects it, and once we sense it, we are able to trust and open ourselves” (John O’Donohue, “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings”).