Leading with Kindness

How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results

 Leading with Kindness

Authors: William F. Baker, Michael O'Malley, Ph.D.
Pub Date: August 2008
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814401569
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814401750

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Leading With Kindness

How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results

Public TV’s Bill Baker Advocates a Kinder, Gentler Kind of Management for the Future Success of American Business

Bob Lane, CEO of John Deere and Company, places a priority on always being honest with customers, investors, and employees. Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons instills confidence in others by treating them in a way that shows he has confidence in them. Roxanne Quimby, founder of Burt’s Bees, lets her employees know how thankful and fortunate she feels to have them. While admirable, these three business leaders are not exceptional. Most business leaders genuinely care about their people and local communities, and are committed to core values and larger causes.

That’s the good news that Bill Baker, Ph.D. experienced firsthand during his 20 years at the helm of Educational Broadcasting Corp., parent company of WNET-TV (Channel Thirteen) and WLIW-TV (Channel 21). It inspired him to affirm and refine his notion of what honorable bosses can accomplish. With his friend Michael O’Malley, Ph.D. , Baker did extensive research and interviewed dozens of leaders in diverse organizations. They share their insights into strong, effective leadership in LEADING WITH KINDNESS: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results (AMACOM 2008).

“If you happen to be charismatic, great, but that isn’t the signature characteristic of a great leader,” Baker contends. “We think kindness is.”

What does “kindness” mean in workplace terms? As Baker and O’Malley stress, kindness is not synonymous with being a sweetheart or a pushover. Instead, kindness is the key to nurturing and reinforcing connections among people engaged in meaningful, reciprocal, and productive working relationships. In the authors’ definition, this virtue encompasses six attributes and behaviors:

- Compassion…Staying in touch with workers’ everyday challenges and problems.

- Integrity…Reliably acting on established values and keeping promises and confidences.

- Gratitude…Appreciating others for their essential help in keeping a business going.

- Authenticity…Being honest about being oneself and not playing for the crowd.

- Humility…Tempering optimism with realism and accepting responsibility for failures.

- Humor…Tapping the power of laughter to diminish anxieties and bolster group cohesion.

What, specifically, do kind leaders do? Using engaging stories featuring leaders from a range of organizations—Pitney Bowes, Tupperware, The Blackstone Group, Eileen Fisher Clothing, GE, Smucker’s, Walt Disney, Rodale Publishing, the Julliard School, John Deere, Time Warner, and Burt’s Bees among them—LEADING WITH KINDNESS shows how:

- Kind leaders are framers. They reinforce expectations for employees by establishing clear boundaries, standards of conduct, challenging goals, and organizational values.

- Kind leaders are interpreters. They tell the truth about how each worker and the entire company is doing. They help individuals adapt to change and make sense of their efforts.

- Kind leaders are enablers. They stimulate calculated “stretch” and risk-taking, without sheltering people from their own mistakes. They fight cynicism and facilitate growth.

Baker and O’Malley culminate with a look toward developing tomorrow’s leaders, the independent-minded Generation Y. As the authors demonstrate, today’s business leaders must instill four qualities in their successors to ensure success: self-confidence, self-control, self-awareness, and self-determination. Compelling and realistic, LEADING WITH KINDNESS leads the way to a prosperous and proud future for American business.


William F. Baker, Ph.D., is Executive in Residence at Columbia University Business School, as well as president emeritus of Educational Broadcasting Corp. He lives in New York City. Michael O’Malley, Ph.D. , is Executive Editor for Business, Economics, and Law at Yale University Press and adjunct professor at Columbia University Business School. He lives in Hamden, Connecticut.

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